Part of a tourist’s experience is picking up souvenirs from the country they are visiting in order to remind them of the memories shared there. Souvenirs are also brought back as gifts for loved ones to make them feel like they were somewhat part of your experience. Since Egypt is home to many ancient monuments and cultural treasures, souvenirs that showcase the country’s individuality are everywhere. Here is a list of the 10 traditional souvenirs to buy in Egypt.
Since they are a defining symbol of the country, mini pyramids are one of the most popular souvenirs to buy in Egypt. And it’s no wonder as the Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the most visited attractions on the globe and is the only surviving ancient wonder in the world. Since the two smaller pyramids, the pyramid of Khafre and the pyramid of Menkaure, are ancient attractions as well, visitors usually buy the miniature complex as a souvenir. Along with the pyramids, other miniature statues of ancient Egypt, such as the Sphinx, are a hit as well.
Another item of ancient Egyptian origin and a heavily bought souvenir in Egypt is the papyrus scroll. Papyrus was the paper used during ancient Egyptian times and was made from the pith of the papyrus plant. Of course, the papyrus scrolls sold nowadays are replicas of the original; however, they’re pretty cool and look real as well. Papyrus scrolls differ in size and have different shapes printed on them as well, from pharaonic battle scenes to the Hieroglyphic alphabet.
Ancient Egyptians used to have amulets in the shape of dung beetles, known as scarab beetles. At that time, scarabs represented a religious significance in the ancient Egyptian religion. Today, scarabs are another souvenir that people love. You can find them in all sizes, colours and materials and some are also engraved with the Hieroglyphic alphabet. Scarab bracelets and necklaces are also very popular in Egypt and many visitors wear them as a reminder of their trip.
The cartouche is another ancient Egyptian souvenir – it is an oval with a horizontal line on one end, indicating the text enclosed. You can find them engraved on many ancient Egyptian temples. Nowadays, they are sold on different materials, such as alabaster and stones, as souvenirs for tourists. However, as the silver industry is huge in Egypt, visitors usually buy them in the form of silver necklaces. Not only do they buy them due to the unique silver in Egypt, but also because they can write their names on them in the hieroglyphic alphabet – talk about a customised ancient souvenir! To many, this is a great gift for both themselves and loved ones.
The jalabeya is a cultural and traditional outfit in Egypt. It is composed of a loose fabric, similar to a dress, for men and women. Although you may not find many wearing them in the capital city of Cairo, you will find people in rural areas and in most areas outside of Cairo still wearing them. The designs and styles of the jalabeya differ in each governorate – some are colourful and others are black with colourful embroideries. Jalabeyas for men are usually basic and come in light or dark colours and since they represent Egyptian culture, you will find many stores selling them – especially bazaars.
Considered Egyptian in origin, belly dancing is an Arabic expressive dance that comprises certain movements and specific music. Belly dancing has always been a part of black-and-white Egyptian movies and has developed over the years. Belly dancing outfits come in different styles and colours and are all designed with shiny and glittery embroideries. As visitors are mesmerised by belly dancers and their outfits, they usually buy belly dancing outfits as souvenirs; however, they are not worn as an outdoor kind of outfit.
Also known as jewellery boxes, these arabesque-style boxes are very popular in Egypt and are sold in many places. They come in different shapes and sizes and are designed with Islamic geometric patterns. Many historical landmarks in Egypt feature these geometric patterns and their existence is evident in the architecture of several outdoor and indoor monuments around Egypt. Although Islamic geometric patterns date back to Egypt’s Islamic era, the existence of geometric patterns in general trace back to ancient Egyptian times.
Handmade leather slippers in different vibrant colours line the shelves of many Egyptian bazaar shops. Many visitors fall head over heels for these leather slippers and their colours. Although these slippers are cool and fashionable, they are not the real souvenir. What really makes them a souvenir is the pharaonic symbol (which always appeared on deities in the Egyptian pantheon) that can be found on them. They count as a great gift because not only are they practical, but they represent the ancient side of the country as well.
The use of sand as art can be found in many places around the globe. And just like these places, Egypt is also a hub for glass sand bottles and it is one of the oldest crafts found in the country. The glass is filled with the pure white sand that comes from the deserts of Egypt. Although many street vendors sell these handmade bottles, they are very popular in cities like Dahab, Luxor and Aswan. The artist fills the glass bottle with white sand as well as coloured sand for decoration.
Egypt is home to diverse cultures within one big Egyptian culture. Therefore, diverse clothing is found around different areas of Egypt. These items of clothing include hats, some of which are still worn nowadays and others that aren’t. A type of hat that many visitors buy as a souvenir is a Nubian hat. These hats are found in Nubia near the city of Aswan and are still worn by Nubian men. They can also be found in Cairo’s bazaars such as the Khan el-Khalili bazaar. Another hat that is also bought as a souvenir but is not worn any more is the tarbush, also known as the fez. The tarbush, a Turkish inspiration, was worn by Egyptians, which included the Egyptian army.