Throughout Cairo, I observed how portraits are displayed in most local shops, visible at a glance to all bypassers and greeting those that decide to enter.
Upon my request, the current owners stated that the portraits depict the previous owner – predominantly a family member – that has deceased. And that they display their portraits in their memory. Some, however, prefer hanging their own portrait or, as the only female shop-owner I met, the portraits of their children and grandchildren.
The various shop owners treated me with stories and anecdotes about the previous owners and, one or the other, famous customer. Like this, I acquainted the former president Mubarak’s preferred fruit vendor or Sadam Hussein’s hairdresser.
Despite getting similar answers on why they display the portraits, no one seems to know the origin of this tradition.