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Cairo: a haven for shopping lovers

If the thought of dark cold winters is putting a chill down your spine, while your crave for flea market shopping is still high, then what could be better than getting lost in Cairo’s amazing bright vibrant streets with hidden souks and twisting alley ways, perfect for an adventure?

Egypt holds one of the 7 wonders of the world; In addition to visiting Khufu’s Great Pyramid and the tomb of Tutankhamen, a trip to Cairo with holiday companies like First Choice, opens up a world of possibilities for any tourist.

But while excursions down the Nile and to the Red Sea are bound to be on most people’s itineraries, shopping lovers will be keen to seek out a bargain or two. Thankfully, Cairo has a fair few flea markets to choose from, all of which are bursting at the seams with souvenirs and keepsakes.


Where to go shopping in Cairo

Souq Al Goma’a (Friday’s Market) – Huge local crowds come here looking for everything from furniture and clothes to spices and fish. Word of advice though, keep your money close by, as opportunistic thieves and poverty-stricken citizens will be able to spot tourists fairly easily.

Khan El-Khalili bazaar – Shopping at this particular flea market, located in the city’s Islamic section, can be quite an experience as most merchants will be vying for your undivided attention. However it is perfect for picking up rustic glassware such as old perfume bottles.

Zamalek – This rather affluent district of western Cairo might not seem like the place to come for some cheap and cheerful shopping, but several crafts and jewellery can be found at excellent prices. Remember to dig deep and search thoroughly, as lower-priced items are often located mere metres away.


What to buy in Cairo

Shisha pipe – There is a good chance you will smoke some perfumed tobacco on a trip to Egypt, so take a ‘hubbly bubbly’ pipe home with you. Available in all shapes and sizes, these can be incredibly ornate and don’t have to be utilised to be appreciated.

Gowns or scarves – While bedouin head scarves and silky pashminas are available from numerous merchants, try and seek out a more unique jallabaya, which is a long gown worn by men.

Jewellery – Available to buy second hand or from the creator itself, Egypt produces some spellbinding jewellery. One of the most sought-after items is a cartouche necklace, which can be personalised with hieroglyphics.


How to haggle in Cairo

Only haggle if you’re genuinely interested – It is unfair on the seller if you start haggling without any real intention of purchasing. Therefore, be sure you want to buy and have a price in mind.

See how much they want, but only offer half – Get the merchant to name his or her price first before inadvertently starting with a high opening offer. From there, suggest half what they want and take it from there.

Don’t be afraid to walk away – Haggling is all part of the buying process and the vendor knows this. So, if you can’t agree on a price, simply walk away.

2 comments

  1. Mads

    Hi Nicolas! Thanks for this great website. I am looking for some guidance: I am a record collector of mostly arabic music, and consider to travel to Egypt in order to find some lost/forgotten records from the 60/70 and mid 80’ies. Any advice on where and how to find this?
    Best Regards
    Mads

    • Hi Mads, thanks for stopping by! Wow, that’s a pretty specific question you asked! To be honest, Egypt is not the “antiques & vintage playground” with which we are the most familiar. And even if you had asked us the same question about Europe (we know pretty well), it would have been hard to provide you with a precise answer… Besides record shops and special fairs dedicated to vintage records, that tend to occur once or twice a year, flea markets that are known to sell forgotten records from the 60s, 70s and 80s aren’t that easy to find. You’ll most likely find a booth or two selling old records, and that’s it. As per Egypt, I’m afraid I won’t be able to help :(

      However, a good starting point would be to conduct a search on eBay with a few keywords, spot merchants from Egypt that may sell vintage records, and reach out to them. Even if they don’t have what you’re looking for, they will probably point you in the right direction :)
      I hope this helps.

      Good luck with your search!

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