Cairo

Cairo has always been a great place to shop for traditional items because of its spectacular medieval marketplace, the Khan al-Khalili, where browsing and bargaining are half the fun. There is no tried-and-true bargaining strategy; just shop around, decide how much something is worth to you, and start bargaining lower than that in order to end up at that point. In the Khan, the opening price is never the final price.

In the last decade Cairo has embraced the shopping mall. These enclosed, air-conditioned spaces stacked with international brands have revolutionized shopping for residents. Most malls also have shops selling a range of the same kinds of souvenirs that you'd find in the Khan al-Khalili, though at higher, nonnegotiable prices.

Wealthy and upwardly mobile Cairenes not only have the wherewithal to fund their lifestyles, but they also have great taste, so you'll find a wide selection of art galleries, designer shops, and fashion boutiques to indulge your need for retail therapy.

Although most of what you see in tourist shops are reproductions of varying quality, there is a long local tradition in Egypt of connoisseurship in collectibles, which means that there is always the possibility of finding a real gem. Be prepared, however, for local tastes that favor ornate French-style furniture and antiques, not the Middle Eastern pieces you might be longing for. There are several nameless antiques shops in Downtown Cairo along Shar'a Hoda Sharaawi that are worth looking into. Lots are shown for several days in advance of a two-day auction, which usually operates on a cash-only basis. Check the Egyptian Gazette for the latest auction schedules.

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  • 1. Abd El Rahman Harraz Seeds, Medicinal, and Medical Plants

    Islamic Cairo South

    Founded by its namesake herbalist in 1939, this fantastic family-owned spice shop is one of Cairo's most renowned, with a wide selection of medicinal herbs, traditional beauty aids, essential oils, and cosmetics, mixed in with a few curiosities. The shop is about 0.2 miles (450 meters) from Bab Zuweila, and although its sign isn't in English, you should be able to find it—just look for the stuffed gazelle in the front window.

    1 Ahmed Maher St., Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
    2-2511–1100
  • 2. Abd El-Zaher Bookstore

    Islamic Cairo North

    Stop by Cairo's last remaining bookbinding company, in business since 1936, for beautiful, leather-bound and gilt-decorated diaries, sketchbooks, and photo albums. All the items here are hand-crafted using skills that are rare in the 21st century.

    31 Mohammed Abdou St., Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
    2-2511–8041
  • 3. Azza Fahmy

    Giza

    A bib necklace inspired by a maqarnas (an intricate Islamic vaulted ceiling), a lotus cuff bracelet, or a pair of Eye of Horus earrings would make a wonderfully authentic, if pricey, Egyptian souvenir. Azza Fahmy’s statement jewelry, appropriate for both everyday wear and special occasions, has achieved worldwide recognition for its nature- and motif-inspired designs that are sometimes adorned with coral, garnet, lapis lazuli, or other semiprecious or precious stones. In addition to this Giza location, she has a store in the Four Seasons, with outlets elsewhere in Egypt as well as in Dubai, Amman, London, and Washington D.C.

    35 Giza St., Cairo, Cairo, 12311, Egypt
    10-6664–2365
  • 4. Cairopolitan

    Garden City

    The whimsical, thoughtfully curated accessories and home decor at this concept store celebrate Egypt's long history—from the ancient to the old to the contemporary. You might find Egypt’s signature old quarter incorporated into coasters (or rather, "coinsters," as they're called here) or a pouch shaped like a piece of aish baladi (Egyptian flatbread).

    8 Dar El Shefa St., Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
    2-2793–1153
  • 5. El Kahhal Carpets

    Heliopolis

    It's hard not to be impressed by the colorful, floor-to-ceiling displays of carpets at this store, which was founded in 1870 by a young Syrian immigrant who originally set up shop in Cairo's famous market, Khan el-Khalili. Run by the fifth generation of the same family, it's now one of the city's oldest carpet manufacturers, with a wide collection of silk, Persian Heriz, Azerbaijani Shirvan, and modern designs, as well as custom-made carpets, kilims, and tapestries. If you have the time, book the shop's two-hour tour (pick-up and drop-off service from/to anywhere in Cairo can be arranged), which walks you through the history of carpets and enables you to see craftsmen expertly weaving carpets by hand.

    24 Ibrahim Al Lakani, El-Montaza, Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
    2-2415–9754
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  • 6. Fair Trade Egypt

    Heliopolis

    With the goal of promoting Egyptian craftsmanship, this boutique offers more than 1,000 products, from leather goods to home accessories, that make fantastic souvenirs. It’s the first fair trade–certified organization in Egypt, and it works with more than 2,000 artisans across the country.

    25 Ibrahim Salem, Al Golf, Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
    2-2736–5123
  • 7. Khan el-Khalili

    Islamic Cairo North

    At this great medieval souk, surrounded by a maze of winding streets and alleys, the air is perfumed with incense, and shopping is a chaotic but thoroughly authentic experience. Everyone, visitors and Cairenes alike, comes here to hunt for traditional items: carpets, gold, silver, clothing, spices, perfumes, waterpipes, jewelry, handicrafts, books, pottery, blown glass, leather, papyrus, pharaonic replicas—you name it.  And no one ever buys anything at first price; bargaining is the modus operandi here. The Khan and its surrounding streets also have lots of places to eat. Look for grilled-meat restaurants on the corner of Maydan al-Husayn and Shar'a Muski and places that specialize in fiteer, Egyptian pancakes filled with everything from feta cheese to raisins, between Shar'a Muski and Shar'a al-Azhar. It's always best to pay using cash, as credit-card purchases can incur a 3% to 6% service charge (ask before handing over your plastic). And if you run out of Egyptian pounds, the Khan has plenty of ATMs. Note that most shops are closed on Sunday and before and/or during Friday prayers (the hour around noon or 1 pm).

    Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
    View Tours and Activities
  • 8. L'Orientaliste Books

    Downtown

    The Swiss expat who founded this store in the 1950s originally stocked it with used books he gathered from Europeans leaving Egypt. Subsequent owners have continued to maintain a good inventory of books in French and English as well as Arabic. It also sells prints, lithographs, and antique maps and postcards.

    15 Qasr al-Nil St., Cairo, Cairo, 11111, Egypt
    2-2579–4188
  • 9. Lehnert and Landrock Bookshop

    Downtown

    In the early 20th century, travel writers and photographers Rudolf Franz Lehnert and Ernst Heinrich Landrock explored North Africa, documenting scenes from Bedouin life, before making their way to and settling in Cairo, opening this bookshop in 1924. It's a wonderful place to browse: typewriters, cameras, telephones, and other vintage items are neatly organized within glass cases; the walls are hung with the duo's black-and-white photos; and the shelves are stocked with an international selection of books, many of them on Egypt's history.

    36 Abd El-Khalik Tharwat St., Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
    2-2393–5324
  • 10. Mamlouk Gallery

    Zamalek

    Although it's tucked away on a side street and has no sign, it's worth making the effort to find this rustic shop that's full to bursting with handcrafted ceramics. It feels like it's from another era—in all the best ways. Its owner is pleasant and helpful but gives you the space to explore the vast selection of unique and colorful items on your own, browsing as long as it takes to find the perfect piece.

    4A Hassan Assem St., Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
    2-2735–2437
  • 11. Mashrabia Gallery

    Downtown

    This gallery is on the tree-lined Shar'a Champollion (the street named after the Frenchman who broke the hieroglyphic code), and it's one of Cairo's best contemporary art galleries. The space itself is not much to look at, but the quality of work is sometimes exceptional. Be on the lookout for exhibitions by Adel al-Siwi, Mohamed Abla, Rehab al-Sadek, Hamdi Atteya, or Awad al-Shimy.

    8 Shar'a Champollion, Cairo, Cairo, 11728, Egypt
    02-2578–4494

    Shop Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Fri.
  • 12. Atef Wassef Silver

    Downtown

    This family-run establishment, in business since the 1960s, is known for its excellent silver items. Most of their limited-edition designs are inspired by Egyptian cultural heritage, but you will also find more contemporary pieces, as well as some inlaid with semi-precious stones. Be prepared to rifle through the collection; the store’s inventory is huge, and the hunt is part of the shopping experience.

    54 Abd El-Khalik Tharwat St., Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
    2-2390–3954
  • 13. Cairo Festival City Mall

    Mirage City

    Cairo Festival City is every shopper’s paradise, with several entertainment venues, a food court, roughly 300 stores, and myriad sit-down restaurants—and that's just inside. Festival Avenue, an outdoor area that's part of the complex, has still more cafés and restaurants, as well as a dancing fountain and an open-air theater. If you drive here yourself, note your parking spot and the gate through which you entered, as the parking facilities are as vast as the mall itself.

    Ring Road, New Cairo, Cairo, Cairo, 11385, Egypt
    2-2618–6000
  • 14. Caravanserai

    Zamalek

    Heritage and craftsmanship are the founding pillars of Caravanserai, a store that celebrates both local artistry and cultural fusion in merchandise that ranges from small, minimalistic decorative items to large, elaborate pieces of furniture.

    16 Mohammed Maraashly St., Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
    10-0167–5855
  • 15. City Centre Almaza

    Heliopolis

    One of the newest entertainment complexes in Heliopolis is an all-round crowd-pleaser, with a 16-screen cineplex, a plethora of stores selling regional as well as international brands, a large food court, more than 20 casual sit-down restaurants, and a family entertainment center.

    50M, Sheraton Al Matar, El Nozha, Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
  • 16. City Centre Ma'adi

    Ma'adi

    This mall is a resource for the many families in this residential district; there are few designer names but lots of mainstream brands like H&M and Zara. There's a pharmacy here where you can get sunscreen, bug spray, and other necessary toiletries. The food court mirrors any in the U.S.; there's even a Pinkberry. The mall is anchored by a hypermarket, and there's a movie theater and children's play zone.

    Maadi/Katyama Ring Rd., Cairo, Cairo, 11435, Egypt
    02-10–9258–3677
  • 17. Citystars Heliopolis

    Heliopolis

    This massive mall has more than 750 stores selling local and international brands, numerous dining options, and its own version of the Khan el-Khalili bazaar (although prices at this one are higher).

    Omar Ibn El-Khattab, Cairo, Cairo, 11771, Egypt
  • 18. Duroub Gallery for Plastic Arts

    Rodah Island

    Duroub Gallery offers a variety of thematic exhibitions throughout the year, and has been operational since 1996. The gallery showcases the works of contemporary artists of all ages, countries, and walks of life.

    4 Latin America St., Qasr Ad Dobarah, Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
    2-2794–7951
  • 19. Gallery Mabrouka

    Heliopolis

    Concealed on one of El-Korba’s sunny side streets, this nook brims with traditional well-crafted items, including hand-painted plates, meticulous copper-work pieces, and marvelous light fixtures.

    23 Ramses St., off Baghdad St., Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
    11-1844–3334
  • 20. Gold & Jewelery Oriental Gifts

    Old Cairo

    Tucked in an alleyway, down a stairway near the Mar Girgis Metro station, this huge Old Cairo shop brims with merchandise; you’ll almost be overwhelmed by the many possible souvenirs. But the atmosphere is calm and quiet, so you can take your time sifting through the items. Though helpful, the owner is relaxed, letting customers make their rounds without pressuring them to buy.

    Kom Ghorab Ln., Kom Ghorab, Cairo, Cairo, Egypt
    12-2219–1922

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