Shopping in Egypt
One of Egypt’s best shopping experiences is Cairo’s medieval market Khan-el-Khalili. Everything from cheap souvenirs to household goods, reproduction ‘antique’ jewellery, brass plaques and jugs, copper utensils and cotton goods fill the narrow noisy alleyways. Be sure to visit the Spice Baazar, where the aroma of cloves, coriander and cinnamon will leave you intoxicated. Nearby is the Perfume Baazar. Cairo also has its share of modern shopping centres, department stores and small fashionable shops, particularly near its central intersection, Tahrir Square. In Alexandria, antique stalls cluster the area around Sharia el Attareen, while in Luxor the souk is mainly geared for the tourist market but is a fun place to wander around in the evenings.
The vendor is likely to charge what he feels happy with charging, usually a hugely inflated price for foreigners. Bargain hard! Check the price of everything before purchasing (and consuming), even food and drink. Best buys include alabaster vases, old books, brass and copperwear, papyrus prints, leatherwork and ceramics. Muski glass is a popular souvenir; this colourful glass is identified by its air bubbles and has been hand-blown in Cairo for centuries. Carpets make good buys too.
Shopping hours vary widely according to season and location. In most cities, shops are generally open daily 1000-2000, taking a lengthy lunch break in summer, and some will close on Fridays. Markets tend to stay open later in the evening. Shops are now required to close by 2200; those with a tourism licence may open later. During Ramadan, especially when it falls in summer, shops may well close at sunset and reopen several hours later, after eating. Some shops may close during Friday midday prayers, for a couple of hours. Christian-owned shops might close on Sundays.
Haggling is expected, and usually encouraged in bazaars, but prices are fixed in new department stores.
Nightlife in Egypt
As the sun sets, people start spilling onto the streets, congregating in coffee shops and restaurants. Go to any waterfront – along the Nile in Cairo and Luxor, or the seafronts in Alexandria and Sharm el Sheikh – and you’ll find the corniche humming with the chatter of friends cruising arm in arm to catch the breeze. Street vendors selling kebabs, chai-sellers shouldering giant urns and trinket merchants with the latest colourful imports vie for the attentions of passers-by. This is the place to meet the locals, gauge the national mood and share in the jubilations of a local football success.
A huge draw for visitors – both domestic and foreign – are the sound and light shows held in spectacular fashion in many of the country’s archaeological sites. Here, you can come face-to-face with the spot-lit Sphinx at Giza or watching the entire Temple of Karnak unfold to music at Luxor. The best of these shows is held at the Temple of Ramses II in Abu Simbel. Commentary is often in different languages every evening so check it’s the right one for you.
Sophisticated nightclubs, bars and restaurants can be found in Cairo, Alexandria and most large towns. The nightlife in Luxor and Aswan often includes barbecues along the Nile or dinner cruises.
A new rule requires discos, bars and restaurants to close by midnight at the latest. Only those establishments with a tourism licence may open after that time.