Egypt’s central bank has taken extraordinary steps to prop up its currency and curb a black market in foreign exchange - but in back alleys and money changing shops around the country, illicit dealing continues to thrive.
This stubborn survival shows the limits of the economic recovery since Islamist President Mohammad Mursi was ousted last July, despite inflows of billions of dollars in aid from governments in the Gulf.
Sluggish tourism revenue and foreign investment are keeping supplies short, along with many overseas Egyptians’ preference to send money home via the black market, where they get a better exchange rate.
The central bank is in its second year of auctioning hard currency to satisfy demand; last month it conducted its biggest auction, selling $1.5b. It has also shut down some money changing firms for manipulating prices.
But dollars are eagerly sought on Cairo’s black market and currency traders at banks say they haven’t been able to meet their clients’ demand through official channels for months.
Mursi’s fall cleared the way for Egypt to obtain billions of dollars in aid from the military-backed government’s allies in the Gulf - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait - although other billions have had to be returned to Qatar, which backed Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.