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bazaar cairo egyptFor some travelers, Khan al Khalili may rival the Pyramids as a tourist destination. A one-time Turkish suuq that dates back to the Ottoman period, the Khan, as it is known, is a maze of alleys where all types of souvenirs are sold. Among the most popular: carpets, perfumes, belly-dancing costumes, spices, stationery, semi-precious stones, alabaster, brass and copper, and the shisha water pipes that are a staple in Cairo's cafes.

Shopping Abroad: A Traveler's Guide

You'll also find galabeyas, the traditional robes worn by Egyptians, as well as gold and silver cartouche pendants, which can be customized with a person's name in hieroglyphic symbols. Buyer beware: The papyrus sold at the bazaar may look like the real thing, but don't fall for it. Most are knock-offs, manufactured from sugar cane or banana leaves. Also, bargaining is expected. As a general rule, offer half the asking price. In all likelihood, if you walk away, the vendor will call you back.

Keep in mind that as Egypt's tourism numbers have dropped, the level of desperation among vendors has grown. As a tourist, you will attract attention, to the point where it's difficult to browse the stands without getting hassled. Women traveling alone should take pains to cover up.

You won't get the bargains at Oum El Dounia, which has branches in Tahrir Square and Maadi. But you will find a hassle-free shopping experience, with plenty of scarves, lamps, embroidery and other beautiful Egyptian goods to choose from.

Almost every guide you encounter in Egypt will want to sell you a carpet, and you'll pass many schools as you travel through Giza and in the countryside surrounding Cairo. Expat friends recommend the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre, which specializes in hand-made woven tapestries, on Saqqara Road in Harrania. You can watch weavers at work, tour the small museum and shop for batiks, pottery and other crafts.

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