There is a lot to see and do in Cairo, but for a cheap day out and something completely different let me suggest you look up the list of Cairo trade fairs and get over to the International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Some sound a bit drab such as Airtech- an entire exhibition for compressed air equipment! Some, on the other hand could provide a fun day out such as Egy-Food, Furnex, and Automech – the latter is where I recently spent the day.
Upon entering, the first stand you see is Eagle International Armouring – a subtle hint that you’re not in London. Quite how many vehicles they sell I don’t know, but at 874,000LE to protect a Toyota Fortuner it can’t be many. If you keep your eyes peeled around Maadi you will notice a few Landcruisers with the tell-tale signs of armoured plating such as much thicker pillars around the side windows. Just don’t stop for long peering at every 4x4 with yellow plates or you’ll make the owners even more paranoid.
There were several more key differences between The Automech Formula Cairo and other motorshows I’m used to.
Understandably there was a lot less automotive eye candy around, which is understandable as who really wants a sports car in Cairo? That said, I once saw a Lamborghini down Road 9! The most exotic stuff was from Alfa Romeo with their new 4C and Jaguar had convertible and coupe versions of their F-Type. With the import taxes, a top of the range F-Type R will cost 2.95 million LE- three times the UK price! Optional extras include a rubber mat set at 2,050LE and a compartment liner for 5,182LE. I don’t really know what a compartment liner is, I guess it lines a compartment somewhere, but once I’ve spent 3 million pounds on a new car I don’t want to look stupid, so probably best to order one just in case.
There were about 25 manufacturers on show with almost half being Chinese. Some of these oriental brands are now familiar around Cairo such as Geely, Brilliance, and BYD- 10% owned by Warren Buffet. Some I had never heard of at all like Karry (vans and pick-ups that, err, carry things), Kenbo, Zemex, Foton, and Golden Dragon which shares its name with every other take-away in England. We read much about the rise of the Chinese economy and here is the hard reality beginning to bite. Will all European manufacturers be able to keep their heads above water over the coming years? I have no doubt that these Chinese names will soon become common place not just here but in the West too, moving from bland (or even copycat) designs to desirable cars in their own right in much the same way as Hyundai and Kia.
I did have a little chuckle at one particular stand for ‘Egyptian Automotive Designers’. I got quite excited by the thought of a group of arts or engineering graduates working on a niche vehicle here in Egypt. The reality was a few school kids who had made a couple of table-top papier mâché models and some sketches (of existing cars) stuck to the wall with masking tape. On a closer inspection it appeared that a couple of the youngsters were even there with their parents. Having seen some amazing home-grown designers at a previous exhibition I was left a bit disappointed, knowing that Egypt does have design and engineering talent to offer.
I came away thinking I had found the ultimate vehicle for the streets of Cairo. Selectable four wheel drive, no body panels to dent, four proper seats, and looks like it’s ready for the upcoming zombie apocalypse. It has the instantly forgettable name Polaris RZR XP1000 EPS 4 and I think I’m right in saying that as it’s in the same category as motorbikes and quads it avoids the 100% import tax that makes so many foreign cars here crazy-expensive. When the traffic clogs up just pull off the road and take to the desert. All I need to do now is persuade my wife that it would be a worthwhile investment, and work out what to do with that third child!
I know I’m not the only one who wanders the streets of Cairo spotting the automotive good, bad, and ugly and going to the Cairo motorshow gave me a little glimpse of what might be adorning the roads in the next few months. Right, time to pack my bag, I’m off to my next exhibition – Air Conditioning Units of Egypt.
The Automech show in numbers:
Manufacturers present: 34
Motorcycle Manufacturers: 4
People playing a piano: 1
People listening to the piano: 0
Selfie sticks: 57
Cost of a Jaguar F-Type R: 2,950,000 LE
Chance of your average Egyptian earning enough to own one: 0
Benjamin James has a background in automotive engineering, a keen interest in two- and four-wheel motoring, and an unrequited passion for overlanding.
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