Selling Lingerie on Cairo’s Street …



According to Random History experts, “lingerie” comes from the Old French linge, meaning “linen,” and it was originally introduced into the English language as a euphemism for scandalous underclothing.

It is not known exactly who started wearing “Lingerie” but if we go by the history of things, and according to Random History experts, the first record of “Lingerie” comes from ancient Egypt around 3000 B.C. which it was wear only by high ranking women. This has changed now in Egypt and Specially after Marshal Sisi toppling of president Morsi and clamming down on Islamists political ambition. Now Egyptian women are trying to restate and ensure their independency and identity; and modern clothe other than traditional ones is used to express their individuality and sexuality. You can see now “lingerie” and women undergarments displayed in every corner and shop window-dressing even in  slumps of Cairo, but the biggest display of “lingerie” and women undergarments can be found on sidewalks carts at open market, something like farmer markets where buyer and sellers directly meet.

Sidewalk in Egypt, has always a striving vibrant life and culture of its own, where millions of Egyptians use as an extension landscape of their own homes, a refugee from their own harsh reality. On Sidewalks Egyptians sit, converse, watch TV, eat, drink and sell and buy everything and anything even women lingerie. Watching Egyptian women with their traditional cloth, hijab buying lingerie in public is confusing  cultural experience for the untrained eyes.

The sidewalk carts are covered with Chinese made fashionable scantily colorful underwear’s and bras, the lingerie sidewalk shop runs usually by men, Egyptian women don’t sell underwear in public, but they exclusively buy them, buying a lingerie in public is a new phenomenon, flirting is a big part of the lingerie buying bargaining process, where is not a social taboo … one sidewalk lingerie shop in a Suburb east of Cairo city, the lingerie carts were everywhere,  surrounded by a few women with their traditional dress, sorting and holding lingerie in their hands, confidently checking sizes and style, oblivion to the piercing public eyes;  no dressing room at sidewalk lingerie shops, the salesman was very cool respectable and helpful conversing with a slightly full figure woman as he casually handed  her a thong as if it was a Kleenex …

_ that is too small… she protested

_ no … not at all .. it is your side… he ensured her

she smiled steered his hand away.. and continues sorting her quest for the right fit.


– how do you know the sizes for your customers , I asked the charming salesman!

_ I look at her waist/shoulder … as he demonstrated on his own body

_ what if she was accompanied by a husband or a man

_ it is ok, Im just a salesman trying to help my customers; to chose the right style and size…

Contemporary lingerie can be whatever modern women want it to be. And women have more choices now than at any time in history. Western woman still buy her undergarments in secret from Victoria Secret, in a private moment inside a store in a mall…  but Sidewalk lingerie market in Egypt is striving with confident women buying their lingerie under public eyes which empowers and gives her the freedom to express her sexuality in a such conservative culture, at the sidewalk lingerie market, there was a lingerie for all situations and intentions, including lingerie that is strapless, and backless. Also offered are the sexy thong, teddy, chemise, as well as a plethora of everyday bras and panties. Egypt with all the political turmoil and anxiety, woman escape for a lingerie shopping journey to reward herself and feel good about her own body that has been ignored for a long time, Now in the era of the new prince charm Sisi, the Alpha man, the conquer of the brotherhood invaders, as some Egyptians like to call him, woman not only can dance in the street, but she can also buy her own lingerie!!



Ahmed Tharwat/ Host of Arab American TV show “BelAhdan”

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Ahmed Tharwat …. in the middle AhMedia.... احا مديا A media critic, and a media consultant... A show with an accent for those without one! AhMedia احا مديا Ahmed Tharwat/ Host BelAhdan TV show Freelance Writer, Public Speaker, International Media Fixer


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