Cairo: His beaming visage is almost everywhere in Egypt: on walls, T-shirts and festive decorations.
With his successful season in Liverpool, Egyptian footballer Mohammad Salah’s image is dominating the market this Ramadan, with vendors hoping to capitalise on the football star’s popularity.
His image is printed on both locally made wooden and Chinese-made imported lanterns.
“We have done a good business thanks to Abu Makkah,” said Mahmoud Hegazy, a lantern vendor in the district of Al Matariya in North Cairo, using Salah’s popular nickname.
“People admire Mohammad Salah not only for his sports career, but also because of his modesty and charity works,” Hegazy told Gulf News.
Salah has reportedly made generous donations to charities supporting the poor across Egypt.
Wooden lanterns adorned with Salah’s picture retails from 80 Egyptian pounds (Dh 16.7) to LE400 per piece, depending on the size, according to Hegazy.
The Chinese-made lantern shaped after the player sells for LE220, a high price compared to the price tags of the Egyptian-manufactured lanterns.
“This is because this Chinese lantern is considered a toy imported in the dollar, which has increased since the flotation,” explained the merchant.
In November 2016, Egypt floated its local currency as part of harsh economic reforms, resulting in a steep depreciation of the Egyptian pound.
In 2015, Egypt banned the importation of foreign lanterns in an attempt to protect its endangered industry at home.
The ban was part of a wider governmental effort to promote Egypt’s traditional handicrafts.
“Despite the high price of the Salah Chinese lantern, there has been a high demand for it,” said Hegazy, who added that he has almost run out of the stock of the toy and ordered a new supply.
Salah also dominates the local market of dried dates, a popular merchandise in Ramadan.
The premium type of dates this year is named after Salah.
“Every Ramadan, we give dates names of famous people as a way of attracting customers. This year, it is Mohammad Salah,” said Fatallah Darwish, a dates merchant in Al Matariya.
One kilo of the Salah dates sells for LE50, the highest price in the market.
In Ramadan, Muslims traditionally break their dawn-to-dusk fast with dates, which are either dried or soaked into water following the example of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
The fruit nourishes the body and makes up for the energy lost during the long hours of fasting, specialists.
“Salah has become a good example for Egyptians and a source of their joy,” added Darwish who sells the dates carrying the name of the Liverpool marksman in a packet fronted with his picture.
“Even people who are not interested in football highly respect him because he is well-mannered and a benefactor,” said the 52-year-old merchant.
Salah has recently gained a cult status in Egypt, with his news being a daily staple in the media.
He champions a television advert promoting a government campaign against drugs.
Officials say the campaign has illicited a positive response.
Salah is widely regarded in Egypt as a symbol of hard-earned success and humility.
Salah was instrumental in Egypt’s qualification to the 2018 World Cup in Russia after a 28-year hiatus.