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How I Found Beauty in a Hopeless Place: Downtown Cairo's Store for Vintage Sunglasses

I can finally blurt out, "careful, It's vintage!"

Working in Downtown Cairo, I've slowly built up the habit of running off from work for a little beer break at noon instead of a lunch one. Now would be a good time to emphasise how this doesn't affect my work productivity whatsoever, and NO, I'm almost certain I'm not an alcoholic, dick. As I made my way there one scorching afternoon, something felt off. Once I laid eyes on it from distance, I couldn't help but gasp, 'Horreya is closed!' I rushed over there giving the stink eyes to the garage door standing between me and the one thing that makes my day remotely bearable. Still not an alcoholic, your concern is appreciated though.

So there I stood in the shade next door, waiting for the shady bar to open like every other adult with questionable life choices. Right next to me was this obscure, rundown store that looked straight out of an '80s Egyptian blockbuster gone wrong. LOL, kidding. All Egyptian '80s blockbusters are wrong. Upon closer inspection, I realised I'd found it! The hidden gem of a store where all my pseudo hippie friends get all those vintage sunglasses and feel superior to me. This is it. My Moment. I involuntarily barged in and quickly demanded for them to lay bare everything vintage, and soon I realised I was in over my head.

An authentic, sparkling-new collection of sunglasses spanning different eras, from the '50s all the way to the '90s was everywhere. The mere fact that they didn't look like they were used before sparked doubt. I tried to locate a Made in China label to justify my skepticism, but none were to be found. If I were to make a purchase in my quest to join the ranks of the retro cool kiddos, I had to be certain I wasn't about to make a fool of myself with some cheap knock-offs. So I started chatting with the young saleswoman unleashing a furry of frames, shapes, and colours I never thought existed. 
"It all belonged to my grandma, she opened this store in 1968 and it's named after her; Soria Mostafa," explained to me the young saleswoman as she showed me a SICKENING '70s pair. "By the 1970s, she had managed to build up a big collection of sunglasses and frames, but they weren't selling that fast. After she passed away, my uncle, the current owner of the store, dug into the warehouse and realised he had a fashion fortune between his hands."Now I was a bit more eased into it, holding tightly to the '70s pair that made me look like I JUST stepped out of a Woody Allen film poster. As I gazed into nothingness visualising myself strutting down the beach sporting MY new vintage pair and the better person I'll be for it, one question jumped to the forefront of my thoughts; what if they run out? "That's not something we worry about. My grandma would literally buy thousands of sunglasses and frames, we're not even close to getting through the stock; we still have more than 60K unsold pieces."The vast, diverse collection spans several fashion eras, from the '50s all the way to the '90s. Spectacles, wayfarers, and almost everything in-between can be found in abundance at Soria Mostafa. A couple of years back, you could get a pair for as little as EGP100. Now, inflation and all, prices are set within the range of EGP 350 to a maximum of EGP 2000 for the rare one-piece items, still in the affordable realm. "Where the f%@* are you?" is the text from my boss that snapped me back to reality after having lost track of time in this eyewear wonderland. Horreya was finally open on my way back so I, naturally, stopped by for a beer and texted my boss back, "researching for an article." And voila, there you have it. 

Morale of story: good things happen to those who day-drink.

Find Soria Mostafa in Mohamed Mazloum Street, Bab El Louk.

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