Looking to buy the best souvenirs from Egypt? This post has you covered! I’ll cover the top Egypt souvenirs you should definitely buy on your trip to the land of the Pharaohs.
Egypt was one of the first countries I visited where I was really interested in purchasing souvenirs. This has a bit to do with the fact that it’s been at the top of my bucket list for decades, but mostly because I actually have a home to put souvenirs in now. (Yay, for no longer being homeless!)
The vast majority of these souvenirs are easy to pack, though! That being said, I didn’t purchase all 10 of these while in Egypt. I am terrible at negotiating – I like to pay the sticker price and be done with it.
However, that is not how it works in Egypt at all! You should offer at least 20 percent less than whatever the asking price is (and stick to your guns).
My husband did a fabulous job at negotiating prices with the Egyptians while we were there. And this is what made me realize I need to also include tips for anyone looking to buy souvenirs from Egypt.
There were a couple of things, though, that I actually ended up ordering from Egyptian Etsy shops because their prices were less expensive than what we were able to get haggling with shop owners on the street and at markets (plus, they had really good reviews)! I’ll let you know which of these I ended up not actually purchasing, though.
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If you’re headed to Egypt, you’ll want to have a list of the best souvenirs to buy from there handy. In this complete guide, I’ll go over the 10 best ones to keep your eye out for, along with tips and tricks to get the best prices from shopping for souvenirs for gifts.
What to Buy in Egypt?
Shopping for souvenirs in Egypt is like stepping into an exotic bazaar filled with tempting aromas and bright colors.
Wandering through spice-scented alleys in places like Khan al-Khalili in Cairo or Shari al-Souq in Aswan, you’ll find tables overflowing with handmade souvenirs – from intricate copperware, shiny brass lamps, chunky beaded necklaces, brightly embroidered cotton fabrics, and so much more.
Yet today’s Egyptian artisans also put modern twists on ancient artistic motifs and traditions. Young designers are creating fashion-trendy clothing, jewelry, and furniture with contemporary lines but still incorporating materials like mother-of-pearl or age-old weaving styles.
And so, shopping in Egypt offers the chance not only to bring home timeless souvenirs like alabaster carvings or hand-blown glass but also to discover up-and-coming creative talents re-imagining their artistic heritage.
Just beware of counterfeits on the streets claiming to be antiques – authentic Pharaonic, Coptic, and Islamic art pieces should be purchased through reputable and regulated stores and galleries.
But with an eye out for quality craftsmanship in materials like brass, copper, and leatherwork, shopping in Egypt makes for the perfect travel memory.
Why You Should Buy Souvenirs from Egypt
Egypt’s ancient sights and culture draw tourists from around the world each year. Famous sites like the Pyramids of Giza, the Nile River, and the Valley of the Kings showcase Egypt’s thousands of years of history.
And with such a long, rich heritage, it’s no wonder travelers can find amazing, one-of-a-kind souvenirs reflecting the country’s diverse cultural background.
With endless handicrafts and modern designs to peruse, picking that special keepsake to remember your Egyptian vacation can be tough. But take your time, and you’re bound to discover a statement piece, large or small, that you’ll fall in love with.
A well-chosen souvenir lets you relive your trip whenever you see it. Sharing these trinkets with others allows you to give them a little piece of your adventure abroad too.
When shopping in Egypt, keep an eye out for meaningful yet practical items that authentically represent the places you visited. These special souvenirs will keep Egypt’s intricate history alive for you long after your return home.
With all that in mind, here are the ten traditional souvenirs to keep your eyes open for + they won’t take up a ton of space in your luggage! I’ll also share my top tips on buying souvenirs from Egypt and how to bargain for the best prices.
10 Easy-to-Pack Souvenirs to Buy in Egypt
1. Personalized Cartouche
Egyptian jewelry is one of a kind. From gold and silver bracelets to necklaces, rings, and earrings – you’ll find a ton of different options in Egypt. There are also Egyptian-style beads that you can buy to create your own jewelry pieces.
But, if you’re looking for something unique and memorable, then consider buying a cartouche pendant.
For me, this was the coolest souvenir I bought while in Egypt. In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an oval with a horizontal line at one end. This is to indicate that the text enclosed is a royal name.
Cartouches were formerly only worn by Pharaohs. The oval surrounding their name was meant to protect them from evil spirits in life and after death.
I had purchased this cartouche, with my name written in hieroglyphics, from a “government-regulated” shop in Cairo (but, if you’ve been following my Egypt posts, you’ll know we were likely ripped off at these shops by our tour guide anyway).
They made the necklace right in front of me, and it was quite fun to watch. However, I grossly overpaid for it! (It was my 1st day in Cairo.) They convinced me $80 was a good price, and I fell for it – and we even negotiated $15 off it.
The best price we were able to get for a necklace like this was actually made in Aswan, Egypt while we were on our Nile Cruise. They didn’t make it in front of us…but the price for a necklace like the one I am wearing started at $20.
We actually ended up purchasing a double-sided one with real gold and a nice silver chain for $80 – unlike my cheap plastic chain and sterling silver pendant that is only single-sided.
This Etsy shop actually has some fantastic prices too – if you’re looking to get a rough estimate of what you should be paying for these cartouches while in Egypt.
2. Canopic Jars
This is a very close 2nd place for me in terms of cool souvenirs to buy in Egypt. The ancient Egyptians used canopic jars during the mummification process to store and preserve the viscera of a person for the afterlife.
They were commonly either carved from limestone or were made of pottery.
There are 4 canopic jars in a set:
- Imsety had a human head and contained the liver.
- Qebehsenuf had a falcon’s head and contained the intestines.
- Hapi had the head of a baboon and contained the lungs.
- Duamatef had the head of a jackal and contained the stomach.
Now, I tried to buy a set at every shop we went to but could not find any I that I liked, or they were bonkers expensive. The first set I liked started at $900 USD!!!! (Even if I negotiated it to less than half – that was still more than I was looking to spend.)
The next set I liked was $150 USD, but one piece was damaged, and they would not offer a discount. The rest just looked cheap…and the prices didn’t reflect that.
So, I purchased a set for just over $100 from this Cairo-based Etsy shop instead and had them shipped right to my home. Shipping took weeks, but I didn’t have to negotiate with the owner – it was so worth it! I LOVE my canopic jars! They are fantastic conversation pieces when we have people over.
Many regions of Egypt are home to alabaster, a kind of soft stone. If you want to bring a little piece of Egyptian art home with you, alabaster statues and other items are a great gift because artisans have been crafting them for centuries.
Alabaster statues are available in a wide variety of sizes and forms, from intricate sculptures to basic figurines. An alabaster statue is sure to make an impression, regardless of your preference for a small token or an extravagant centerpiece.
You’ll typically see it being sold as a vase. It’s actually translucent too so if you stick a candle or light bulb in this vase – the light will shine through. But definitely don’t use it for holding water, though. It’ll dissolve it!
*This is one you’d want to put in your carry-on too…as it’s very fragile.
I did not end up purchasing any Alabaster souvenirs while in Egypt. This was a case of everything being more than I was willing to pay – and I was more interested in buying a reasonably priced canopic jar set. (Which I wasn’t able to find while in Egypt… but I now see Alabaster canopic jars being offered on my new favorite Etsy shop for far less than what was being sold in Egypt!)
4. Essential Oils
Aswan is the place to buy essential oils! Egypt has a rich history of essential oil production and is known for its production of high-quality oils, particularly those derived from aromatic plants like rose, jasmine, and chamomile. (Check out cool things to do in Aswan in this post.)
Essence of Life Al Fayed is the name of the shop we bought our oils from. I don’t know too much about essential oils, personally…I, honestly, ended up buying them because my husband and I were both congested, and sniffing the mint essential oil provided instant relief.
So, we’re now the proud owners of a box of essential oils…all thanks to having a sniffly nose, haha. (And hey – the box the oils come in is cool too!)
The shop also offers massages with their essential oils – which are free. Just leave a tip if you enjoyed it.
If you have a favorite perfume you wear too, you can likely find a similar smell to it at these essential oil shops for a fraction of the price you would pay in the department store!
Papyrus is the world’s earliest example of paper, made from the pith of the papyrus plant in the river Nile. It’s very thick and the Ancient Egyptians used it for writing.
The Papyrus Institute in Aswan, Cairo, and Luxor are where you can observe real papyrus being made, and it will not bend easily.
There are a variety of papyrus souvenirs, ranging from small postcards to beautiful artwork, that are available for purchase including papyrus scrolls.
Hand-painted papyrus is a cool souvenir to bring back from Egypt! It’s easy to transport, and you can buy it as small as a bookmark (so, it’s economical as well). I did not buy any papyrus products, and I do regret this.
Our tour guide for the pyramids had offered to take us to a papyrus shop – but after our crappy tour of the pyramids + already getting ripped off buying the cartouche necklace…I vehemently declined a trip to the papyrus shop. (Which, I don’t regret not going to…in hindsight, it just would have been neat to get a piece of papyrus to frame.)
Cairo has been a major hub of the spice trade for centuries. When you’re wandering around the city on a tour, make sure to stop by one of the bazaars stuffed with stalls selling spices of every color and aroma imaginable.
You can find all sorts of spices and herbs – black knight lilies, cumin, coriander turmeric, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, deep red hibiscus flowers, anise seeds, and the list goes on.
Since spices tend to cost way less here compared to back home, it’s worth loading up on some of the pricier ones while you have the chance. Saffron, in particular, can save you a ton, considering how expensive it is in the U. S. and Europe.
And so, every market in Egypt will be selling brightly colored and fragrant spices. I, personally, enjoyed photographing them and smelling them more than actually buying them, though.
Just breathing in the powerful scents as you pass by sacks overflowing with spices makes for an unforgettable Cairo experience.
While it can be a novel experience to buy them at a market in Egypt…I was worried about transporting them back in my suitcase, as I wasn’t sure how customs would feel about me bringing them in.
As long as the spices are packaged properly, though, the US does not mind you bringing them in your luggage.
7.) Statue of Egyptian Gods
You’ll see statues of Egyptian Gods at every single souvenir shop and market. Most will look cheap…and are made of what appears to be plastic.
However, some look phenomenal! The best spot I had seen these statues was in Aswan while waiting to catch a boat to the Temple of Isis. The Nubian people were selling all kinds of lovely souvenirs on these docks – and they weren’t pushy at all.
8.) Camel Bone Jewelry
Jewelry made out of camel bone is also something that the Nubian people in Aswan were selling. It was all beautiful, and, again, no one was very pushy. The prices were very reasonable as well. Most necklaces were between $3-$5 USD.
I did end up buying a necklace in Aswan from a very nice Nubian man for $5. I wore it right away while I went exploring in Aswan for the day! (This is my full outfit post from Aswan.)
9. Glass Bottles of Sand
Ok, I know these are super touristy…but watching people make these glass bottles of sand with the various colors, words and camels in them was super impressive to me.
We ended up buying one of these little bottles of sand in Jordan for about $4 USD. These are also everywhere in Egypt, though. However, this was something that they would not let us pack in our carry-on luggage when we flew out of Jordan (this was not an issue in Egypt, though).
So, if you’re flying to Jordan after Egypt, keep your sand bottles in your checked bag.
10. Egyptian Cotton
Cotton is a really important crop for Egypt since the 19th century, and the country is known for producing some of the best cotton products in the world including bed sheets, towels, and clothes.
Egyptian cotton fibers are considered by many to be the best because of their length, strength, and softness. A longer fiber means a stronger fabric and the ability to create a high thread count fabric.
Being in Egypt means you can buy all sorts of Egyptian cotton products! I already had bed sheets, so I did not purchase any Egyptian cotton bed sheets…but I did get an Egyptian cotton scarf to complete my “Rick O’Connell Outfit.”
Other Souvenirs from Egypt to Consider
Brass and Copper
Copperware and brass go hand in hand with Egypt. The nation has a long-standing legacy of copperwork and brass work, and among the most sought-after souvenirs for tourists are candlesticks, lanterns, plates, and trays.
If you go to Khan el Khalili, you’ll see rows of brass and copper lights shining on the stone walls. You can even watch master artisans at work, using tiny hammers to make intricate designs.
Other Egyptian Jewelry
Scarab beetles (dung beetles) were worn as amulets by ancient Egyptians since scarabs represented rebirth in their religion.
These days, the insect is represented in a vast array of shapes, colors, and materials; some even have the hieroglyphic alphabet inscribed on them.
And so, scarab necklaces and bracelets are highly popular and many tourists wear them as souvenirs of their travels.
Carpets, Rugs, and Tapestries
Handmade rugs are a famous product of Egypt. It is worthwhile to try to find a little rug or other weaving product in a beautiful African or oriental color in Saqqara or Aswan.
Usually, camel wool is used to make the rugs. And since camel wool is coated with lanolin, a natural animal fat that is deposited on wool, it resists dust and other allergens and does not absorb dirt quickly, making it allergy-friendly.
Also, the fibers of camel wool are 70% stronger than those of Merino sheep wool.
If you happen to travel to Egypt around the month of Ramadan, then you should get your hands on a traditional Egyptian lantern known as ‘Fanoos’.
These ornate lanterns are hand-painted and made of colorful glass and you’ll see these Ramadan lanterns lining the streets of Cairo during the holy month, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.
They’re stunning and make a great home decor item to buy for your place or to gift your friends and family. You’ll see them everywhere during the month, from local markets, bazaars, to street vendors across Egypt.
Want to Learn More About Visiting Egypt?
If anyone has any questions about these Egyptian Souvenirs, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments!
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Travel Essentials for Egypt
Using a VPN When Traveling to Egypt
VPN is short for “virtual private network.” A VPN (like IPVanish) sets up a private connection between your device and whatever network you are connected to – so, no one can see your browsing data. It is important to use a VPN anytime you are connected to public Wifi (such as at a restaurant, resort, hotel, cafe, airport, etc.). This is because when you connect to a public network no matter where you are, you run the risk of a hacker grabbing your unencrypted data. Trust me, speaking from experience here…this can put a real damper on your trip if your banking, phone or email get hacked while you’re traveling!
VPNs can also help you save on domestic flights, help you watch Netflix shows not available in the US and more! You can read more about using a VPN in my post “Why I Use a VPN When Traveling and at Home (And You Should Too).”
Travel Insurance for Egypt
Squaremouth is the only site that currently lets you filter travel insurance policies for COVID-19 coverage. I, personally, use Squaremouth for finding the best insurance policies for my travels, and I have had a very positive experience getting my claims settled and paid after I was stuck in Peru earlier this year. They’re also recommended by Forbes! You can click here to get your free travel insurance quote.
Visa Requirements for Visiting Egypt
Check to see if your country requires a Visa for traveling to Egypt.