Shopping in Egypt
Shopping in Egypt presents a mind-boggling range of choices. In Southern Egypt, you get Nubian handicrafts & gifts. In eastern & western Egypt, you can get Bedouin options. Of the 3 souqs (Aswan, Luxor & Cairo), Aswan can be rated the best. Though, Cairo’s Khan-Al-Khalili is the largest. Even the shops by the sea, at Dahab, have interesting buys.
If you are looking for specialties like Nubian or Bedouin work, it is best to pick them up at the local souqs, rather than at Khan-Al-Khalili. Not only is the best variety available in the local souqs, the prices too are considerably cheaper than Cairo.
If you plan to visit factories – perfume, alabaster, papyrus, carpets etc, remember not to be forced into buying anything. Visiting these factories can be good, as they explain how these products are made, but, there is a lot of hard-sell. If you are uncomfortable about it, make sure you let your guide know that you do not want to is quite okay to do so. If you do visit them, but are not tempted to buy anything, you can leave a tip behind for the factory / the person who showed you the demonstration, as a gesture of appreciation.
In the souqs, bargain hard. It can be particularly distressing for people not used to bargaining. Make your offer, of what you feel is a fair price. Remember to start a little below your final price, as you eventually have to step up your offer a bit. If it is not viable for the shopkeeper, he will refuse. Walk away, or say that you’ll think about his final offer & come back times, this does the trick & they call after you. If the shopkeeper had genuinely quoted his lowest price, he will not call you , you can decide later if you want to go back or not. Do not feel guilty about remember – bargain politely & with a allows for no hard feelings. Nobody will ever sell you anything below cost price, for a loss (contrary to what they may tell you while selling it). You can get most purchases for almost 1/4th the quoted price. Another trick to use is to ask your hotel staff for prices of some items like hats, t-shirts, carpets, keychains, jewellery etc. This way, you have an idea before-hand, and bargain accordingly.
Many toilets are of the squat type. Western WCs too are increasingly common, especially in larger towns & in cities. Do not expect very clean toilets. Keep lots of toilet paper handy, maybe even disinfectant wipes, for wiping toilet seats. If you know the trick to using a squat toilet, it is more hygienic, as you will not be sharing a seat with thousands of others. Carry some liquid / paper soap too, as it is non-existent in these toilets.
In many toilets, it is expected that you pay a small charge – 50 piastres to 1 LE should suffice. Some toilet attendants dole out a small wad of toilet paper when you go , you can never be sure. All toilets will have water, either a tap or a squirter, for washing.
While travelling or going from site to site, make use of all toilet breaks. In remote locations, it may be a while before you come across the next toilet.
A small request – a lot of toilets are choked, not because of lack of flushing, but, because tourists try to flush toilet paper, as they are probably used to, elsewhere. It does not work here……Egyptian plumbing lines are not designed to take the load of enormous quantities of toilet paper being flushed down. All toilets have a waste bin…..please dispose the paper in it. There are signs to this effect put up in a lot of places, but, many people pay no heed to it. Please do your bit to keep the toilets clean & working, for other people.