Founded in the 14th century, Khan El-Khalili, the bazaar of old Cairo, has always been an important place for the city's commercial activities: none visit to Cairo can be said to be complete without spending at least half a day here!
Visiting Khan El-Khalili is simply like being transported back in time to an old Arab souk.
At first your brain will be literally shattered by chaos: shopkeepers calling you from all over (even in somewhat questionable ways), strong smells of spices, people coming and going, hustle and bustle everywhere.
But the many beautiful items that you can buy will make you forget all this in an instant and will make you lose yourself in the narrow alleys again and again, for hours.
Khan el Khalili is one of the markets, or rather THE market, the most touristic of the whole Egypt and as per Arab tradition when you decide to buy something, you have to bargain on the price.
But how is it done? Bargaining isn't so much in our culture is it?
For us, bargaining challenges every rule of trade: we are used to seeing something, entering the shop, asking the price and paying.
Here in the Arab markets it is not like that. Don't ask for the right price of an object: get into the idea that a fair price does not exist.
The right price is what you think the particular thing is worth and what you are willing to pay for it.
If you visit Khan el Khalili test your bargaining skills when you buy statuettes, spices, souvenirs, silver jewelry, t-shirts, galabiyyas, belly dance costumes, or anything else you see that will irremediably win your heart. .
If you don't know how to do it, here are some valuable tips for bargaining in Khan el Khalili (and other Arab markets!) And always remember: surely one way or another the shopkeepers will have won.
Always and in any case, in any case. If you have snatched a good price you will realize it, they will ask you for a cigarette just to feel they have won it.
Do not feel bad for this, do not feel cheated or whipped but keep a smile: you may like it or not, but in the end it is nothing more than a game.Do you want to visit Khan el Khalili and are you looking for a local guide who speaks English? Write me an email and ask me for info and useful contacts
Rule n ° 1: before buying something, look at many shops
Each tourist shop in Khan el Khalili sells more or less the same things, or rather, there are many that all sell the same things.
Do you want to buy a hookah? You will be spoiled for choice. Before entering a shop, ask the price of this and that. They will do it to you more or less all the same, apart from a few, but you can already get an idea of which price is too high and which is too low (poor quality).
Look for the one that has the object you like the most, but don't neglect the others.
Rule n ° 2: try to understand what is too low a price
I use this technique and that is to make a 'much lower offer than what the shopkeeper asks.
You start from the assumption that the seller never loses so if what he is offering is too low, he will not sell that object to you.
Obviously what I do is not the first price, but little more. I offer and leave. If the shopkeeper lets me go it means that the price I offered is really too low, if he runs after me and makes me a counter offer it means that I have room for bargaining.
In this way I can more or less understand the minimum price (euro more, euro less) that you can pay for that particular thing.
Rule 3: never show yourself too interested in an object
That's right this is a technique I learned when I lived in Tunisia and bargaining was a daily thing.
If a shopkeeper understands that you like something so much will tend to ask for more money knowing full well that it is what you want.
Usually when I want to buy something I do this.
shopkeeper: How are you? "
It is a phrase that you will hear repeated dozens of times while wandering around Khan el Khalili. Don't be fooled, they can say it in almost every language in the world. It's their way of trying to approach and let you check out their shop.
If I am looking for a certain object, I always look around first. When I see something I like, I ignore it and don't stop. I look at more pieces and try to do a mental inventory of what the store has to offer.
At the same time, this prevents me from showing that I want to buy a certain item.
Only once I'm ready to start bargaining do I take the item I like and casually ask for its price.
Rule # 4: never ever say the price first
Never ever do that! is theworst mistake. They will ask you to be sure.
Io: "Hello how much does this cost?"
shopkeeper: "Hello tell me a price"
Taaaa daaaa and who hits the casino.
At this stage the seller is trying to get me to evaluate the product by asking me what my best price would be.
Never fall for this trick. Once you have set a price you will never be able to go below.
Because if a thing costs 5 and you say 10, they will ask you for 13 if not 15 and in the end you will pay for it 12. That is more than double its value!
instead, let him take the first step and have him say the opening offer of the bargaining process.
Io: "Hello how much does this cost?"
shopkeeper: "Hello tell me a price"
Io: "Look, I have no idea, can you tell me the price?"
Obviously when he tells you the price he tries to look surprised and make the face of what he finds the price outrageous.
This is where the your bargaining skill comes into play. Put the product down, don't look at any other items (you already know what's in the shop), slowly start walking towards the door while looking at the items in the shop next door, which sells similar things.
If he falls for your bluff, he will be ready to make a new offer. At this point the real bargaining begins.
Rule number 5: set your price in mind and offer much less
We got to the point that the seller asked you 12.
After making a shocked face and pretending to come out he will chase you and ask you how much you offer.
You already have it clear in your mind that you want to pay 8.
Io: "Look I don't like it so much to tell the truth I can offer you 5"
At this point he will be the one to make the scandalized face: "nooo it's valuable, okay, 9"
Io: "No look I don't have them I can at most offer you 6"
shopkeeper: "No no too few"
Io: "Okay look, last offer and then I'll go I'll give you 8 ok?"
Here they are generated two possibilities:
1 - lets you go: what you have offered is too little which means that you know that 8 is the price below the minimum for that item and you can go to bargain elsewhere trying to buy it for 9.
2 - will ask you half past eight. Let him understand that after 8 you do not go up or if you are tired accept 8 and a half.
If it suits him he will give it to you at 8, if not he will try at worst to give you an object of lesser value at 8 or he will give you his hand.
If he gives you his hand it means that the deal is closed!
Rule # 6: Take your time
Who goes Slow and steady wins. Never rush the bargaining process. It is important to keep sending signals that you are not sure if you really need to buy the product: his desire to sell must always be greater than yours to buy.
It is not uncommon for them to offer you tea for more expensive or important purchases. The reason for this is twofold.
First of all, they serve it in a corner of the store, where other potential customers cannot hear. They don't want other people to feel the price that they will eventually agree with you.
The reasons are that he could apparently give a break in the bargaining and create more intimacy to make you let your guard down, and at the same time create some sympathy on your part towards him.
Second, when someone offers you something you are more willing to negotiate.
Don't believe (almost) anything he will tell you. Your child will still be able to go to college if the price goes down (don't worry they hardly ever lose out). At the end of the day, he doesn't have to sell.
Don't let your guard down and keep playing, saying "mmmmmh", "boh", "mah" "uhm uhhhmmm" until you reach a price that seems fair to both sides.
Rule 7: rules don't necessarily work, that is, there are no rules
Well, there is no golden rule. In some cases there will be a 35% discount, in other cases it can exceed 50%. Don't even ask here in the comments, I can't and won't advise you on this. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that this strategy will always work.
It is just one of those that have given me the most success and the one I always use. Practice makes perfect, I think.
Rule 8: look at who you are in front of and "think"
Although this is a "happy and carefree" post, I personally believe that when you travel you should always do it responsibly.
There have been some cases and some countries where, in spite of myself, I have seen people bargain to the point of strangling a person's neck.
Not all cases are the same. In Guatemala for example the women you see covered with fabrics in the markets, work late in the evening, once the housework is finished, to weave at the loom and most of the time, when they are taken by the neck, they prefer to sell below cost rather than not lose out , at least they can put something on the table in the evening for the family.
Here be responsible. A euro for us makes no difference, for them it makes the difference whether to give a dignified life to their loved ones, or not.
Some useful info on Khan el Khalili
How to reach us
Khan El Khalili it is located in the heart of the city and is therefore easy to get there even by public transport. By metro, just reach the Ataba station which is nearby and then take a taxi or a micro-bus.
There is also a bus from Ramses station or from the square tahriri.
If you take a taxi tell the driver "Midan Hussein”And not Khan el Khalili if you don't want to automatically inflate the price. The taxi will drop you off directly in front of the El Azhar Mosque and from there you will see Hussein Square, behind which is Khan El Khalili.
What to buy
Avoid shops for tourists, i false papyri (they are not papyrus but banana peels) and the statuettes of the Egyptian gods.
Instead, look for the alabaster pyramids which are an Egyptian specialty.
There are also several shops that sell distinctive boxes of costume jewelery, backgammon and chess boards made with mother-of-pearl designs.
When it comes to handmade crafts, check that the workmanship is quality - some
they are in fact defective.
There are many shops that sell gold and silver. One of the best sellers is your name written in hieroglyphics inside the gold scroll.
Beware of scams, when buying gold always have the piece weighed.
In addition to the scrolls, you will find tags with the eye of Horus, scarabs (an Egyptian symbol), earrings, necklaces and bracelets.
Some shops sell traditional lamps, others old books, still others spices, incense and tobacco for shisha.
At the end of your shopping stop to have a tea with mint and to smoke the shisha in the very famous and historic El Fishawy coffee, founded in 1797 and open 24/24 for more than 7 years.Do you want to visit Khan el Khalili and are you looking for a local guide who speaks English? Write me an email and ask me for info and useful contacts