Egypt Souvenirs are always conversation starters. I’m honestly not usually a huge fan of souvenirs but souvenirs from Egypt are such a great way to preserve memories and engage people about your trip! Egypt is so captivating with its history, culture, and mystique. From the magnificent pyramids to the ancient temples, Egypt offers a plethora of attractions that leave visitors in awe. In this comprehensive guide, I’m sharing must-have authentic Egypt souvenirs, their cultural significance, and where to find them.
The Allure of Egypt Souvenirs
I mentioned that I’m not big on souvenirs. I just don’t really like trinkets to be honest. Egyptian souvenirs are much more than mere trinkets; they are a representation of the country’s rich heritage. Each souvenir is infused with history, artistry, and symbolism that dates back to ancient times. The allure of Egypt souvenirs lies in their ability to transport travelers back to the days of pharaohs and dynasties, which make them feel more like timeless keepsakes than souvenirs
Must-Have Egypt Souvenirs
One of the most iconic souvenirs from Egypt, papyrus art, is created from the stems of the papyrus plant. This ancient writing material served as the canvas for scribes and artists to depict stories and mythologies. Now you can find intricately hand-painted papyrus artworks portraying scenes from ancient Egypt to buy and place in your home adding a touch of history to any living space!
Handmade Perfume Oils
The art of perfume-making dates back to ancient Egyptian times where exquisite oils and fragrances were created for royalty. Modern-day visitors can experience a piece of this history by purchasing traditional Egyptian perfume oils, crafted from natural ingredients like jasmine, rose, and sandalwood.
While in Egypt, I purchased a set of perfume oils including Rose, Sandalwood and some more “modern” scents like Nefertari, etc for myself and my friends. I also purchased some beautiful glass perfume bottles to keep them in.
Alabaster Vases and Figurines
Alabaster, a translucent mineral, was highly prized by ancient Egyptians for its use in creating exquisite vases and figurines. Today, artisans continue this tradition by making beautiful alabaster pieces that feel like elegant and sophisticated souvenirs.
Egyptian alabaster was used for small vessels to carry perfume, as well as for canopic jars and other associated burial items.
Alabaster perfume jars were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. This calcite is mined out of stalactites and stalagmites, as well as out of travertine deposits in limestone caverns, which are extensive near Suez, Egypt. Many quarries have been found near this area. In Ancient Egypt, it was used to carve artifacts associated with the deity Bast. It was also used in altarpieces and small reliefs in medieval churches, as well as to make Plaster of Paris, which was used in all sorts of construction applications.
There’s an old-school gospel song about an alabaster box, so I just had to buy one for my mom.
Adorning yourself with Egyptian jewelry is like wearing a piece of history. Inspired by ancient amulets, hieroglyphs, and symbols, Egyptian jewelry represents protection, prosperity, and spirituality. Whether it’s a cartouche, scarab beetle pendant or an ankh necklace, these pieces are sure to be cherished for years to come.
A cartouche is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic name plate. It’s shaped like an oval with a horizontal bar at the base of the oval and a king’s name written inside of the oval. If there was not enough space (for example, if the name was excessively long), the Egyptians could write the cartouche horizontally instead of vertically, and put the line on the side going up and down, instead of horizontally at the bottom of the oval.
The word cartouche is actually the French word for a gun cartridge or bullet. When Napoleon took his army on an expedition to Egypt, the soldiers remarked that the shape of the name plate looked like a cartouche, or gun cartridge, and the name stuck. The Egyptian name for the cartouche was shen, meaning ‘to encircle.’ The word cartouche is actually French for gun cartridge or bullet.
Traditionally, the cartouche was written on tombs and coffins to mark who was inside. The ancient Egyptians believed that each person had two souls, the Ba and Ka, which used the cartouche to identify the body they belonged to so that an Egyptian would move on to the afterlife. Sometimes, the pharaohs would wear an amulet-style cartouche, to help ward off evil spirits and attract good luck.
The cartouche is a hieroglyphic symbol, with the oval signifying a rope, and the horizontal line symbolizing the rope being tied together at the bottom to form an enclosed loop. It was believed by the Egyptians that the rope circle represented everything enclosed by the sun, symbolizing the king’s power over the universe.
The beetle symbolizes The scarab symbol appears very often in hieroglyphs, statues, and sculptures. When visiting monuments in Egypt, the familiar representation of the typical scarab beetle shape is everywhere, whether in drawings, statues, or on stone.
The reason that the scarab is so often depicted in everything from hieroglyphs to jewelry, statues, and engravings is due to the popular belief that it was an amulet of protection against disease and death.
It was also interpreted as a symbol of resurrection. Not only did it protect those who wore it as an amulet while alive from illness, but when placed next to the dead it meant that they could be resurrected and thus attain eternal life.
The ankh is one of the most popular Egyptian hieroglyphics. The ankh symbol—sometimes referred to as the key of life or the key of the nile—is representative of eternal life in Ancient Egypt. Created by Africans long ago, the ankh is said to be the first–or original–cross. The ankh is often shown in the hands of important Egyptian figures, such as pharaohs and kings, preserving their immortality. Moreover, the ankh is commonly depicted in temples and in the grasp of major Egyptian gods such as Osiris, Isis, and Ra.
I had planned on buying cartouches for myself and my daughter with our names on the front and my bonus son’s name on the back in hieroglyphics but I wasn’t mentally prepared for the cost. The ones I liked the most were $500 USD. While I do believe they were worth it, I just wish I had known before I arrived so I could be mentally ready to spend that kind of money. Instead, I bought my daughter an ankh bracelet.
Traditional Egyptian Clothing
Bringing home traditional Egyptian clothing is a unique way to connect with the local culture. From intricately embroidered galabiyas to vibrant scarves, these garments reflect the country’s diverse heritage and make for stylish souvenirs.
I purchased two Kaftans for my mother and a galabiya for my dad.
Tips on Haggling for Egypt Souvenirs
Haggling is a part of the experience. I admittedly am not a huge fan of haggling but I realize that salespeople at these markets quote a price with the expectation that you’ll want to haggle. That said, don’t be afraid or feel shy about negotiating the price of your souvenirs down.
- Start with a Friendly Greeting and Build Rapport: Begin your haggling interaction with a warm greeting like “Salaam Alaikum” (Peace be upon you) or a simple smile. Building a friendly rapport with the vendor sets a positive tone for the negotiation. Engage in light conversation, ask about the item’s history or craftsmanship, and show genuine interest in the culture. Establishing a connection can lead to a more enjoyable haggling experience and potentially a better deal.
- Know the Market Value and Set a Budget: Before you begin haggling, do some research on the general price range for the type of souvenir you’re interested in. Knowing the market value gives you a baseline to work with and helps you avoid overpaying. Additionally, set a budget for yourself so you have a clear idea of how much you’re willing to spend. This prevents you from getting caught up in the excitement of the negotiation and overspending.
- Be Prepared to Walk Away: Walking away is a powerful tactic in haggling. If the vendor’s initial price is too high and they’re not willing to meet your budget, don’t be afraid to politely thank them for their time and start to walk away. Often, this signals to the vendor that you’re serious about your budget and they may be more inclined to lower their price to keep your business. Be prepared for the possibility that they might call you back with a better offer.
Remember, haggling is a cultural tradition and a part of the shopping experience in many places, including Egypt. Approach it with respect, patience, and a willingness to engage in a friendly exchange. By following these tips, you can navigate the world of haggling with confidence and leave with souvenirs that not only carry memories but also reflect the unique connection you’ve made with the local culture.
Where to Find Authentic Egypt Souvenirs
Khan El Khalili Bazaar, Cairo
As one of the oldest bazaars in the Middle East, Khan El Khalili offers SO MANY authentic Egypt souvenirs. This vast and bustling market is a treasure trove of papyrus art, spices, jewelry, textiles, and more. Visitors can immerse themselves in “market culture” while haggling for the perfect souvenir. Just make sure you’re patient, the sellers typically go for the hard sell! And if you’re a Black woman or person of color you’ll hear “Nubian Queen” “look, we’re the same color” so much!
Luxor Souk, Luxor
This market is located in the heart of Luxor and boasts an array of alabaster products including vases, lamps, and figurines. Tourists can witness skilled artisans at work crafting alabaster objects.
Aswan Souk, Aswan
Set against the backdrop of the Nile River, Aswan Souk is known for its perfume oils, spices, and Nubian handicrafts. You’ll get the chance to explore the colorful stalls and find unique souvenirs to take home.
Local Artisan Shops
Throughout Egypt, there are numerous local artisan shops that offer handcrafted souvenirs. These shops provide a more intimate and personalized shopping experience, and purchasing from them supports the local community.
Museum Gift Shops
After visiting the iconic Egyptian museums, such as the Egyptian Museum in Cairo or the Luxor Museum, tourists can find quality souvenirs at the museum gift shops. These items are often curated to represent Egypt’s historical and cultural significance.
Exploring Egypt is a journey back in time, and taking home authentic Egypt souvenirs is a way to cherish the memories forever. From papyrus art to alabaster vases, each souvenir encapsulates the country’s rich heritage and artistic legacy. By venturing into local bazaars and artisan shops, travelers can discover unique pieces that are both meaningful and symbolic of Egypt’s captivating history. So, the next time you find yourself amidst the wonders of Egypt, be sure to pick up these timeless keepsakes to cherish the magic of this ancient land for years to come.
Want to see what I bought in Egypt? I did a little post on instagram showcasing my wares, lol. You can check it out here: What I Bought In Egypt. Don’t forget to let me know in the comments when you’re going to Egypt and what souvenirs you plan to buy when you get there! Like I said earlier, I don’t typically purchase souvenirs, it’s not really my thing. But Egypt is one of those places where you pretty much HAVE to buy souvenirs, amiright??
Planning a trip to Egypt can be both exciting and overwhelming. Be sure to check out my other blog posts on Egypt
- Best Places to Stay In Egypt
- A Hidden Gem AirBnB In Egypt
- Best Places to get a view of the Pyramids in Egypt
- 10-Day Itinerary Egypt
- Top Things to Do In Egypt
- Best Cities to Visit in Egypt
- My Top Egypt Travel Tips
- Adapter for Egypt
Don’t forget to pin this to your Egypt board so you can come back to it!