Shopping in Egypt
The Souks, or the local markets, and the larger bazaars are among the most remarkable attractions of Egypt. If you ask anybody, a local or a tourist visiting Egypt, about the most famous and the largest bazaar in Egypt, the answer would be the same; it is the Khan El Khalili Market in the Hussein District in Cairo.
This 500 years old maze of streets, lanes, stores, and shops occupies the center of Islamic Cairo and forming one of the most famous touristic markets in the world.
Although Khan El Khan El Khalili would appear in the beginning as if it only serves the needs of the tourists who are looking gifts and souvenirs to take with them back home.
However, if the guests go deeper inside the lanes and narrow streets of the bazaar they will find small workshops producing wonderful jewelry, glass, copper, and brassware where the tourists can get wonderful prices from the artisans.
Egypt has many other remarkable markets all over different cities and several regions like the markets of Alexandria, Portsaid, since it is a tax free zone, the Luxor touristic and local markets, the Aswan touristic markets, and many other markets in Cairo and all over Egypt.
Among the most important behaviors that tourists, or even Egyptians, have to learn before shopping in one of these markets, especially the touristic ones, is how to bargain and how to negotiate in order to get the best price.
Bargaining has always been a craft in itself in many countries from all over the world and it is the art of getting the storekeeper sell you the finest products with the best prices possible through a number of known techniques.
In the contrary of the traditional nature of the local markets, or the souks as they call them in Arabic, many larger cities in Egypt like Cairo and Alexandria have some large malls and shopping centers like City Stars, Nile Hilton Mall, Nile Mall, and Geneina Mall in Cairo, San Stefano Mall, Zahran Mall, and Grand Palaza Mall in Alexandria where globally recognized brand names can be found in a much elegant atmosphere for shopping.
Markets in Egypt
Away from the touristic bazaars like Khan El Khalili in Cairo and the touristic bazaars of Luxor, Aswan, Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada, there is a local market almost in every district in Egypt.
These local markets are always interesting to pay a visit to buy fruits, vegetables, cotton products, and many other items for quite a cheap price.
In Cairo for example, there is the “Tawfikeya” Market that is located downtown near the 26th of July Street and they the stores and street vendors in this area open until the early morning hours and they sell almost everything.
Another even more interesting example of these markets is the Friday market held near the citadel on Fridays after the noon or the Friday prayer every week.
The Friday market is specified for second hand objects, animals, birds, and many other several products that are brought from all over Cairo and from all regions of Egypt.
In Alexandria, there is another example of remarkable local markets which is the “Attarine” Market that sells all sorts of antiques in a maze of narrow lanes and streets.
El Arish, located in Northern Sinai has a wonderful weekly market that is held every Thursday when many Bedouins from all over Sinai come to present their handmade goods to the people visiting the market.
How to Bargain in Egypt?
Selling and buying goods in Egypt, some people believe since ancient times, has always been a ritualized where the aim is not only haggling to get a cheaper price, but an affair in which the seller and the buyer would bargain so both of them would be happy at the very end.
The seller or the owner of the shop would traditionally invite the tourists for a cup of tea or coffee while turning the place upside down to show off his products in the best manner possible. However, the tourists should not feel obliged to buy something until they find an item they really like.
Among the best practices to use for bargaining in Egypt, and maybe in many markets all over the world, is that when you find an item that really interests you, especially if it’s an expensive product, is to offer the seller half the price the seller has identified for the item.
Of course the shop owner will not accept half the price and would stick to his full price telling the tourists how expensive and good his products are and sometimes he would lower the price a little bit.
The tourist, on the other hand, should actually do the same and offer the shop owner a price that is a bit higher than the last one he proposed. Afterwards, it is always a good idea to make to walk away which would often dramatically lower the price of the products.
To make things more comfortable for the tourist, he is the one who will always agree to take the product in the price that he wants and he has to make sure that the shop owner will never finish a deal at loss.
This way the shopper and the store keeper are usuall both happy at the end; the buyer got the item he wanted for the price he thought was good and the shop owner made his profit, no matter how big or small it is.
The markets and bazaars of Egypt offer the tourists with a large wonderful collection and mix of products, souvenirs, and gifts to choose from. However, the quality of the products sold may vary greatly from one place to another and according to the prices as well. This is why the guests should be ready for a long bargain process in many cases.
The Shisha, the traditional Egyptian waterpipes, a large collection of backgammon boards, decorative boxes, and many other handicrafts made by local artisans are spread all over the touristic markets in Egypt.
The Shisha is most definitely among the products to be bought from Egypt. It is a fixture in every coffee house and a wonderful traditional Egyptian waterpipe would make a magnificent gift. Decorated with stainless steal or brass fittings, the Shisha a special tobacco that is packaged inside a clay pot.
Another item that would be perfect to be bought from Egypt would be the chess and backgammon sets. These sets can be of varying quality with the cheaper ones being crudely made and contains little if no inlays.
The better sets of chess or backgammon, which are quite popular among the Egyptians, are made out of hard wood from the finest types and inlaid with marvelous designs of mother-of-pearl, bones, ivory, and many other substances.
Sandals, bags, and shoes are among the finest products to be bought from Egypt. Purely leather made sandals and bags can be found in many touristic markets in Egypt like Khan El Khalili and the markets of Luxor, Aswan, and Sharm El Sheikh.
Egypt is also famous for its glass products like the hand blown Muski, as they call it in the country, is uniquely Egyptian and they are fashioned into plates, vases, glasses, and candle holders. There are some marvelous pottery products as well with very good prices in almost all touristic markets in Egypt.
Many tourists who travel to Egypt are fond with the Bedouins and their products. Among the most attractive Bedouin handmade products in Egypt are the Bedouin jewelry which traditionally come from the Sinai Peninsula and the Siwa Oasis and often have a lot of coins in its design. Other designs include Pharaonic, Islamic, and Nubian motifs.
Copper is among the substances that the Egyptian workers are skilful in using. There is a whole area in Cairo called the “Nahaseen” or the copper makers that specialize in producing all sorts of copper products.
Moreover, a wide range of copper and brass goods are sold in many markets and stores all around Egypt. The products include Arabian coffeepots, trays, and banging lamps.
Since the Egyptian cotton is famous worldwide for being the best type in the globe, buying any cotton made products would be a good choice in Egypt. Many shops, found in touristic and local markets and in large shopping malls as well sell pure cotton made shirts, trousers, and the famous traditional Galabeya, the Egyptian loose all in one robes. There are also some nice scarves, bed sheets, and bed covers sold almost everywhere in Egypt.
Belly dancing outfits and accessories are also a popular product to be bought from Egypt. With its shining and colorful clothes and a huge variety of accessories the belly dancing outfits would make a wonderful gift for grownups and children as well.
The popular touristic souvenirs in Egypt would include a huge collection of reproductions of almost all shapes of Pharaonic gods and major kings and queens of ancient Egypt. These objects are made out of alabaster, mother of pearl, ivory, and ebony, and they are sold almost at any touristic market or any historical sites in Egypt.
Although these products are wonderful and would make the most perfect souvenir to take back home from Egypt, bargaining is a very good idea while buying such products.