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Egyptian flag sales boom amid protests, revelry

Egyptian flag sales boom amid protests, revelry

Flags hottest-selling items; Anti-Mubarak protests infused with patriotic fervor.

February 14, 2011 12:43 by

Egypt’s revolutionary upheaval dampened demand for the clocks, key chains, stuffed animals and other knick-knacks in Ahmed Magdy’s Cairo shop, but one item has sold faster than ever — the national flag.

The red, white and black standard has sprouted everywhere since President Hosni Mubarak was forced to quit on Friday, painted on faces and purses, tacked on walls and army tanks, and waved from farmers’ tractors and the windows of luxury cars.

Sitting in his shop in the market district of Attaba, Magdy pointed to a worn cardboard box as a customer fished out dozens of miniature pennants.

“I only have ones in that size left and I’ll finish them maybe tomorrow,” the 28-year-old businessman said. The more popular bigger sizes were long gone.

Magdy said he had sold around 300,000 flags since protests erupted nearly three weeks ago, although at one point he and his neighbours had to close their shops and guard property from looters after police withdrew from Cairo’s streets on Jan. 28.

Many of the city’s vendors turned to selling the flags after the anti-Mubarak unrest paralysed much of the economy.

Pro-democracy demonstrators took up the banners — which also bear a golden eagle representing Egypt’s 12th-century ruler Saladin — at early protests, waving them, wearing them as bandanas and even using them as prayer mats at a pinch.

Mubarak loyalists adopted the flag next, with thousands marching and waving them at rallies across the capital.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of revellers celebrating Mubarak’s departure brandished the flag as they flooded Cairo’s streets, dancing, cheering and singing patriotic hymns.

“There’s been huge demand, day and night,” Mohamed Bala, 27, said as he handed out dozens of flags from a wooden table a few streets from Tahrir Square, the heart of the protest movement.

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