By Sarah Daoud and Christopher Le Coq
CAIRO: Throughout Egypt, small businesses are staying surprisingly optimistic in spite of the uncertainty surrounding the political arena and the ubiquitous security vacuum that has ensued.
“We are ok, things are running as normal; we can take care of ourselves,” was the sentiment echoed by more than one man in line at NGV, a natural gas station in Cairo, on Monday morning, amidst the past seven days of protests and turmoil.
“The price of fuel for our cars hasn’t changed and I’m not worried about our resources running out,” said Ahmed Said, 35, a taxi driver in Cairo.
Nevertheless, the lines of cars waiting at the gasoline and natural gas stations seemed longer than they typically were before the protests.
A manager at a local Co-Op gas station in Dokki, Ayman Mohamed, said that while he’s seeing more people in line, he has been receiving his regularly scheduled supplies of gasoline.
It remains to be seen whether local gasoline stations will raise their prices on the back of a barrel of oil reaching a hair under the $100 mark, which has been mainly spurred by concerns over the Egyptian political crisis.
Other sectors, such as the food industry, have not had deliveries in the past week, but Mohamed says that his deliveries are coming as normal with no change.
Fuel prices have remained steady with octane levels of 80, 90 and 92 selling at LE .90, LE 1.75 and LE 1.85 respectively.
“There’s less business obviously and we can’t work at night because of the curfew, but we’re making do,” Said added.
Another taxi driver, who wished to remain anonymous, commented that even with things changing, people are trying their best to live their lives as normal as possible for the time being.
He also said that during the past six days of the protests, he didn’t work at all due to the masses of people that had taken to the streets as well as the danger associated with the looting that has been reported.
Sitting idly by on a large rock, as not a single customer was placing an order around the typically bustling fuul cart, a vendor who sandwiches to passing customers on the street, said that business hasn’t been impacted by the week’s tumultuous events.
Abbas, 38-year-old fruit stand owner, who has been in the business for 25 years, reiterated his compatriots’ sentiments, adding that certain staples are now selling better than others, such as bananas, tangerines and the most common vegetables.
Another local street vendor named Ibrahim, 36, from Saft El-Laban in Cairo, who sells in potatoes, said that sales have remained steady, but distributors have rather dramatically hiked prices, obliging him to raise his prices for his customers, as well.
“The prices have ranged from LE 1.75-3.00 per kilo in the past few days,” he stated, adding that his profits do not change throughout the price fluctuation.
On Sunday, a vegetable vendor in Maadi hiked prices from LE 3 a kilo to LE 5 a kilo in just a few hours.
Food prices had already come under heavy inflationary pressure due the global demand for various food items, thereby further burdening the most precarious elements of Egyptian society.
The manager of La Poire, a local bakery chain, said that deliveries had almost entirely dropped off following the social unrest.
“We have no customers, so we aren’t even open right now, but things could change soon. It can last a few more days or a few more weeks, we don’t know right now,” said the store’s manager.
The Egyptian Stock Exchange was shut down for trading on Sunday and will remain closed. All banks have been closed as well, bringing a significant bulk of economic activity to a near standstill.
A source in the exchange told Daily News Egypt on Sunday that Egypt’s market will be closed “until further notice,” at least until a minister is appointed who will oversee the exchange can order it open.
At the end of trading last week, on Jan. 27, the EGX 30 closed at 5,646.5 points, 10.52 percent lower, its second sharpest drop in history, after having fallen 6.14 percent at 6,310.44 points on the 26.