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Where you consider Cairo’s best shopping may depend on your temperament. If you like a little bargaining, some chitchat and many glasses of tea while you make your purchases, head for Khan al-Khalili, the souk that’s been in operation for a millennium or so. At the gold shops on the west end, jewelry costs little more than the gold or silver itself. South of Khan al-Khalili is the Tentmakers’ Bazaar, where you can pick up beautiful appliqué pillowcases, bedspreads and more.
If you’d prefer not to haggle, head to the fixed-price shop Oum el-Dounia downtown. It’s more expensive than you might be able to arrange in the souks, but it’s stocked with some of the finest appliqué work, glass and copper. Another good option is Fair Trade Egypt, in Zamalek, which is crammed with well-priced traditional weaving, embroidery and more. Last but not least, a convenient one-stop shop is Souq al-Fustat, near Coptic Cairo, where many of the city’s best artisans have shops — some vendors here have set prices, and others are open to negotiation.
Don’t let the smooth talking souk vendors let you go home with stuff you didn’t plan to buy.
But often it’s from those coy one-on-one exchanges where you’ll depart with the most illustrious scarves, pendants, and alabaster scarabs.
I find the Khan El Khalili Souk in Cairo perfect for this. Start by the al-Hussein Mosque in Khan el-Khalil teeming with inseparable Cairo moments.
The coffee houses opposite the mosque are a perfect place to soak in this action too. There might be a woman dressed in a gold threaded galabeya applying henna tattoos on a young tourist’s arm.
Now get ready to work your way past the pyramid stacks of pita bread and dancing children playing in the dusty street to enter the warren of narrow alleys rife with vendors.
In the souk you can find anything your heart desires and everything is for sale.
Be prepared for some major league bartering.The willful exchange just might get you some neat souvenirs.