Yet another amazing experience we had in Cairo was a visit Khan el-Khalili markets.
These markets are a labyrinth of streets and lanes with shops selling everything from tacky souvenirs to gold and silver, clothing, antiques and pretty much anything else you can think of.
I was feeling game, so browsed the markets by myself. I made many new friends as I shopped - even got a marriage proposal or two - and saw so many great things to buy that it was too hard to decide and I didn't buy anything.
Meanwhile, Alex was sitting in the famous El-Fishawi Cafe sipping a Turkish coffee and puffing a shisha.
The markets are crazy, busy, crowded, noisy, fabulous!
What to pay: Better bring your bargaining skills with you!!
This young vendor found us as we sat outside at the main entrance of the bazaar. I would describe him as charming and persistent, not pushy or annoying as other vendors. I couldn't resist buying his little camel :) He was an excellent, intelligent little salesman that my fiance wanted to bring home and hire! After we bought his camel and we returned to the bus, he was outside waving and playing with his camels while we took his picture.
What to buy: Buy his little camel!
What to pay: Less than $5! You should be able to get pretty much any trinket you want for less than $5... more like $1 if you are good at bargaining!
I am not too sure the name of this shop but if you walk around Khan el Khalili a big outdoor/indoor suq while visiting Cairo, you are bound to come across a few shops stocking the most beautiful and ornate little Perfume bottles.
What to buy: These little treasures are something I quite literally stumbled on while walking through the stalls. The are found in the inside of the shops and there are so many that one has to be careful that they do not feel caustrophobic amongst the beautiful sea of glass and be a Bull in a china shop (OK my starsign yes is Taurus but I managed to restrain myself hahaha!!).
These little bottles are handblown into shapes that almost reasonable little mosques or in one of my bottles case's a camel. Some are more ornate than others and have the most amazing designs on them, others are simple yet still beautiful nevertheless. Another beautiful thing to purchase are the perfume oils that would go nicely inside your bottle. I choose the Lotus flower for it's subtle scent which wasn't overpowering but still retained a lovely scent, I didn't want to add it to the perfume bottles because I was afraid of breaking them. They are very fragile and fortunately they are still all intact even after I left Egypt. Make sure that the seller wraps them securely in something like cotton wool.
What to pay: Rather than bargaining for one bottle try bargaining for three or more. If you try to bargain for one, you can sometimes get a rude vendor who is not interested in you. It is even best to bargain with a few friends as the more you buy the more discount you will get.
Khan el Khalili is the largest shopping area in Cairo. There is everything, clothes, souvenirs, papyrus, parfumes, jewelry etc here. One thing a tourist must remember at all times in Egypt is to bargain and this is the right place for it. There is no rule but remember that they always make some profit, but the question is can you make it as least as possible. Start with a quarter or third of the price they tell and bargain. They will be very kind and tell you everything you want to hear just to sell an item. They are especially generous in making compliments to ladies but that is just with one single purpose and women shouldn't fall for their soft words. One more thing, don't compare prices of items that you buy later at other shops or with your friends because you can be dissapointed if you overpaid something.
What to buy: Souvenirs, papyrus, parfumes
The Bazaar is one of the most ancient trading routes of all time. You can feel the atmosphere and the memories of 1000s of years just walking through. The streets are tiny and densely populated with merchandise. My tip is to make a list of what you would like to buy before going and even ask a local or tourguide to escort you through. Otherwise you will be enchanted by everything and anything and spend all your funds before you get to where you want to go. Dont forget to barter as there is plenty of competition!
What to buy: Decorative plates, statues, shisha pipes, jewellery, egyptian perfumed oils (extraordinary)! Carpets, rugs, belly dancing paraphernalia!
What to pay: I found dependent on the item, that anywhere from half to two thirds of the asking price was fair.
Best place to shop is Khan el Khalili Bazar located by al Azhar St and on the west by the Muski Market. Items for kids and men (brother's etc) would probably be t-shirts and or leather slippers. For parents probably wooden carvings, stone carvings, silver and brass goods. And for women (sisters etc.) scarves, galabeyyas (ladies'dress) or perfume oils and beautiful perfume bottles.
What to buy: Silver jewelry, Scarves, Perfume Oil, Perfume Bottles, Rugs, Wall Hangings
What to pay: Depends, varies from shop to shop. Remember to bargain.
The shops that you first encounter on entering this area are tourist traps, blatant, pure and simple. Ask yourself the question: 'is there anything in here I cam imagine an Egyptian without an unhealthily overdeveloped sense of irony choosing to have in their home?'
It's like Gift Shops in Europe. Overpriced tat you don't need. Unlike Europe, you have to haggle for the stuff.
Okay, I'm not that pious. I did buy a few souvenirs. Let me tell a haggling story. I'd spotted some fairly good quality china bearing the basic phonetic hieroglyph set in a shop in Talaat Harb. Price labels on them so I had an idea of the price to pay. What I wanted was an ashtray with this design. They didn't have one in the shop, but there was one in one of the first bait-trays you encounter in Khan el Khalil. I reckoned it was worth LE40. Okay, you've been there, done that and might have escaped without the T-shirt: as soon as one of the vultures sense an eyeball flicker in the direction of the wares you are inside fighting for your life. The casual look, check price & move on is not really on the menu. He wanted LE100, wouldn't budge. My eyebrows disappeared down the back of my neck & I got out.
What to buy: The next day I went back & opened the conversation by saying that I was sorry about last night, I'd obviously misheard him because any fool should have realised that he meant one hundred piastres. I'd take five.
I bargained him down to a sensible price but by then the game had taken over and I really wanted best price. I got him down to about LE50, but didn't buy. I'd previously made the acquaintance of a couple of shopkeepers deeper in the market. (After they'd tried to sell me things they'd decided I was a dead loss as far as commerce went, but we had spent a pleasant afternoon drinking tea and discussing the eccentricities of the English language and life in general.) So I took myself off there. Not that they sold these objects: they dealt in silver, soapstone & glassware. But they knew a man who did, so I bought one through them, one of them popped off and got one for me.
I ended up paying them LE10 more than I would have paid at the first place, and they may even have bought it there, but I was satisfied with the transaction. I even bought a soapstone pyramisd carved with heiroglyphs. Well, I'd promised my eldest son I'd buy him a pyramid, and a proper one would not have fitted in my rucksack.
The glassware is nice, but a bit of a packing nightmare. The things that really appealed were the finials for mosques available in the copper workers section of the souk, but I don't have a mosque to put them on and they're a bit oversized for the mantlepeice.
What to pay: Probably over the odds. As a tourist I believe my function is to have my money removed by the locals, but I do like it done with grace and without surrendering my dignity.
Khan Al Khalili is a set of Bazars in the old city of Cairo which was once the center where merchants gather to relax and make their deals and sell the goods.
What to buy: The many shops that is filling the streets and allys are full of different goods that you will also find the same in Luxor, Aswan, Sharm and hurghada. It is among the gold, silver, papyrus (not originals), status, carpets and rugs, shishas, and other kind of gifts.
What to pay: Just bargain. Ask in couple of shops and you will get to know the price range but start with the half of what the salesman is saying.
There are lot of differents things, be aware of fake stuff. Fake papirus for friends (he,he)... 25 for 5Eur, Egyptian music CD, instruments, jewelry... and much, much more for a nice price...
Jewelry go by weith and are fixed prices in some places... I used my credit card to pay and it is safe, just for jewels.
Khan Al Khalili is a world famous souk (shopping area) that almost every tourist passes through. A labyrinth of dark alleys, one gets the sense of being a in centuries past. One can find all of the usual tourist items but if one is planning to live in Cairo - they might be interested in another souk called Attaba.
Attaba is located a bit futher down from Khan Al Khalili. If one keeps walking down the main drag through the Khan, they will eventually run into Attaba. Attaba is considered an 'egyptian' market where locals go looking for good deals. The area has a slightly dodgy reputation - some upper class egyptians might not be caught dead there. I enjoyed it though, and never had any problems. You can find tons of household items, and if you can bargain and not act like a tourist - you can find some great deals.
What to buy: This market has so many things - I have bought cheap luggage, books, abayas and shirts there.
For women interested in getting nice jilbalbs/abayas there is this big building filled with hundreds of stalls. I can't tell you exactly how to get there but if you go to Attaba ---it is kind of under the highway bridge. Just ask someone for the abaya store and they will most likely point the way.
There are tons of hijabs there. Everything is very cheap but don't forget to bargain hard.
What to buy:
Khan el-Khalili is the right place for buying a lot of things, from water pipes to textiles, from traditional Egyptian clothes to small souvenirs, from spices to papyruses.
Here you'll find the widest collection of all kind of items, but what I was looking especially were the traditional Egyptian sweets.
And I was not disappointed. There were only 3 days left until the Ramadan time and I found a wide range of dried fruits (the apricots are the best), but also other types of sweets based on peanuts, sesame and walnuts.
Before I ever went to Egypt I had been given a cushion cover of applique work. The lotus blossom was incorporated into the design. I thought it was lovely and decided to get some more when we were leaving Cairo, and some to give as gifts.
It doesn't seem to matter much where you by the cushion covers as the price is about 22 Egy Pounds. I did once bargain at a time when the economy was going through a particularly bad time and got for 15 EP, but only that once. As the cushions are hand made and when translated into dollars, the price is very reasonable, I think they make an attractive and light gift to take home.
What to buy: any hand made items.
What to pay: bargain for whatever you want.
This ist he most famous and the oldest market in Cairo. Is full of athmosphere and fulfilled of every kind of stuff you would need.
Actually ,as a touristic place, you will see only touristic stuff, but some items are really appreciable, like the water pipe, the most common item.
As always, remember that the price called is simply thousand time higher then the real one, so simply bargain or check other places…
It is the place to buy typically oriental souvenirs and handmade crafts. Atmospheres of this traditional market with the labyrinth layout of the streets gives visitors o lot of pleasure and impression what medieval markets once were like.
This is the place to train your negotiation skills, traders speak all known languages and if you are from country with some well known sportsman they will offer you "special discount".
It's like visiting bangkok without going to it's famous chatuchak market. How could one not visit Khan Al Khalili, esp if you are a shopaholic like me? =P
From our hotel, meridien @ New Cairo, we took a cab down to this bazaar and it cost us about 35 EP. We asked the driver to drop us at Hussein (or Houssein) Mosque which is a very good meeting place if you are going with a few frens.
T-shirts are cheap there, you can get USD$5 for 2 pieces. You can get cartouches, perfume bottles, scarfs , souvenirs. a lot of things there.
Well even if you are not buying, you should just go and visit this place.
I dun know, when i was there at 10am, most of the shops were not opened yet. And from what i understand, if you are their first customer, they would certainly try their best to sell the thing to you.
So Good Luck!!!