The Souks, or the local markets, along with the larger bazaars are among the most remarkable attractions of Egypt. Anyone will tell you that the most famous and the largest bazaar in Egypt is Khan El Khalili Market, in the Hussein District in Cairo.
This 500-year-old maze of streets, lanes, stores, and shops occupies the center of Islamic Cairo and forms one of the most famous tourist market in the world.
When first stepping foot in Khan El Khalili, you will want to start looking at souvenirs to take home. But you may want to wait!
However, if guests explore the lanes and narrow streets of the bazaar they will find small workshops producing wonderful jewelry, glass, copper, and brassware.
Egypt has many other remarkable markets all over different cities and several regions, like the markets of Alexandria, Portsaid, and 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.
One of the most important tactics that tourists, or even Egyptians, must learn before shopping in one of these markets, especially the touristy 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. This is in contrast to 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 Plaza Mall in Alexandria where globally recognized brand names can be found in a much elegant atmosphere for shopping.
Markets in Egypt
Local markets can be found in almost every district 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. These local markets are interesting places to buy fruits, vegetables, cotton products, more at quite a cheap price.
In Cairo for example, the "Tawfikeya" Market is located downtown near the 26th of July Street. 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, afternoon and the Friday prayer.
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 known as 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?
Some believe that since ancient times, selling and buying goods in Egypt has always been a ritual 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.
One of the best bargaining practices 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 will 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 with a price slightly higher than their original one. Afterward, it is always a good idea to make to walk away which often causes the vendor to invite you back and offer dramatically lowered 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 storekeeper are usually 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 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 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.
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 include a huge collection of reproductions of almost all shapes of Pharaonic gods as well as major kings and queens of ancient Egypt. These objects are made out of alabaster, mother of pearl, ivory, and ebony, and they are sold at almost any touristic market or any historical site in Egypt. Although these products are wonderful and would make the perfect souvenir to take back home from Egypt, bargaining is still necessary for buying such products.