If you are interested in what to buy in Egypt, the first thing we will tell you is that there are all kinds of stores in the country where you can buy souvenirs and other products. But the most charming places with the greatest variety are the bazaars and markets.

What are the best bazaars and markets?

At Ancient Cairo, the most famous and popular is the Jan el-Jalili Bazaarin the district Hussein and with more than 500 years of history, where you can find all kinds of souvenirs and in a wide range of varieties, qualities and prices: from those that are mass-produced, to unique jewelry in workshops that work with glass, copper or alabaster. Another recommended market in the capital is Tawfikeya, which is in the center and near 26th of July Street, the shopping street par excellence of Cairo.

In Alexandria, the most popular and charming market is Attarine, set in picturesque narrow streets and selling all kinds of antiques. And in northern Sinai, the Al Arish market is held every Thursday and is noted for its wide variety of handmade leather goods.

Large chain supermarkets can be found mainly in Cairo and Alexandria, and have a wide variety of products of different types and many imported. The only thing that is impossible to get, being a Muslim country, are processed pork-based foodstuffs. And the same goes for shopping malls, the vast majority are located on the outskirts or in the central areas of major Egyptian cities, where you can find the world’s best known international brands and franchises such as McDonald’s or Starbucks.

Business hours

Business hours in Egypt from Monday to Saturday are from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. for the vast majority of stores, whether they are small stores or large stores. During the summer, some stores are usually closed from 12:00 to 16:00, mainly because many people do not go out because of the intense heat, although it is rare for stores selling products for tourists to close, in fact, they usually have continuous hours.

In Ramadan, some stores are usually closed during Iftar, which is the breaking of the fast, usually in the late afternoon, but then reopen and extend their opening hours in the evening.

All stores in Egypt are usually closed on Sundays, with the exception of some shopping malls and supermarkets.

Souvenirs

With regard to what gifts to bring back from Egypt, the options are many and so that you don’t get dizzy, here are the seven must-have souvenirs you should consider when shopping during your trip.

  • Papyrus. Typical scrolls that you can buy loose and blank or you can also ask them to handwrite a message in Arabic.
  • Scarabs. Traditional amulet of the ancient Egyptians that is still made in markets and bazaars and is one of the most typical souvenirs of the country.
  • Chilabas. Typical Egyptian clothing, ideal for wearing in the spring and summer months. You can get them in clothing stores and also in bazaars in a wide variety of models and colors.
  • Perfumes and essences. There is a millenary tradition in Egypt of making essences and perfumes, therefore, a bottle is a good gift for someone you love very much or to make it for yourself.
  • Alabaster objects. All kinds of ornaments, objects and statuettes you can find in alabaster worked in three ways: machine polished or smooth, hand polished and unpolished, which is the most expensive and the best.
  • Leather objects. Handbags, purses, shoes, sandals and all kinds of leather goods handcrafted by fine artisans.
  • Water pipes. The typical shisha that can be found in bars and tea houses, you can also get them as souvenirs and in different sizes. Don’t forget to also buy the tobacco with essences used for the pipe (the most traditional is apple).

Prices

Prices in Egypt compared to the West, in general terms, tend to be cheaper, even 50% cheaper in transportation and food. But if we are talking about shopping and souvenirs, we must take into account that one of the country’s main sources of income is tourism, an industry within a global market. What does this mean? That many products, especially souvenirs, have an average international price.

But the good news and what makes the difference in Egypt is bargaining, a fundamental part of the Egyptian commercial culture and essential to buy in bazaars and markets, but forget about bargaining in malls or supermarkets. As the culture of bargaining is scarce and we often feel uncomfortable when we travel to countries where this is common, we give you some tips so you won’t be embarrassed to bargain in Egypt and even enjoy it:

  • Prices are inflated because everyone who buys at a flea market or bazaar is expected to bargain. So, first tip: you have no choice but to haggle if you don’t want to lose money.
  • The benchmark to know if you got a good price is half or two thirds of the price initially offered. If you get there, consider yourself happy.
  • If you are offered a tea at a local tea shop, accept it because it does not oblige you to buy. It will even make bargaining more pleasant and cordial.
  • The first thing you have to offer, always, is half the published price. From there, you negotiate. Remember: if you get half price, it’s a great achievement. But if you get two-thirds of the price, you haven’t done too badly either.
  • Always maintain good manners and a good sense of humor. Remember that bargaining is a negotiation and not a war, it is part of the Egyptian culture and will be part of your trip, so enjoy it.
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