Khan El Khalili Bazaar, Cairo and Egyptian Souvenirs
This website tells my family's first hand experiences in Egypt.
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Khan El Khalili Bazaar and Souvenirs from Egypt
We visited a number of different shopping areas or crafts makers on our visit to egypt which is where most of our souvenirs from Egypt came. A few worth a mention are the Khan El Khalili bazaar, the Carpet School, the Papyrus shop and the Rock carvers. If you're looking for souvenirs from Egypt then these are some of the obvious ones!
I don't like bartering. It often feels like someone is trying to rip you off and you have to be prepared to say no thanks - not easy once a child or wife has decided they want it! However I really did enjoy our trip to the famous Khan El Khalili bazaar. This is because the bazaar has such a large number of shops and stalls all selling very similar items. It was easy therefore to simply have a friendly barter and then walk away, knowing that there are other alternatives further up the street and learning the limits of the negotiation as you go along.
You can also use the line, quite honestly, that "the shop down the street offered me this". You have to be careful using this line. One particular stall holder who had offered me an absolutely extortionate price for three alabaster pyramids took my exasperated "you got to be joking I was offered half that price down the road" as an offer. "Ok, I'll sell it to you for that" he said! Fortunately I had my wits about me and explained that I didn't take the price down the road either. Eventually he settled for a 10th of the price he'd offered in the first place (although this really just reflected how large his orignal offer was).
We spent a pleasant hour wandering the street and the people we met really were generally friendly. It helped to have our guide with us but I would have felt comfortable anyway. I had promised to help all three children buy something here. Lisa and Ahmed our guide got bored in the end waiting for me to decide I;d found the right price but eventually I felt we had succeeded.
We had a less successful bargin hunt at a so-called "Carpet School". We arrived at the school and, as with many stops you make in Egypt, we were first shown a demonstration by two children, one boy and one girl who were making carpets. The school is apparently a life line for children who would otherwise have no crafts or skills. It was clean, everyone was friendly and the children looked happy. However, we couldn't escape the feeling that the factory was just out back and conditions might not be quite as good.
Going up to the shop which was selling rugs and carpets we looked around but the prices were pretty steep. We didn't really want anything and looked for the smallest rug we could find. However the prices for anything half decent were high and we eventually settle on a small rug for £40. Given we didn't really we want it we should have politely said no and left (we'd probably have got a lower price at least) but we didn't and left feeling like we'd not had our best bargin!
One of our stops along the way was a Papyrus Shop - the Golden Eagle (140 Sakara Road, Giza). This is definitely worth a visit. We were greeted warmly and didn't feel under any pressure to buy but they provided tea and even fizzy drinks for the children. The demonstration was excellent and the children watched with interest as they saw how the raw materials were used to create papyrus.
We also learned about the properties of papyrus and how to look out for fakes make of banana leaf. Amazingly papyrus can be washed clean and still stays together - it can be bent then still be straighened out. Banana leaf copies on the other hand fall apart if wash. You can apparently tell the different by looking at the texture of the papyrus - the real stuff is fine criss-crossed lines whereas banana leaf is wider, lines all going in the same direction.
The negotiation in this shop was non-existent. It was our first real stop and we just decided to buy at the published prices but the shop still decided to give us a discount which was kind! It did help that it was clear to them that the children had their own money to spend, and they did take a long time to decide how to use their money. This is where we got the biggest discounts!
As with most countries where you take a guided tour, we often found ourselves taking unscheduled stops at shops displaying some local craft. In some cases this is a little irritating but to be honest in Egypt we rarely felt that we visited places where we were not interested in what was on sale or felt compelled to buy something we didn't want. On this trip we briefly stopped at a Stone Carving Shop.
As is pretty normal, we had a demonstration of how the stones (red granite, basalt as well as other local stones) are turned into vases, statues and other ornaments then were led into the shop and provided drinks (including fizzy drinks for the Children). The carvings were excellent I soon found myself having to decide on a negotiating tactic. The children all have there own money and this is usually a great way to get a good deal. When the owners find out the children have to pay for their own items, and have very little money there is normally a good chance of a large discount. Our youngest generally has a technique (towards the end of a holiday) to simple open his wallet and say "this is all I have" (he normally gets what he's after!) although it doesn't work all the time and can be costly if he decides to do it earlier in the trip.
In the end we decided to buy three red granite tea-light candle holders. Knowing that Lisa wanted three I picked up two and bartered a little, then as a final closer said I'd accept their price if I could have a third for the same price (ie for free). Worked this time but doesn't always!