Shopping in the lovely coastal city of Alexandria is relaxed and easy. The two main streets in the center – Al Aksander Al Akbar and Ebadah Ibn Al Somet – are both lined with numerous shops selling clothing, boots, accessories, and jewelry. Prices are written in Arabic so it is worth having a conversion chart with you. The prices in the shops are fixed too, but it is well worth asking for a discount. There are some traditional souks to explore including Souq Al Khreit – the Thread Souk – which has all types of textiles, Souq Ibrahimiyya is for fish and fresh foods and Souq el Attanhe sells everything and contains Zan Ah Al Sitat – the ladies’ clothing area. In the Souks, it is definitely expected that prices will be bargained and the ‘going rate’ is actually about 30% of the original asking price.
Alexandria has three excellent shopping malls with City Centre Mall being the largest. This mall is situated about 20 minutes south of the city. Interestingly, the prices in the malls are similar to those in western Europe.
1. Pack the taste of Egypt
There are many delicious edible souvenirs to buy in Alexandria including really top quality dates and tasty roasted peanuts. If you have enjoyed drinking hibiscus tea during your stay in the city, look for some top quality tea to pack – this is made from the flower heads and really tastes exceptionally good.
2. Smell the wonderful spices
Egypt is known for its excellent spices and Soul Ibrahim is the perfect place to admire the spice displays and to choose an array to take home including beautiful cardamom. The average price is 1 EGP per gram of spice.
3. Be snug in a soft pashmina
These beautiful shawls are really popular as they add another snug layer to jumpers and coats in the winter months. They are on sale everywhere in a rainbow of different colors and the prices vary because so does the quality. Spend some time comparing pashminas in a few different shops or market stalls and if you do decide to buy them in one of the souks, bargain for a good price – or buy several and suggest an extra one free of cost. They are light and easy to pack and make a useful gift.
4. Select a beautiful piece of papyrus
Papyrus has been made in Egypt since ancient times and used like paper. It is made from papyrus that grows in the Nile Delta. Most of the papyrus now produced is machine made and printed so is extremely affordable. If you would particularly like a truly authentic piece of handmade papyrus that has been hand painted, there are several specialist shops in the city to discover. Papyrus is available in a variety of sizes; and designs include traditional views of the pyramids, sphinx and the Nile. In the souk, craftsmen can be found who will paint your name in hieroglyphics on a piece of papyrus – don’t worry, they have a thick book containing translations of all European names!
5. Buy a mini shisha
Now, this might not be the easiest souvenir to get home, but it is certainly very authentic and will fit in a suitcase, protected by your clothes as the smallest ones are about 30 cm in length! The shisha is made in a variety of materials with decorated glass being the most common – watch out for solid copper ones as these are more expensive but particularly handsome. There is a wide range of fruit tobaccos to buy including apple, cherry, and watermelon.
6. Enjoy some fragrant incense
If you want to recreate the wonderful fragrance of the souk, buy some oud incense! Oud – also known as agarwood – is made from Aguilera trees that have been affected by a certain mold. The mold causes the tree to produce a dark and very aromatic resin. This type of incense is the most popular one in Egypt and it is said that if it is burned in the home it wards off evil spirits. This incense is not the cheapest but will evoke wonderful memories of your time in Alexandria.
7. Choose an ancient cat
The elegant statues that you will see are of Bastet, the feline goddess who is said to protect Lower Egypt. It was the Ancient Egyptians who first domesticated the cat and kept them in their homes to protect them against rats and insects. They were so fond of their cats, that it was the tradition that when the person died, their cat was mummified and laid next to them in their tomb. The statues are available in a variety of sizes and made from many different materials including plastic. Those made from granite or alabaster are the most highly prized.
8. Look for a small blue scarab beetle
The small scarab beetle that lives in mud, is the symbol of creation, renewal, and resurrection. It is considered very lucky to keep a model of a scarab beetle in your pocket or handbag and these can be bought almost anywhere made from alabaster or granite. You will also see silver scarab beetles that can be worn as lucky pendants or necklaces.
9. A wooden jewelry box to treasure
These attractive jewelry boxes are made from beech or rosewood and are rectangular, octagonal and hexagonal in shape and all different sizes. The decoration on the top and sides of these boxes are intricate designs decorated with slivers of the mother of pearl, although the cheaper ones are decorated with conch shell or even the tiniest pieces of white plastic. The inside of each box is lined with red or navy velvet and they really do make a special gift.
10. Admire the copperware
The Egyptians simply love metal and in the souks and shops, you will see a wonderful array of goods that have been crafted in brass, silver or gold-coated silver. The most popular metal for many is copper with its lovely rosy hue and it can be fun choosing a piece for your home. Traditionally, families always used copper pots and utensils in their kitchens and it was not unusual for guests to be served tea from shimmering copper cups. You will also find some lovely copper lanterns with intricate patterns cut in the metal that cast a lovely pattern on walls and floors that creates a warm atmosphere.
Updated: May 13, 2019