Be careful when buying oils and perfumes in Cairo

Jun 7th, 2010, 04:31 PM
Original Poster
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Be careful when buying oils and perfumes in Cairo

This is to warn everyone about a store for oils and perfumes called Siwa in Cairo, Egypt--they are a big store and obviously give a hefty commission to travel agents and tour operators, which is why they all take you to that shop.

Our travel guide also took us there on our visit a few months ago. And although I hate to say this, every time I look at the bottles of Siwa perfume I feel bitter and am perhaps unconsciously wishing them ill. What you get to smell in the shop, what they show you, is not what they pack for you. We bought over $500 worth of essential oils and 3 blends of popular brand perfumes. At the store what we smelled was intense and we were told we could take it home and dilute it--as it was pure oil. What they packed for us, which of course is packed so well you don’t want to risk opening until you come back home, is a Completely Diluted version of what we were shown at the shop.

I’ve been trying to say ‘oh well’ and get over it but before I do I think I must let others know. So unless you too want to be ripped off, I suggest you find another source for your perfumes in Egypt.

I must also be very clear that I loved Egypt and would go back there and will do and in fact this experience with the Siwa store was our only bad one.

neo12 is offline  
Jun 7th, 2010, 07:47 PM
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Can happen -anywhere- in the world. Whether with perfume, gems, jewelry, camera kit. They know you are a tourist, they know you can do nothing when you get home. So what can you do when you want to buy something like that?

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jun 8th, 2010, 03:26 AM
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neo12 - please post the name of the group tour you were with. I would also like to know the address of this Siwa Shop if you know it. I want people here to be as aware as possible when they are headed that way with their group tour that it is NOT a place to leave their money at.

There are some responsible perfume stores at the Khan el Khalili market that would behave respectfully and honestly if they know repeat business might come their way.

The problem with these big shops is they are not even aware what repeat business means outside of the relm of a big company bringing in large lots of guests and lots of money being left there. Greed runs these shows completely. If you find someone that understands business does not have to be based on Greed, leave your money there.

For example, Gouzlan Gold at the Khan market has a good reputation for treating customers with respect and charging fair prices because they have a good rep via these boards. When a good store shows it's colors it should be talked about here as much as the bad stores.
Casual_Cairo is offline  
Jun 8th, 2010, 04:24 AM
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True that it can & does happen anywhere. I bought a piece of jewelry at one of the fancy/famous jewelry stores on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and was shocked to find something else entirely in the box when I got home. They did a beautiful job packaging it and tying it up with ribbons -now I know why - to dissuade opening it before getting home. I was able to get my credit card involved and got the money back - did you use a c/c for your oils by any chance?
Leslie_S is offline  
Jun 26th, 2010, 08:46 AM
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Thank you Debbie for contacting the store. Word of mouth weather good or bad can ruin or give a store more customers. Isn't the internet wonderful. Before there was no way for others to find out. Chris
BeniciaChris is offline  
Jun 26th, 2010, 10:43 AM
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Well she never did reply with where it is, so I still haven't been able to I.D. it yet. Sorry.
Casual_Cairo is offline  
Dec 21st, 2010, 02:58 AM
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I had the same encounter with neo12 in December 2010.

But I realized 2 out of 4 bottles are not the scent we order before I left Cairo, I went back to Siwa. They claimed that there there is no scent for Sandal Wood. Reluctantly, the sales person exchange 2 bottles for me.

I cant remember the location, but it is less than 15 mins drive from Grand Hotel Pyramid/The Sphinx.
bebetan is offline  
Dec 21st, 2010, 07:27 AM
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Beware of buying anything in Egypt and don't believe your tour operator/guide if s/he claims some BIG store is a gov't store and won't offer discounts because they already have such low prices. That is often one of the stories given to bus groups so you won't want discounts. It makes you feel comfortable with whatever the price is, and you don't question it.

I think it really stinks that SIWA is switching oils on people. It's not like the real oil is all THAT expensive, so when they over charge for it, in the first place, it seems they should at least give you what you think you are getting. Geez!

The oils shouldn't cost any more than 1LE per gram. The small bottles are about 20 grams. Then they usually have 30, 50, 100, and 200 gram size bottles. 20 gr will last you FOREVER! Certainly until you are tired of it unless you intend to use it for EVERYTHING possible.
Casual_Cairo is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2010, 02:47 AM
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Thanks for the heads up.

this type of bait and switch happens

a lot at the tourist trap stores guides take you to.

Always try to go to the legitimate shops

not the tourist traps

Happens worldwide though not just Cairo/Egypt

still a wonderful city/country...
qwovadis is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2010, 05:45 AM
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I am so sorry to hear that someone (anyone) was cheated. My general rule is no serious shopping while on holiday. While I buy many bits and bobbles, I never feel truly comfortable making a high ticket purchase in a shop I don't know or can't return to. I have yet to see much that is a big enough bargain to take the chance.
TC is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2010, 10:10 AM
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One rule you all can remember (maybe) when it comes to buying perfume oils is that the smallest bottle they offer should cost LESS THAN the equivalent of $5 USD. If they are charging more than $5 USD for their smallest bottle, then they are NOT showing you their smallest bottle, OR they are over charging you, and either way they are lieing to you. They have a small bottle that should cost less than $5, but it will be the last bottle they pull out. Haggle until you see it. Don't agree to buy anything until you see that small bottle and the admit the price should be $5 or less for it.... then use common sense about what to pay for a larger bottle, IF you think you need a larger bottle.
Casual_Cairo is offline  
May 7th, 2012, 07:17 AM
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The Address is: Nazlet El Samman, Giza, Cairo
Adrian_Assa is offline  
May 8th, 2012, 02:25 PM
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This story is not about oil but on my recent trip we were taken to an alabaster store near the Valley of the Kings by our guide. We were given the impression that this would be our only chance to buy alabaster and I was determined to buy a vase. I wanted one as white as possible. I couldn't see any and it was a very large store. I asked my guide what he thought of the quality and he said white was extremely rare, and would cost much more and so I compromised and chose a vase from a high shelf. It had a several repaired cracks but my guide said that was normal because it was carved by hand so I bought it. He 'helped' in the bargaining. I felt pressured and I'm usually a pretty savy shopper and bargainer. The very next stop I saw white, beautiful hand carved vases for much less than I had paid. I feel my guide misguided me. I bought two more vases in two different shops that are much better quality with no cracks for much less money. It is my fault and I take responsibilty for my mistake in accepting poor quality but would just like to warn others. There is always another opportunity to buy. Actually I feel kind of stupid about it all. Other than that experience I feel good about all my other purchases. I learned the hard way that you should not be pressured even by your 'guide'. As this was my first group tour I did not know at that time that they are getting a cut on my purchase.
MsLizzy is offline  
May 8th, 2012, 11:42 PM
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MsLizzy - I'm so sorry this happened to you. I wish I had a penny for every one that purchased an over priced alabaster piece in Luxor instead of waiting to buy it at the Khan el Khalili for much less. (I'd be rich) I have located a guy in the Khan named Ali that has a brilliant inventory (more than anyone else in the Khan (that I've found) and he sells his alabastor at an extremely fair price. I can't really explain how much he would charge for certain pieces, as size is difficult to talk about here - but here is a piece I'll try to explain - Did you see the small, factory made, often colored in red or blue or normal alabastor color - candle holders. They are rounded and just the right size for a votive candle to go in? They are mass produced and generally shiney, but I've seen the normal alabaster colored ones finished matt so they look a bit more hand made. These are LE15 at Ali's shop. That is the same as $2.50 USD. Most other shops take much more for those.
Now, since I've just mentioned a price, I feel the need to post that this price was written in May 2012, so if people are reading this in 2015 or even 2013, be aware that the cost to Ali may have changed and it might go up to $3 or even $5 some day. Nothing worse than taking info that was written two + years ago and assuming it is current.
Casual_Cairo is offline  
May 8th, 2012, 11:49 PM
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MsLizzy - I have to say, I hope you will complain formally to the boss of the guide that did that to you. While it is common practice for them to get as much commission as they can, as most companies pay their guides next to nothing and they are looking to support their families, it still IS NOT RIGHT! If you let them know that this happened and you are talking about it to others, slowly but surely the company may rethink this policy and change things.... probably not, but maybe. The problem is, as long as they allow the guides to make extra money this way, they can get away without paying them a fair wage and pocket more of your fee to them. Everyone is greedy. Sad!
Casual_Cairo is offline  
May 9th, 2012, 03:44 AM
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Ohhh, Sorry to hear this about perfume shops, I'll keep this information to avoid to go there, Thanks GOD
Nani5 is offline  
May 9th, 2012, 01:59 PM
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Thanks for your words CC. It mustn't be easy to hear some of these stories of your homeland. I don't any real resentment because this is part of the cost of a passion for travel and taking risks. I'm much more angry at tne insurance companies that are ripping me off for thousands of dollars for their own greed. I loved my time in Cairo and all of Egypt. I have no hard feelings. I have just read Apricots on the Nile and presently a Canadian novel Mistress of Nothing based on a true story of an English Lady's maid travelling in Egypt in the late 1860's. For me it is a wonderfully rich and exotic culture, and those will be my memories forever. This weekend I'm having an Egytian theme dinner to show off your cuisine.
MsLizzy is offline  
May 9th, 2012, 10:51 PM
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I loved Apricots on the Nile. Are you using recipes from the book for your dinner party? If you liked that book, another one that is really similar is Cocktails and Camels, or Camels and Cocktails - can't ever remember which comes first. It's similar in that the time period is the same and about a young gal, but it's set mostly in Alexandria. You'll love it, but it is harder to get your hands on outside of Egypt. I think the AUC Press is the only place to get a copy.

P.S. I'm an American...although Egypt is almost my "homeland", as I've been here 14-1/2 years.
Casual_Cairo is offline  
May 10th, 2012, 07:29 AM
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CC, I invited you to continue our discussion in email at

[email protected]
MsLizzy is offline  
Apr 10th, 2016, 12:00 AM
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Is that Debbie, who was my tour guide both times when I was in Cairo? This is Ashley (visited with my sister Natalie and some girlfriends in 2001 and then saw you again with my whole family when we were on a tour in 2009 and you did a shopping tour with us to buy stuff safely). If so, then I'm glad to see you here. I still love my little $2-$3 alabaster tea light lamps you helped me buy and of course my silver kartouche (not sure how it's spelled). Hope you are doing well!
nutmeg2000 is offline  

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