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Shopping in Egypt
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Whether you're traveling alone, with your significant other, friends or with your children, there's plenty of entertainment in Egypt to enjoy in your free time. During day time you can visit some shops & factories.
 
One trip to Egypt is enough to know that one of the grandest treasures that remains are the people, and the hand made products they produce are the best you can find and see in Egypt. There are many varieties of hand made products, including such items as alabaster objects, painted papyrus, brass and glassware, among others. Nevertheless, there are some products people say are hand made but in fact, are not. However, glass perfume bottles are exclusively hand blown, becoming beautiful works of pure art.
 
Shopping is also one of the most accessible options to fill in gaps on your holiday schedule. You'll find anything you're looking for in traditional souks, modern shopping malls and exclusive boutiques.
Egypt is a wonderland of shopping opportunities. Of course, there are the famous bazaars such as the Khan el-Khalili, but then there are also thousands of unusual stores scattered about the country, and especially in Cairo, though some products are better purchased perhaps from the locale from which they are produced, such as alabaster in Luxor. However, Cairo provides a huge variety of everything from antiques to fine clothing and especially jewelry.
 
In some shops, you must haggle while in others the price will be set. Which type of store provides the best possible deals depends both on the shop itself and the haggling ability of the buyer an seller. Frequently though some of the best deals at the best consistent quality is found in stores with fixed prices. For example, one might haggle over a mother-of-pearl box in the Khan el-Khalili and wind up paying a fairly low price but for an inferior product, while in a fixed price shop, one might end up paying more, but for a far superior mother-of-pearl box.
 
The purpose for this section is to provide (Egyptian Trip) readers with information both on how to shop in Egypt, as well as to enlighten them on how to tell what makes various products better or worse from the standpoint of quality. Of course, for those not traveling to Egypt, our Virtual Khan el-Khalili, Tour Egypt's online shop provides many quality products found in Egypt at reasonable prices.
 
Product types:
1- Papyrus
2- Egyptian Oil Perfumes
3- Egyptian Glass Perfume Bottles
4- Alabaster
5- Appliqu on the Street of the Tentmakers
6- Basketry, Ancient and Modern
7- Belly Dancing Costumes
8- Egyptian Brass
9- Egyptian Cotton Products in Egypt
10-Jewelry
11-Gold Jewelry in Egypt
12- Mashrabiya Screens
13-Mother-of-Pearl
14-Musical Instruments
 
Now we will focus on some products
 
1- Papyrus
 
Few tourists to Egypt probably leave the country without at least one papyrus painting. It is easy to carry onto airplanes, and relatively inexpensive to purchase. The problem is, do they really leave with true papyrus, or a cheep imitation? Will the paint hold up, or quickly flake off? There are several issues that people should understand when buying papyrus art in Egypt or elsewhere, and here, we attempt to examine what constitutes fine, quality papyrus art.
 
Thanks to modern technology, when I started school and needed to use paper, I simply went to the store and purchased some note books. It was cheap, but that is obviously not how things have always worked. Not until the Chinese invented pulp paper, and in their interaction with those people did the Arabs also learn the process, did paper become readily available. Though the art of writing was probably first invented in Mesopotamia (Ancient Iraq), and later developed by the Egyptians in the 4th Century BC, initially a good portable medium was not available. The ancients began writing upon stones, bones, the barks of trees and textiles,
 
but with the expanding practice of writing, more practical materials were needed. Thus, from the stalks of the papyrus plant that grew wild in marshy areas of the Nile, the Egyptians developed papyrus paper (see Historical Papyrus).
 
Papyrus was effectively an Egyptian monopoly and its manufacture was a guarded secret. Indeed, the papyrus plant became a symbol of Lower Egypt, and was regarded as so typically Egyptian that it could be regarded as a metaphor for the entire country.
 
However, with the invention of pulp paper, papyrus slowly disappeared from use, even in Egypt. Because it was no longer a viable commercial product, as farming came to the Nile Delta, its even disappeared from the Egyptian landscape.
 
Papyrus making was not revived until around 1969. At that time, an Egyptian scientist named Dr. Hassan Ragab reintroduced the papyrus plant to Egypt from the Sudan and started a papyrus plantation near Cairo on Jacob Island. He also had to research the method of production. Unfortunately, the ancient Egyptians left little evidence about the manufacturing process. There are no extant texts or wall paintings and archaeologists have failed to uncover any manufacturing centers. Most of our knowledge about the actual manufacturing process is derived from its description in Pliny the elder's Natural History and modern experimentation. Dr. Ragab finally figured out how it was done, and now papyrus making is back in Egypt after a very long absence.We should note that Dr. Hassan Ragab had a remarkable career with over 42 inventions credited to his name as an engineer. After World War II, he also served time in Washington, DC as Egypt's military attach and later became the first Egyptian ambassador to China, with other ambassadorial posts to Italy and Yugoslavia.
Today, papyrus is mostly used for decorative art, and though most of it is sold to tourists, it is even somewhat popular in Egyptian homes. However, rarely do we find what might be termed "museum replica" papyrus. We might find an example of an early medical papyrus hanging on the walls of a doctor's office, but for the most part, the extant ancient papyri found in museums and specific papyrus collections is not very decorative or interesting in and of itself. Hence, modern papyri are usually adorned with more colorful subject mater.
 
Paintings on papyrus material vary considerably. Our personal favorites are accurately portrayed scenes, usually duplicating to a high degree the wall paintings from ancient tombs and temples, as well as from early Christian churches and monasteries when papyrus was still in use. However, paintings on papyrus may include more stylistic themes from ancient Egypt, and we can find examples of almost any subject mater, including modern art.
 
There are a number of quality considerations when purchasing papyrus art. Perhaps the two most important issues are the material and the quality of the art itself.
 
By material, we refer to the fact that a considerable amount of "papyrus" purchased in Egypt is not papyrus at all. On the streets of Cairo such as in front of the Eyyptian Antiquities Museum and at other popular tourist attractions, much of the art sold as papyrus is actually made from the banana stalk. Other materials used to simulate papyrus include corn husks, potatoes, eggplant, carrot and a few other materials.
 
However, there are a few ways to distinguish real papyrus from these forgeries. True papyrus is usually heavier in weight, strong, difficult to tear and somewhat opaque (though certainly not always). There are a number of stores, for example, near the Egyptian museum that does sell true papyrus and before purchasing a sample on the street, it might be advisable to visit one of these shops for comparison. The light colored papyrus has different colors or degrees of brown and one can see the veins clearly in the light. Unpainted sheets can be somewhat crunched though will retain their "memory" and thus return to a flat sheet. Of course, crushing painted papyrus is not a good idea because of the paint itself. Furthermore, reputable papyrus vendors stamp their merchandize with the store stamp to guarantee authenticity of the product. Obviously, one of the best means of making sure that true papyrus is purchased is to buy it from a reputable shop, as opposed to a street vendor.
 
During ancient times, there were certainly different levels of quality in papyrus paper. The best of the paper was made from the innermost material of the papyrus stalk. However, today most papyrus is of a similar grade, though there can be a few difference, and a number of different styles. In some papyrus manufacturing, the strips are placed alternating vertical and horizontal, while in others, one layer is all vertical and the next is all horizontal. Of these, the second method provides the smoother surface for painters.
True papyrus is usually painted and not printed by machine, as one finds with fake papyrus, "Papyrus" made from other materials is frequently discernable by its cheep appearance, including flaking of the painted surface. Some artists paint true papyrus completely by hand using a light table to ease their job. Others, and especially with when painting on large sheets, may use a silk screen process for drawing the outlines and then finish the rest of the painting by hand. However, it has been mentioned (by one vendor during interviews for this article) that real papyrus may sometimes be printed using an inkjet color printer after smoothing the sheet very well.
 
Though very little if any true papyrus is machine printed, one can often tell the difference between machine and hand painted papyrus, which can also help distinguish true from fake papyrus. Vendors use printing machines for fast work, and apparently there is "bleeding" that occurs. Hence, with machine work, edges may overlap to some extent. With hand painted papyrus, the paint remains within the lines and does not overlap the outlines of the artwork as does machine printing.
Also, all hand painted papyrus is signed by the artist.
 
The cost of "papyrus" artwork can vary considerably; almost infinitely. On the street in Cairo, cheap, normal size papyrus can be had for as little as a couple of dollars (or even less, if one visits the vendors in front of the Egyptian Antiquities Museum near closing time). From there, good true papyrus may range in price to several hundred dollars (USD) when purchasing work by artists such as Dr. Besheer Abdel-Salam or very large papyrus paintings.
 
2- Egyptian Oil Perfume
 
History of Perfume
The word perfume is derived from the Latin perfume, meaning "through smoke." The art of perfumery was known to the ancient Chinese, Hindus, Egyptians, Israelites, Carthaginians, Arabs, Greeks, and Romans. References to perfumery materials and even perfume formulas are found in the Bible.  The burning of incense in religious rites of ancient China, Palestine, and Egypt led gradually to the personal use of perfume known as attars, widespread in ancient Greece and Rome. During the Middle Ages Crusaders brought knowledge of perfumery to Europe from the East. After 1500 Paris was the major center of perfume-making.
 
Egyptian essential oils
Myrrh was the most popular herb used for producing essential oils...
In brief, Egyptians were first to master the art of aromatherapy. Many of the systems and methods followed by them have influenced aroma therapists down the ages.
 
After 3,300 years, when King Tutankhamen's tomb was opened in 1922, 350 litres of oil were discovered in alabaster jars. Plant waxes had solidified in a thickened residue.
 
around the inside of the container opening, leaving the liquefied oil in excellent condition and fragrance still detectable.
 
Aromatherapy has a history going back to 4500 years, Scholars and Teachers believe that.
Aromatics were the first medicines used by the Egyptians. Imotep the Architect was also the father of Medicine and healing The Ancient Egyptians were the first (in recorded history) to have widely used aromatherapy in their daily. The Egyptians were the first to discover that fragrances are effective and can be used for religious practices, illness treatments and other physical and spiritual needs. They used essential oils, herbs, perfumed oils and spices extensively in skin care, body massage and to cleanse physical impurities.
 
Today Egypt is still a major trading center for the perfume industry.   We have teamed up with the best perfume trading houses in Egypt and are excited about being able to offer popular and timeless classic perfumes at affordable prices.
 
What's the difference between perfume oils and perfume?
 
Please do not confuse these perfume oils with cologne or essential oils.  Pure perfume oils are far more sophisticated than perfume with fillers. Never offensive or overpowering, long lasting and balanced.
 
Pure Perfume Is Better For You
Just like jewelry, pure perfume oils vary tremendously in quality. We have put an incredible amount of time and effort into selecting the best possible quality pure perfume oils.  Pure perfume oils are truly what the designer of the fragrance had in mind when it was created.
 
Benefits of oils...
We have relaxing oils for people who may be stressed, or people who are ill either mentally or physical, releasing these fragrances into the air or using them for aromatherapy will bring about comfort and a sense of security.
Oils help with a wide range of emotions like sadness, loneliness, grief, depression, anxiety, nervous tension, fear, anger, despair, insecurity. Bringing you happiness and peace.
Oil is healing once used correctly, Oils to enhance meditation, and Spiritual wellbeing.
Staying power of your fragrance
Oils last on most people up to 12 to 24 hours - depending on your body chemistry.  Unlike perfumes with fillers added - which have a normal shelf life of 6 to 18 months, pure perfume oils keep their fragrance year after year.
 
3- Egyptian Glass Perfume Bottles
 
From the earliest times, Egyptians have worked with glass, and even prior to their capacity to actually produce this substance, they used a limited amount of natural glass produced through volcanic action or meteorite impacts in various jewelry and decorative effects.
 
The artist begins by firing the glass and shaping the various pieces of the perfume bottle. In some instances, several artists may in fact work on the same perfume bottle each blowing a different part of the design. The fire, which heats the glass to a very high temperature of 1000 C using pressurized oxygen, makes the glass very flexible. At this point, the glass is almost liquid.
 
Using a number of small tools, the glass is constantly rotated as the artist blows air through it quickly and precisely to achieve an exact shape. Afterwards, another craftsman, with very different handicraft skills, takes over the bottle in order to engrave the shaped glass with designs. Extra care is required in cutting into the strong but delicate glass.
 
Typically, a third craftsman may apply coloring to the perfume bottle. Most of the colors, with the exception of gold, are imported either from Germany or Turkey. Some very beautiful effects may be applied, while solid colored bottles will be turned on a rotating wheel to distribute the colors smoothly and evenly without leaving marks or uneven streaks of color. Bottles with scenes or floral decorations are painted by hand. On better bottles, gold will next be applied. This is 12 ct liquid gold, which requires care in its application. Some bottles have gold colored paint and so are less expensive, but also inferior to and less brilliant than their counterparts painted with real gold.
 
After the coloring and hand painting process is completed the bottles are put into an oven with a temperature near 500 and 650 C for about half an hour to bake or set the color on the glass so that it is permanent. Bigger bottles may take a few hours in the oven before the color is set. Only after this firing do all the decorative effects become visible. After the bottles are removed from the oven, they need to be left out to cool. This is the last step before they are sent to the stores to be presented for sale.
 
These beautiful bottles come in a variety shapes, colors, and sizes, from the very small to extra large. We may find perfume bottles in abstract designs, or in the shape of many physical objects such as a variety of animals. There is also, it seems, an infinite variety of stoppers from simple tear drop shapes to intricate fish and birds. However, other glass objects made in the same manner are also available, such as candlestick holders and oil burners.
Pyrex perfume bottles themselves may, at times, be badly formed and lean to one side or the other. These are obvious in shops, but if buying Egyptian perfume bottles on-line or by mail order, it is important to deal with a reputable company in order to avoid such flaws. Also, bottles painted with true gold are fairly easy to distinguish from those decorated with gold colored paint, for they will lack the brilliance of the former.
 
Always check the plunger within the stopper. These may not be very long, but they should not be broken off with sharp edges, a common problem found on even very fine perfume bottles after having been shipped. Also, be sure to carefully inspect the top of tear shaped stoppers, as the very upper edge can sometimes be damaged.
 
The best way to keep the bottle as safe as possible during shipping is to wrap it in a bubble wrap or cotton within a cardboard box. However, it should be noted that perfume bottles made of Pyrex are fairly strong.
 
4 - Egyptian Alabaster
 
If you are not planning to go to Egypt, you can still purchase fine, hand carved alabaster as well as "oriental alabaster in our on-line store.
 
The use of alabaster in Egypt dates well back into the Pharaonic period of Egyptian history, and this is very evident when one visits the temples, tombs and museums in Egypt. New pieces of alabaster from ancient Egypt seem to turn up constantly.
 
The ancient pharaohs used this wonderful material for many purposes, including household items, ritual objects, and for a number of different funerary purposes such as sarcophaguses and canopic equipment. Some of the finest ancient artifacts made from alabaster can be found in the Tutankhamun collection of the Egyptian museum, where we find a variety of different items made from this material.
 
"Alabaster is a fine-grained, massive, translucent variety of gypsum, a hydrous calcium sulphate. It is pure white or streaked with reddish brown. Like all other forms of gypsum, alabaster forms by the evaporation of bedded deposits that are precipitated mainly from evaporating seawater. It is soft enough to be scratched with a fingernail and hence it is easily broken, soiled, and weathered. Because of its softness, alabaster is often carved for statuary and other decorative purposes. The often-used term "Oriental Alabaster" is a misnomer and actually refers to marble, a calcium carbonate, whereas gypsum is a calcium sulphate.
 
So we do know two different kinds of Alabaster, including the gypsum kind, which is used mainly for pure hand-made products and the "Oriental Alabaster" which is a much harder stone, similar to marble, and which today is only used for machine-made products."1
 
In Egypt alabaster is found in two places, a few miles behind the Valley of the Kings in Luxor (ancient Thebes) and the Malawi area, each vein of alabaster has its own unique color and characteristic. It is found in nature in bulky, irregular shapes, in different sizes and at variable depths, mixed with other materials like marls or clay which protect the alabaster from other exterior agents.
Though it is beautiful, the machine made products lack the character and translucence of the hand made alabaster. Because the machines do not have the sensitivity of the artist, the machine made products are thicker and heavier. The machines also provide the highly polished surface. The color most often found in machine made items is generally yellowish to butterscotch with white. As does the handmade, it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.
 
For handmade alabaster, one must make a close inspection, including feeling the piece. It should have somewhat of a waxy feel, be very translucent, light and the color of white or cream with veins of a dark red. Be aware that any richly vibrant colored items sitting along side the alabaster is probably soapstone that has been dyed, not alabaster as some dealers will inform you. Also, in hand made alabaster, look for wax deposits. Wax is sometimes used to correct imperfections either in the stone or the workmanship, and particularly on the inside of the object, so avoid such pieces where there are substantial wax deposits within the item. Though hand made alabaster is certainly not completely smooth, look for even walls on the object, with even carving and fine carving.
 
Also, the veins of color in the alabaster are natural, and they do not weaken the product unless one can feel a break. Often, the dealer will refer to such a crack as a vein. The true colored veins give the alabaster a very special beauty with mixed colors, but they must not be breaks.
 
If one searches, most products in Egypt are available everywhere. However, some items, such as hand carved alabaster, are more prominent in specific locations. While these items may be purchased in Cairo, they will perhaps be less expensive in Luxor, where much of it is made.
 
After purchasing alabaster, care of the item is not difficult, though it must be handled with some care, as any such object. For cleaning, it is beast to simply use water and cloth, while avoiding the use of colored cleaning liquids as they can leave spots especially on the inside of some machine made products because they are porous and not protected by wax. Water itself will work fine, and will leave no residue. Obviously, a dishwasher should never be used to clean alabaster.