After living in and traveling around Egypt for a few months, I’ve come to realize that there is a certain art to bargaining here. For starters, Egyptian store clerks seem to think the fastest and most effective method of getting sales is hitting on any female that walks by. This certainly shocked me the first time I went to Khan al-Khalili, the famous souq (market) next to Al-Azhar Mosque, only a few days after my arrival in Egypt.
Of course, you never really know when you’re getting a good deal or the guy’s just fooling you. Today I was quite excited about two of my new purchases, rather gorgeous objects that I can’t really describe as the recipients might be reading this. And then, at the end of the sale, once my change had been handed back, the store owner threw in a small statue “as a gift”. RED FLAG. WARNING. ALERT. ALERT. YOU’VE JUST BEEN HAD. Yes, sadly, this wonderful “gift” was actually a symbol that I’d been had by the nice shop clerk. From what I’ve witnessed, one rule of bargaining in Egypt is that if the customer pays more than what you’d expect them to pay legitimately you give them a little baksheesh, a small favor or tip. In this case, I got a small stone statue as a thank you gift for paying more than what I could have gotten away with.
Here’s another good know to about the art of bargaining: generally you can get them down to half the amount of the initial price they quote. Now, this isn’t always true, and you might want to shop around a little at first to get a better idea of what the thing you want goes for pricewise. But overall, if you ask how much and they say 40 LE you can get it for 20 LE if you bargain enough and sometimes you can even get it for less, especially if you learn at least some basic Egyptian Arabic like numbers and whatnot. The prices are generally inflated outrageously, especially if you look like a tourist, and many clerks will offer you an “Egyptian” price to convince you to come look at their wares. Strangely this “Egyptian” price is at least twice what any actual Egyptian would pay.
Despite some hassle, shopping for goods can be very fun and exciting in Egypt. Just be sure to go in a good mood ready to endure hours of blatantly flirtatious comments (I’ve had many a marriage proposal while shopping!) and don’t be afraid to just walk away from a sale if you feel you’re being overcharged.