3 Mohammed Abdo Street
Tel: 20 2 514 7164
Around the corner from the Al-Azhar Mosque, across the busy Al-Azhar Street from Midan El-Hussein, Al-Khatoun is an artists' cooperative occupying a restored Ottoman dye house. Look for cotton textiles printed with Islamic calligraphy; antique Egyptian movie posters; jeweler Suzanne El-Masri's enameled silver earrings and necklace ensembles; and tasteful housewares of painted wood, hammered metal, Egyptian alabaster, and papier-mâché. During Ramadan, the gallery hosts musical evenings.
Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.
159, 26th of July Street
Tel: 20 2 736 2598
Expats and locals head for this Zamalek bookstore for the latest English best sellers, translations of Middle Eastern novels, plus works on politics, art, and food. The in-house coffee shop serves a mean cappuccino and carrot cake, as well as mint tea and bread stuffed with cheese and zatar, Lebanese thyme. This is the place to pick up guidebooks and coffee-table tomes on Islamic or Pharaonic art. The media section stocks CDs and DVDs from across the Arab world.
The grand souk of Cairo since the 14th century, this market fills the streets that slope gently down from Midan El-Hussein, a square whose mosque is believed to house the head of the Prophet's grandson Hussein and is thus considered among the most holy spots in Cairo. Though flooded of late with pharaonic tourist gimcrackery made in China, the Khan is still divided into working markets devoted to gold, spices, silver, textiles, cookware, and even shisha pipes. If you don't want to make a purchase, the souks are still worth visiting for their microcosm of Cairo lifethe swirl of commerce, scent of spices, sounds of metalworkers, and the variety of 1,001 Arabian goods, including the perfume and incense still used by Cairo's faithful to purify themselves before prayer. Try to venture a bit beyond Midan El-Hussein before buying, as the goods get less touristy and the sellers less intent on fleecing foreigners the deeper you get. Shops open around 11 am and are busiest in late afternoon when tour buses arrive (after spending the morning at the Pyramids). Many of the merchants here are Christian and so close shop on Sundays.
Ibn Tulun Street
Tel: 20 2 365 2227
This cavernous shop facing the front gate of the Ibn Tulun Mosque is the place to go for the best of Egypt's village and oasis crafts, including many objects unavailable in the Khan El-Khalili. Look for handcarved wooden platters from Luxor, handblown glass from Islamic Cairo, embroidered textiles from Siwa Oasis, ceramics from Fayoum Oasis, and gold-plated peasant jewelry. The French-managed shop carries useful maps of Islamic Cairo, 19th-century travel memoirs, and other interesting publications.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 5 pm.
13 Refa'a Street
Tel: 20 2 2748 6663
Newly relocated to a 1930s villa in the Dokki district, Nagada helps solve Cairo's eternal fashion conundrum: how to stay cool in the heat. Lebanese-Swiss team Sylva Nasrallah and Michel Pastore transform handloomed village textilesincluding a locally made Issey Miyake-esque pleated fabric used for women's veilsinto brightly colored, asymmetrical, and subversively slinky skirts and tank tops. The unisex line draws inspiration from the djellaba, the traditional Egyptian farmer's wide-sleeved gown. Flowing silk gaucho pants and subtly fitted cotton sheath dresses are at once comfortable enough for daytime sightseeing, conservative enough for Cairo's Islamic districts, and stylish enough for a Western-style night on the town. A plus: The lightweight clothes pack easily and translate to other locales.
Open daily 9:30 am to 6 pm.
The main Luxor Souk, restored and covered in the fashion of the Dubai Gold Souk, is full of aggressive touts and lacks the interest of either the Khan Al Khalili in Cairo or the Nubian Market in Aswan. Look instead in smaller shops on the west bank or on east bank side streets for scarves of locally produced cotton and antique copies of antiquities made for tourists of an earlier age. The alabaster factories on the road between the Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut's Temple are notable for the naïve paintings of lions, Islamic pilgrimage scenes, and of course, pharaonic pastiche painted on their exterior walls.
Hussein El Me'mar Pasha Street
Tel: 20 2 576 8086
Cairo's most cutting-edge contemporary art space is spread between two buildings: an old Jewish mansion and a restored car mechanics' workshop, both opposite an abandoned 19th-century palace just off Talaat Harb Square. Exhibitions of photography, video installations, painting, and mixed media, along with lectures, experimental film, and music, often take on the challenge of defining a modern Middle Eastern identity. Ask to see work by the Islamic historian and artist Hoda Lutfi, who makes collages of old shisha pipe tongs, plastic dolls, and other found objects from Cairo's junk souks.
Open Saturdays through Wednesdays 10 am to 2 pm and 6 to 9pm, Fridays 6 to 9 pm.