Egyptian costume shopping in Cairo (part 2)

Costume shopping in Khan el Khalili, Cairo Egypt.

The famous Yassers

This is a shop I had heard about many times and only managed to find on this trip to Cairo.

Yassers is a behind the main street and runs parallel to it. Probably best found if you look from El Fishaweys. Fishaweys is known to everyone in the khan and according to urban legend, has been open continuously for 600 years!

El Fishaweys - Khan El Khalili (I hope I spelt that write!) A fun place to rest from your shopping and to orient yourself.

El Fishaweys – Khan El Khalili (I hope I spelt that write!) A fun place to rest from your shopping and to orient yourself.

Yassers has a big sign above the door and is a tiny shop, upstairs you will find the costumes packaged and organised on shelves according to price.  I think costumes were from 500 to 1500LE (I am just guessing on the starting price, I can’t quite remember –  I went to a lot of shops!!).

This seems to be a no bargain zone too.  Costume adjustment did not seem to be easily arranged here either, so make sure it fits well or be prepared to sew it or alter it when you get home.

On the up side, the designs were more varied and if you after something a bit different, it is worth looking around here. Just be sure to take only 1 or 2 friends with you. If you are in a bigger group you will have to split up as it is not physically possible to have many people in that store.

I found that the designs seemed to be better suited to a hip size smaller than myself or the 2 ladies i was shopping with possessed.

I think it is more of a small to medium height- bust – hip shop. (That’s not to say there is nothing for you if you are busty or tall – just less of it. If you are 5’6 ish, take a C-cup, like to make a statement with your costumes and have never owned a size 12 pair of pants then you might have found heaven!)

I am 176cm tall with hips that were built for child bearing and I had a few of those embarrassing – ‘No I can’t show you what it looks like because I can’t get it on!’ moments.

I found a crazy green outfit, i loved the skirt but it was a touch too small and the top wasn’t that flattering but it was so amazing, I was still tempted.

Selfie in the change room in the green outfit mentioned. Inexpertly photoshopped to obscure my friend and the fact she is holding her dress on!

Selfie in the change room in the green outfit mentioned. Inexpertly photoshopped to obscure my friend and the fact she is holding her dress on!

Larger ladies read my last review about Mahmoud Abdel Ghaffar ‘s shop. I have several more shops to mention yet, so if you haven’t read about one you like yet – don’t give up! Subscribe so you don’t miss the next post. Posts are a little erratic right now as I am neck deep in University assignments for my Master of Teaching. Expect more frequent posts in October.

Have you shopped in Cario? Where did you find your costumes? – please comment below.

Egyptian costume shopping – with tips for a solo female traveller (part 1)

Egyptian costume shopping in Khan el Khalili

With tips for a solo female traveller (part 1)

 

Wow, times have changed in the ‘Khan’ since i was there last. It was a bustling place with many tourists and happy shop owners with hilarious one liners,  trotting them out in a dozen languages. Now, it is more a case of spot the tourist. Luckily there are still locals visiting.

The one liners are still there, but the hustle and bustle is gone. It makes it way easier to move through it but I couldn’t help but feel sad for those trying to make a living.  If it wasn’t for the locals shopping there, then I am not sure what would happen to the place.

Cafe's at the entrance to Khan El Khalili

Cafe’s at the entrance to Khan El Khalili

The good news is – the belly dance shops are still there and seem to be doing OK. it seems dancers are ignoring the over zealous safety warnings for travel to Egypt and are still coming, albeit in lesser numbers.

Mahmoud Ghaffar

Ok, on to actually shopping information. Mahmoud Abdel ghaffar ‘s shop is a great place to use as a base and to orient yourself. It is down the main street of the khan and reached down a short alley between 2 shops that also sell some belly dance gear. It is 3 levels of belly dance bliss. 4 years ago it was great. This trip it was tricky as they were renovating and a lot of stuff was covered plastic to try and protect it from the dust of construction, but it will be even better when its finished. At the start of April Mahmoud said it would be done in only a few weeks. I think it may be a few months by the time it is done but costumes and belts are still available. You don ‘t negotiate here, the price is named and that is it. (this is in contrast to most of your other dealings in Egypt). Prices are not cheap but neither are they rip offs, so if you like something here, buy it! He  has the most stunning array of belts / hip-scarves I have seen. As a price indicator, earrings are around 10LE belts between 60 and 80 LE. If you need costume adjustments or help, a woman is brought in to assist. There is a variety of sizes here. I bought a costume from this shop on my first trip, it was a little large and I adjusted it at home ( as i didn’t have time for the seamstress to do it for me on site) and I noticed that while it does have some smaller stuff, it has a decent range for ladies with fuller figures. If you are really busty or above a size 12 (Australian) then this is a particularly good place to have a thorough look through.

Costume I bought at Mahmoud's

Costume I bought at Mahmoud’s

You can send large boxes of shopping back home through him at the cost of approx $300 AUD per box to get to Australia. I don’t know if its cheaper to send to Europe. The box can contain around the 20-25kg of awesomeness and is big enough to fit 2 drums inside plus a lot of extra things packed in and around them. You can buy things from other shops and deposit them in your box while you are in Egypt and then stop by on your last day in Cairo and pay the shipping. It will be at your house in about a week, which is pretty good going.

 

(I keep running out of time to edit my 1700 word epic on costumes in Cairo so I decided to post it in shorter parts, I still didn’t have time to edit this much but hopefully it make sense – stay tuned for more soon)

 

Have you travelled Egypt on your own? What were your experiences? Please comment below.

Egypt – the belly dancer’s dream, but is it safe? Pt 2

On the ground report of belly dancer’s travelling in Egypt – what it’s like to be a female tourist in Cairo right now!

If you missed the first instalment you can start at the beginning by clicking  here.

It was so fun to play dress ups in the desert after a camel ride - Jade 2010

It was so fun to play dress ups in the desert after a camel ride – Jade 2010

The following is part 2 of the Shisha Diaries written by Margaret Cunningham. Margaret runs a successful Belly dance School in Brisbane Australia and runs regular tour to Egypt that are of exceptional value. She also is a great writer and I have loved reading her ‘diaries’, I am sure you will too……….

No.2 The Shisha Diaries.
22 March Day 3
“The morning started at a trendy new coffee shop, “Boulevard”, near the hotel with yummy omelettes and cappuccinos. I was interested to see heaps of locals walking past with big flower arrangements then realised that today is Egyptian mother’s day! The day is celebrated much the same as it is in Oz with the family gathering around mum and bringing gifts. Mother’s day is more important than father’s day here though.
Hotel at twilight - photo by Margaret Cunningham

Hotel at twilight – photo by Margaret Cunningham

Zamalek, where we are staying is an upmarket area of Cairo set on a large island in the Nile. It is the haunt of many expatriates as the area houses so many foreign embassies. There are also a lot of young and hip Egyptian students who attend the nearby uni. One of the things that is remarkable about Cairo is how different suburbs can differ so widely in atmosphere! I must admit I feel a bit strange in this upmarket area….like I am only half-way in Egypt. I always feel most alive in the decrepit back alleys amongst the potholes and stray cats. Strange, I know.
Today Helen and I had arranged to meet with our friend, Mo (yes, short for Mohamed) after he had spent some time with his mum on this special day. Pleased to report I had my first shisha of the trip on our hotel rooftop overlooking the Nile dreaming away the morning until Mo arrived. We first met Mo on the last tour, one of our company reps, and he quickly became a close friend. It’s nice to be able to get to know him better now ‘off the clock’. It is always engaging to be able to hear a local person like Mo explain the current state of events in Egypt from their perspective. We spent a great deal of time today just talking in depth about the revolution and its aftermath and Mo’s views on what it will take to heal the country so it can move forward.
There is no doubt that Egypt has changed. The people now are hurting and desperately worried about their futures and, worst of all, they have lost hope. On the last tour, 12 months ago, there was still much hope and optimism albeit mingled with apprehension. Now, hope for the future has evaporated and, unbelievably, people are actually saying they were better off with Mubarak!
Mosque photo by Margaret Cunningham

Mosque photo by Margaret Cunningham

As a visitor to Egypt, how does this affect one’s experience? I guess, having travelled here so often before, I know what it used to be like so I personally feel a sense of loss on behalf of these wonderful people. As a first time visitor however, I imagine this impact would be less as, even under the current duress, the Egyptian people still display more warmth and joy than the average Australian. In Cairo the traffic is worse – no doubt. More time in transit now is a fact of everyday life for everyone here. There are less tourists around – less queues, less crowds at the sites and less musical tour-bus horns punctuating the horns of the general traffic.
On the last tour we were often asked by Egyptians what made us different from the other tourists of the world; why had we come when others would not? The answers lie in the fact that I get objective advice from my friends who live in Egypt on the real situation rather than the mass media plus the fact we are looked after by the best tour operators this country has to offer – I have utter faith in them having worked with them on all my tours. What I have noticed from our jaunt Downtown last night with Mo, is the looks we are getting from the local people – they seem shocked to see us! It’s like they are stunned that a real-live tourist is walking amongst them. This extra curious attention is new.
Downtown is the “Queen Street Mall” of Cairo and last night was Thursday night – the equivalent of our Friday night and for many Egyptian families it is their night out together. Downtown had its hey day in the 40s and 50s when its gorgeous French and British colonial buildings were still white and pristine. I still love admiring these intricate decorative buildings (although now far from white) and can vividly imagine what life was like back then. Easy to picture Samia Gamal in her knee length gabardine skirt, cashmere sweater and patent pumps sipping an iced tea in a classy patisserie! Today the lower levels of the buildings mostly host the brightly lit boutiques for shoes, bags, clothes and lingerie (lingerie on the upper, private levels of course). One has to restrain oneself from grimacing in horror at some of the weird fashions but it all gives Downtown, Cairo it’s unique flavour. And amongst the gaudy merchandise are gems to be had! (On my last visit I bought 4 amazing winter coats and last night considered adding a couple more to the collection.)
We had dinner in Gad – a chain of Egyptian fast-ish food kind of restaurants serving good local food while looking down on the bustling streets filled with traffic and shoppers. We were entertained and delighted by an extended family of women and their hoard of children at the next table who were constantly in fits of laughter at their own antics. The staff of the restaurant were joining in – laughter is more contagious is Egypt and no one minded the raucous. So nice to see the women having such an unbridled good time. We were speculating if some wily husbands were at home in the peace and quiet having ‘treated’ their spouses a special night out for mothers day!!!!”
You will never forget the cats of Egypt - photo by Margaret Cunningham

You will never forget the cats of Egypt – photo by Margaret Cunningham

Margaret has her own website for her dance school and tours that can be found here. It is my intention to travel with Margaret again with her October / November tour this year, so if you are interested in joining us please mention Jade Belly Dance when you ask for more info through Margaret’s website or you can contact me and I will forward you the tour newsletters to date (jadebellydance@hotmail.com)

If you have any questions you would like to ask Margaret about the safety of travelling to Egypt then ask away and I will forward them on to her. Just comment below.

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