Don't be shy in proposing what, to you, may seem a ridiculously low price for something in the market. The prices bear no resemblance to what you would pay at home. Enjoy the game. Some of your best memories will be the day you got the store keeper down to £1 for a set of three stone pyramids. Some of his best stories at home will be the day he only made 50% profit from you. But he didn't mind because you played the game. Have fun, join in the banter and start to walk away at least once during the process. Trust me, he will call you back!
Khan El Khalili, Cairo
Google map: tinyurl.com/327smg8
The tentmakers market in Cairo is famed as the last roofed souq in the city, but it is so much more than that.
Walk slowly along the street and allow your eyes to pause inside each doorway. You will see each booth is adorned with beautiful hand-sewn furnishings which range in size from huga wall hangings to cushion covers. Some show donkeys, birds or fish (or the obligatory pyramid and camel/sphinx scene), but most are geometric designs or stunning stylised calligraphy. In many of the shops you will also find men sewing these intricate designs while they wait to welcome their next customer, whether they are buying or browsing.
Less than half the shops here sell tents now, but these are easy to spot as they have miniature versions of their tents out on display on the street. They seem to come in all different shapes and sizes but all beautifully decorated with the brightly coloured and patterned "Ramadan" material that you can also buy by the meter here. Make sure that you take a left through a passage way just a few meters before the roofed area ends, as this will take you into a large courtyard where the largest tents are erected and shown.
The model tents are perfect presents for kids, especially as they come with a camel toy, but if you have space in your luggage you can really treat them with their own 1m square Bedouin tent that comes with light wooden poles. Grown ups with a lot of luggage space and a large garden might even buy the full-size version!
A significant part of the fun of visiting the tentmakers market is the walk there from Midan Hussein. It's just so refreshing to be able to leave the tourist hub-bub behind and explore "real" Egypt. As you get further from the Khan El Khalili the shops are selling less tourist souvenirs, you get less hassle from the sellers and you start to see the city and its wonderful people.
The tent maker's market is in Cairo on Al Khayamiyya, just South of Bab Zuweila and the cross roads with Ahmad Mahir Pasha.
It is about 15 minutes walk from Midan Hussein (where the Khan El Khalili tourist market is). From the tourist market cross the main road (Al Azar) using either the underpass near the main square or the footbridge a little further down. At the base of the footbridge on the south side of the Al Azhar road you will find a pedestrianised street which is covered by a high wooden roof for about 30m between two mosques. Walk down this street and through the local clothing market. Keep going and you will get to Bab Zuweila which was once the gate to the Old City. Once you pass through Bab Zuweila you will find the roofed tent makers market straight ahead.
Google map: tinyurl.com/33o3lkc
Definitely check out the mosque and university of Al Azhar. Al Azhar is the oldest Islamic university of the Islamic world, and a beautiful building.
The market of Khan Khalili is great to visit, but closed certain days, so try and find out when. It's got lots of different things; be sure not to get cornered by sales people. If you wander far beyond the main strip, you'll find a local Cairene food market and its fascinating to walk through it, really lots of fun.
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