Shopping in Cairo
Shopping in Cairo can be great fun. The sales tactics can feel a little overbearing at first, but haggling is a way of life here, especially in the bazaars, and worth experiencing.
Khan el-Khalili has streets dedicated to specific trades, for example the Street of Coppersmiths for engraved brass trays, and Souq as-Sagha. The sidestreet behind Al Azhar Moque is filled with bookbinders, where hand-bound leather notebooks or photo albums can be customised at Abdel-Zaher Bookshop, 31 El-Sheikh Mohamed Abdou St.
Zamalek is where the smart locals head for stylish fashions and top jewellery. A little further out, spacious Dokki, easily accessed by the underground, has smart boutiques.
King of souks is Khan el-Khalili in Islamic Cairo, a world-famous attraction. Labyrinthine alleyways cram tiny shops with goodies including silks, spices, jewellery, hand-made leather shoes and perfumes. On its outskirts, Sharia Muski packs in household essentials like towels, toys and crockery. Stallholders will try to grab your attention, but it’s easy to politely decline and walk on by.
Malls aren’t a huge part of Cairo’s shopping scene, but The First Mall, 35 Sharia Giza, houses over 60 designer boutiques, including brands such as Prada, Dior and Yves St Laurent. Catering for middle-class Cairenes, mega mall Citystars, Aly Rashad St, Heliopolis, houses international names such as Miss Sixty.
Normal opening hours are Monday to Saturday 0900-2200, closing in summer between roughly 1230-1600. Tourist shops often stay open later. During Ramadan, stores may close for Iftar (breaking the fast) and stay open later in the evening.
Little shops selling miniature alabaster pyramids and rolls of papyrus can be found throughout Cairo. Other popular souvenirs include toy camels, traditional crafts of hand-blown glass, jewellery and traditional perfume oils. Not all sellers are out to swindle with poor products. Oum El Dounia on 3 Talaat Harb, for example, is known for Bedouin jewellery and unusual trinkets. Since the revolution, this notorious shop has been rolling out a range themed around the nearby Tahrir Square.
General Sales Tax in Egypt currently stands at 13% on commodities, though this is unlikely to be a factor when shopping in bazaars where haggling and cash payments are de rigueur.