Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) The Chinese Lingerie Venders of Egypt

Chen Yaying and Liu Jun, who go by the names Kiki and John, in their lingerie store in Asyut, with their Egyptian assistant Rahma Medhat. CREDITPHOTOGRAPH BY RENA EFFENDI / INSTITUTE

Chen Yaying and Liu Jun, who go by the names Kiki and John, in their lingerie store in Asyut, with their Egyptian assistant Rahma Medhat. PHOTOGRAPH BY RENA EFFENDI / INSTITUTE

The current issue of The New Yorker carries a “Letter from Egypt” by Peter Heller (China 1996-98)

It begins….

The city of Asyut sits in the heart of Upper Egypt, at a crescent-shaped bend in the Nile River, where the western bank is home to a university, a train station, approximately four hundred thousand people, and three shops in which Chinese migrants sell racy lingerie to locals. These shops are not hard to find. The first time I visited Asyut, I hailed a cab at the entrance of the city and asked the driver if he knew of any Chinese people in town. Without hesitation, he drove along the Nile Corniche, turned through a series of alleyways, and pointed to a sign that said, in Arabic, “Chinese Lingerie.” The two other shops, China Star and Noma China, are less than a block away. All three are owned by natives of Zhejiang province, in southeastern China, and they sell similar products, many of which are inexpensive, garishly colored, and profoundly impractical. There are buttless body stockings, and nightgowns that cover only one breast, and G-strings accessorized with feathers. There are see-through tops decorated with plastic gold coins that dangle from chains. Brand names include Laugh Girl, Shady Tex Lingerie, Hot Love Italy Design, and Sexy Fashion Reticulation Alluring.

Read all of Peter’s intriguing “Letter from Egypt”  in the August 10, 2015 issue

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