Dusty Cairo streets require special adjustments to personal grooming, especially for footwear. Enter an age-old, traditional profession: the shoe shiner. Just as other professions evolve, the shoe shining business has changed from the times it involved sitting on the sidewalk, as a polish and brush cleaned up your pedestrian act.
In one of Cairo’s top-of-the-line hotel malls you can now sit on a veritable throne while your shoes receive the royal treatment. Mr. George, the owner, holds a degree in physical education and speaks English well. He started his career as a waiter in a large hotel in Cairo. His manager at the time invented the concept of offering traditional shoe shining to their guests, but in a new and glamorous way.
That was seven years ago and since then Mr. George has become a master in the art of shoe polishing.
The impressive seating Mr. George offers his clients is nicknamed the Chair of Haroon Al-Rasheed – in reference to the extravagant Arabian ruler. The chair towers above the ground, and invites clients to place their feet on shoe-shaped, iron footrests. Mr. George sits on a much simpler chair when he brings the shine back to shoes, reinforcing the royal sensation of having-risen-above his clients get to experience.
And all this for a minimum charge of EGP 20.
Mr. George deals with over 200 clients per week, or 400 shoes. Some of his rich and foreign clients appreciate his services so much, that they happily pay well over the set price for a polish.
Before the January uprising Mr. George charged EGP 10 per shine, but the mall’s management asked him to hike up his rates 100%, citing the worsened economic climate in the country. This advice had no financial motivation however, since the mall does not share in the profits.
They know very well that the unique polish and shine service Mr. George offers to the mall’s clients is priceless.