Bazaars and Bargaining:One of the pleasures of Cairo is to get lost in the bazaars (souqs) and take in the sights, smells and sounds of life in all its chaos and glory. You can shop for carpets, camels, shoes, books and veils or whatever else takes your fancy. Leave your valuables behind in your hotel and immerse yourself in a world that has changed little in hundreds of years.
For souvenirs most tourists head to Khan Al-Khalili one of the world's oldest bazaars. If you like haggling, this is the place for you. To get away from the souvenir shops head west and you'll have a more authentic souq experience. The main goods sold are gold, silver, copper, perfume, spices, and cloth. Another place that gets good reviews for souvenir shoppers is the Khan Misr Touloun also located in medieval Cairo, just in front of the Mosque Ibn Touloun.
You probably aren't seriously considering buying a 'ship of the desert' but just wait until you see these lovely beasts at the camel bazaar (souq al-gamal). Held every Friday beyond Sharia Sudan in the west of city these beasts have travelled a long way to get to Cairo, so give them a pat on the head. Go early in the morning to get the most out of this bazaar.
Try the Wekalet al-Balah, for fabrics, including Egyptian cotton, the Tent makers' Bazaar for applique-work, Mohammed Ali Street for musical instruments, and Mahmoud Abd El Ghaffar in the Khan Al-Khalili for dance costumes (for the belly-dancers among you).
You get the idea, Cairo is a bit of a shoppers paradise. Not only can you get everything but you can watch most of it get made; what
could be more fun?
Here are some bargaining tips that will come in handy at the bazaars:
- Feel free to accept tea from the shopkeeper if it is offered, it doesn't obligate you to buy and it's a nice custom.
- Halve the first asking price and start from there.
- Stay polite and have a sense of humor while bargaining, it is supposed to be fun.
- Walking away is a good way to get the price down quickly.
- Convert the asking price in to your own currency before you end up haggling like crazy over what turns out to be a few pennies.
- Pay what you think the item is worth and don't worry too much if others have paid less.
- If the price is too high or you don't want an item just leave, there will be plenty more opportunities just around the corner.
A Guide to CairoPage One: Introduction, When to Go and What to See
Page Three: Pyramids, Sphinx, Saqqara