A new plan titled "One-Day Markets" is under way in Cairo to prevent the proliferation of street vendors on the city's sidewalks.
The new plan, launched this week after the Eid al-Fitr holiday, transforms a number of public spaces into small markets where these vendors can showcase their goods.
According to the plan, officials allotted vendors six spaces, each to be used on a different day of the week, in western Cairo. Anywhere from 150 to 5,000 vendors gather in their designated spot in the various locations and markets are open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.
In an August 26th press statement, Maj. Gen. Ismail Ezzedine, police chief of public facilities in Cairo, said police will deal strictly with vendors who violate the working hours of these markets and prosecute every vendor caught working outside these markets.
He said police will confiscate violators' goods and write up a police report on the incident.
Raed al-Salmouni, a market controller in Cairo, told Al-Shorfa that street vendors have been categorised according to timetables, which were prepared in the past two months. Vendors' names, the goods they sell and their personal data have also been compiled on lists.
"Markets also feature instruction boards that include the name of the public space, dates and opening times," he said.
"This step is only the first phase of a general plan to find a solution to the problem of street vendors since research to find alternative permanent markets is still under way," he added. Al-Salmouni said the new plan was originally slated to be implemented at the start of Ramadan but was postponed at the request of the vendors.
"Several large spaces in the downtown area and the city outskirts will accommodate around 15,000 street vendors, who are required to stay in their allotted spaces according to the timetable," he said. "Vendors are required to submit a request to the relevant committees [if they would like] to relocate to another allotted space."
According to al-Salmouni, these committees consist of traffic police, local police departments, district offices as well as security and safety agencies.
Hassanein al-Gahr, a vendor who sells mobile phones and accessories on a sidewalk in Tahrir Square, said he requested a spot at the Mugammaa Market -- Tahrir Square's famed administrative government building -- so his customers can find him there.
"I agreed with a colleague of mine, who registered at the Abedeen Market, to exchange places from time to time to attract new customers throughout the week," he said.
Al-Gahr said the new plan came as a relief to many Egyptian families "as the fear of being arrested and prosecuted by the police is now gone and we can hope for a somewhat fixed income as long as we follow the instructions to stay at the allotted place and time".
Islam al-Ali, who owns a retail clothes shop in downtown Cairo, also welcomed the move.
"The 'One-Day Markets' have actually emptied the streets of vendors, which is a relief for shop owners and shoppers alike, since the markets of Cairo and the downtown market had become aesthetically displeasing and congested," he told Al-Shorfa.
The past period was "disastrous" for shop owners, as people would avoid passing through the streets because of the presence of street vendors, he said.
Al-Ali called for permanent markets for street vendors located outside Cairo's commercial districts.
"Many shops sell goods that [street] vendors buy from [wholesale] merchants, but [the vendors] then sell them at a lower price because they do not have to pay taxes on them, nor other overhead expenses like water and cleaning services, which creates illogical competition," he said.
Mustafa Gad, who runs a sidewalk café in downtown Cairo near the stock exchange, said many of his customers complained at first about the "One-Day Markets" because they are located near cafes in the area. They feared sidewalks would be transformed into permanent markets.
"However, since the launch of these markets, some of these fears have been dispelled even though some people [still] complain about the newly-created congestion," he said. "I personally find it a good opportunity for more business, since many shoppers take a rest from shopping and sit at the café."