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Cairo Shopping

Cairo Shopping

Cairo offers an incredible selection of shopping leisure, culture and nightlife. shopping ranges from the famous Khan el-Khalili souk, largely unchanged since the 14th century, to modern air-conditioned centres displaying the latest fashions. All the bounty of the East is here-particularly good buys are spices, perfumes, gold and silver, carpets, brass and copper ware, leather work, glass, ceramics and mashrabiya. Try some of the famous street markets, like Wekalet al-balah, for fabrics, including Egyptian cotton, the Tentmakers' Bazaar for applique-work, Mohammed Ali street for musical instruments. Take out a Nile Cruise and enjoy the view of Cairo Tower, Opera House, Egypt Museum.


There are other reasons, of course, to shop in Cairo. Although carpets are cheaper in Damascus and much of the tourist-oriented craftwork is shoddy, Cairo still offers a wide variety of high-quality, hand-made goods, many of Egyptian or Bedouin origin, including pottery, leather, jewelry, brass and fabrics. Prices generally seem modest by American standards.

Khan al Khalili

Though no visit to Cairo is complete without a shopping trip to Khan al-Khalili, one of the largest souks in the Middle East, tourists tired from haggling can now find respite steps away on the recently renovated, pedestrian-only street of Al Muizz li Din-Allah. Resplendent with Islamic architecture dating from the 10th to the 18th centuries, the mile long thoroughfare was painstakingly refurbished in a 20-year-long project in which more than 30 monuments, from mausoleums to madrassas, were restored. Multicolored footlights, set into the sidewalks, now illuminate the mosques, palaces and medieval mansions that line the street, working craftsmen create a throwback atmosphere, and shopkeepers at intimate antiques stores would rather discuss the history of a piece than its price.

For many foreigners, gift shopping in Cairo begins and ends with the Khan al-Khalili, which is situated inside Cairo's old, walled city and is Cairo's most famous tourist bazaar. You will enjoy the Khan, a maze of narrow, crooked alleys lined with closet-sized shops where it is possible to find quality jewelry and crafts amid the stuffed leather camels and other tourist-oriented fare.
shopping trip to Khan al-Khalili, cairo
And, although you probably won't want to buy, the Camel Market makes a fascinating trip. When you need a break from city life, try a round of golf on the famous Mena House course overlooking the Pyramids, watch the horse-racing at the Gezira Club or visit the Zoo and the Botanical Gardens. Take a trip on the Nile in a felucca or ride on horseback from the Giza Pyramids to Saqqara. For a day trip outside Cairo visit Haraniyya village and see the beautiful tapestries and weaving produced by local people. Or get away from it all at the top of the Cairo Tower, a modern 187 metre-high tower with views of the city from all sides, topped by a revolving restaurant.

Address: Khan El Khalili, Cairo, Pyramids Road, Giza - 02 5932262
Shopkeepers sell water pipes as people walk along what's believe to be Cairo's oldest street, Al-Muizz li-Din Allah
Shopkeepers sell water pipes as people walk along what's believe to be Cairo's oldest street, Al-Muizz li-Din Allah

Azza Fahmy

Having learnt her trade alongside the men of the Khan el-Khalili souk, jeweller Azza Fahmy has gone on to become Egypt’s first international brand, collaborating with Julien Macdonald.

Address:Al-Ain Gallery, 73 El-Hussein Street, Dokki (00 202 3749 3940; www.azzafahmy.com).

Tamari

The latest addition to the city’s buzzing nightlife, this high-style restaurant/bar/club takes its inspiration from the ancients. The designers have gone wild with texture and colour, installing, as a centerpiece, a pharaonic sun-boat that appears to be floating.

Address:North Tower, Nile City Towers, 2005c Corniche el-Nil, Bulaq (00 202 2461 9910).

Beymen

The luxury shopping at this department store brings in well-heeled women from across the Middle Eastern states for Fendi, Marni (above), Marc Jacobs and Dior. Look out for deals on the more body-conscious Western designs, then relax among the chic crowd at the Beymen Café.

Address:Four Seasons Cairo at Nile Plaza, 1089 Corniche el-Nil, Garden City (00 202 2791 7000).
Beymen luxury shopping

Sofitel el gezirah

Occupying the finest location in Cairo, on El-Gezirah island in the centre of the city, the atmosphere at the five-star Sofitel is luxurious, calm and relaxing. You’ll be spoilt for choice for drinking and dining options – cocktails on Le Deck, fine dining in Le Vendôme and a nightcap in the opulent Buddha Bar. A room facing upriver will take your breath away.

Address:3 El-Thawra Council Street, Zamalek (00 202 2737 3737; www.sofitel.com ).

Abou El Sid

The city really comes alive at night, and this contemporary Egyptian restaurant, with several branches, is perfect for after-dark buzz and tasty, authentic dishes. Order a shisha, or hubble-bubble pipe – a custom now de rigueur for the modern Cairene woman.

Address:157 26th July Street, Zamalek (00 202 2735 9640).

Garden Promenade Café

Visiting Cairo in the spring means dining outdoors is a real pleasure. This alfresco café serves international dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Wander the gardens for a break from the heat and dust, and take home a silk-screened bag or artisan basket from Tukul Crafts next door.

Address:The Cairo Marriott, 16 Saraya El-Gezirah Street (00 202 2728 3000; www.marriott.co.uk).
Luxurious Stars Centre shopping mall, Cairo
Luxurious Stars Centre shopping mall, Cairo

Souqs and Shops

  • Khan al-Khalili: Head to Cairo for the mother of all souqs.
  • Oum El Dounia: A great range of Egypt's best arts and crafts and a bookshop, in Cairo.
  • Al-Khatoun: Quirky Egyptian crafts and local art in the capital.
  • Aswan souq: The most exotic souq in Egypt.

Retail is Therapy

You may believe that retail is therapy – and who's to say you're wrong – but the only thing you need to acquire in Cairo is to be found at a Government perfumery where you can load up on essential oils like ‘Queen of Egypt' and ‘Osiris', although we bought girly stuff like strawberry and orange blossom. The wallet can be happier if you get four in one go; they throw in a delicate glass bottle that nevertheless speaks its provenance with garish shades of pink and blue in a minaret-like shape. Into the fourth day, if you're feeling a tad homesick, cab it to Zamalek. It's an island in the middle of the Nile in Greater Cairo, which is upmarket and has great cafes like Cilantro and Maison Thomas. Contrast this area to Old Cairo where the peopled, grimy streets with vendors selling sweet potato. Enjoy the efficient train ride to Coptic Cairo if possible to take a look at the Hanging Church whose interiors boast of cedar panels and age-old icons.

Also Read: Cairo Nightlife

Last Updated on Tuesday 30th November 2010