My last visit to Cairo was in February 2002. How time flies.... Much has changed there since then. Since I lost my heart to Istanbul and get all my dancer's needs covered there didn't really feel the urge to go back to Cairo.
So in addition to my report below I recommend you to check out more recent sources like these:
I can recommend February for travelling to Cairo, the climate is quite pleasant during that time and if you go shopping it's better not to sweat too much. The temperatures varied between 16 and 22 degrees during the day. It can rain sometimes, but not too much.
All addresses and directions are collected here.
One of the most important reasons for oriental dancers for going to Cairo is of course the acquisition of one (or better several) dance costumes. Because I know what I owe to my readers, I have checked out as many addresses as possible, browsed through many shops and also bought something from time to time.
What would shopping in Cairo be without a
visit to this shop? It offers dance accessories on FOUR
The choice is accordingly large. Which leads however to the fact that in some corners you might find dust-covered old rags. Not everything is the latest design; a dress that I bought here 6 years ago, wass still available in different colours. If you want a unique costume, you will have to take some time to search everything.
However this is the best place for folklore costumes, especially if you have to dress a whole group. And there are car loads of hip scarves!
Furthermore you will find decoration, dance shoes in all colors, tambourines, cymbals in various sizes, fringing etc. etc.
Furthermore you will find decoration, dance shoes in all colors, tambourines, cymbals in various sizes, fringing etc. etc. The pictures here were all taken on the same floor - so just imagine what more is waiting on the other floors!
As you can guess I left this store with very heavy bags - I even had to go there several times!
If you buy several articles, you can get a small discount, but Mahmoud is not really into bargaining. On the other hand you can also pay by credit card.
Watch an interview with Mahmoud here.
We'll stay in the Khan El Khalili and go over to Mustafa. As it is the case with most of the costume shops, you just ignore the goods in the basement and walk upstairs to discover the real treasures.
Here you will find beautiful costumes in original design at good prices. He even delivered my costume to my hotel, because I did not have enough cash with me to pay at once.
This is one of my personal favorites! On the first floor of Yasser's shop there are many beautiful costumes. Some are rather extravagant pieces, which show more or less skin (or net). I found many costumes that I really liked.
Yasser is friendly in an introvert way and constantly shows new treasures. He says that he can supply costumes in every desired style (Abla, Amira, Ghaffar...). Of course there are also simpler models. Anyhow, the costumes are not too expensive.
He also later custom made a fabulous costume for me later that I have loved and worn for a long time.
Watch an interview with Yasser here.
In the whole bazaar there are dozens of providers of dance costumes. Most of it is useless stuff and rather meant as a souvenir (instead of yet ANOTHER papyrus) than a dress for a serious dancer. Many of these shops can be found around the Café El Fishawi (sit down, drink some karkade, watch the people!).
The calculation is relatively simple: Cheap price = "cheap" costume. Especially the skirts are usually rather useless (too short, too transparent). And don't believe it if someone says that a model can only be found in one shop! If in doubt you can always come back. The costume on the right side can be bought in many shops for about 120 Egyptian pounds - depending on how good a bargainer you are!
Star designer Amira lives in quite a different corner of Cairo. Unfortunately she was absent for a few days when I wanted to visit her. I had seen some of her costumes at Orienta fair. They are really very beautiful and have a unique style.
Amira's business has developped into a big enterprise and she also sells her costumes through various vendors. Visit her fancy website to have a look at her costumes.
I was lucky enough to meet the legendary Mme Abla before she passed away in December 2006. Her family is continuing her business.
When I was there, they only had a few costumes on display, the idea is that you order a custom made costume. With the advantage that you can choose model, color and size. You will have to go back 2 days later for a fitting.
Only a few house numbers next to Mme Abla lives her cousin Hekmet. Here you can also buy ready-made costumes.
There is a good selection of colours and models. Or order your own custom-made costume.
Now let's go to the famous Mohammed Ali street. Between the many shops which offer musical instruments and furniture you can also find a costume designer. Ahmed normally produces on demand (approx. 5 days for a costume) and has only few costumes in the shop. Here you can get custom-made costumes for a little less money than at the "big" names.
What else is there to buy? Well, some costumes look even better with shoes. Especially with the kind of glittery pumps you can find in Cairo. My favourite is Abdo Saleh, with several shops around town. They offer glamurous shoes in every colour.
Of course on Mohammed Ali street!
I bought a good riq (tambourine) here. For dancing and for decoration the tambourines from the bazaar are sufficient, but if you want to use it as musical instrument you will need something better.
If you are already there, why not take the opportunity to take lessons with one of the famous dancers? There is of course Raqia Hassan (call early enough). I decided to visit Yasmina, an Englishwoman who has been performing in Cairo for years. I found the lesson very interesting and inspiring.
There are also many other teachers that you can find in the address section.
Over the past few years a lot of festivals have been organized in Cairo, the most famous being the "Ahlan Wa Sahlan". I will include links to them in the address section as well. I have never been to one myself because in my very personal opinion it's just not worth paying loads of money to take a workshop with 100 other students in the same room where you can hardly see the famous teacher. Plus costumes often are over-priced during festivals. I prefer to travel alone or with few people to get better treatment.
Even dancers must eat from time to time... In Cairo you can eat for 50 cents or 50 dollars. The more expensive way is described further below...
The Egyptian specialtity Kushari looks as if one had composed it from the remains of the week - a mix of short maccaroni, rice, lentils, fried onions and tomatoe sauce. Go to one of the El Omda places to taste it. Very cheap and really fills your stomach (take a small one!).
For good Egyptian cuisine: Restaurant Felfela. There's one in Hoda Shaarawy St. (near Talaat Harb) and one on the Corniche in Maadi, open-air by the river. This restaurant is rather well known and mentioned in most guide books. And it's really good! Try an Oum Ali for desert.
One of the things I miss the most after coming back: the juice stores! A glass of fresh strawberry juice is just fantastic! And they have many other fruits...
So, we've been walking around all day... Time to sit down, relax and watch other people work! I went to see two dance shows. The good news first: You don't have to spend a fortune and wait until 4 o'clock in the morning to see a good dancer!
I went to see shows at the Sheraton hotel and on the Nile Maxim boat which belongs to Le Meridien.
These are the addresses that will help you to spend a lot of money in Cairo!
Most costume designers and sellers will give you a discount if you ask for it, but dramatic bargains are not in sight. I paid cash with Egyptian Pounds or Swiss Francs. Credit cards are only accepted in few of these shops. But during the last years, also Cairo has been equipped with cash machines...
If you plan to go to one of the addresses outside of the Khan El Khalili is better to telephone there in advance. Otherwise you might end up in front of closed doors like me or a arrive at the same time as a large group. If you plan to have a costume custom made for you, go there early enough and keep in mind that it will take at least 5 days to finish it. Actually all these sources also offered to me to take written orders and send them to my home.
The country code for Egypt is 00202.
I found my way to most of these addresses quite easily. I certainly owe this to my finely trained dancer's nose, that can smell sequins in the periphery of 500 meters :-) You can always ask people for directions, after all Egyptians are well-known for their friendliness. However, many times one has to walk up a stairway or walk into a side entrance to find the right doors.
These pictures were taken by me in 2002, so the places may look differently now.
If you plan to order a costume by mail: please take into account that sometimes e-mail communication can be interrupted for some days due to the political situation or religious holidays.
I am working on a Google Map with the locations which is a bit difficult because many streets are written in different spellings and sometimes they have an old and a new name, but I will add whatever I can find. No guarantee on correct locations, but mostly a general idea on what is where...
This map might help as well, especially if you are also interested in culture.
Actually one only needs to stroll around the basar to find costumes. Particularly around the Café El Fishawi, there are many shops, which offer among other things also dance accessories (and this is where you should bargain!).
Mahmoud Abd El Ghaffar - Al Wikalah
73 Gawfar El Qayid St.
Tel. 589 7443
Fax 390 0357
When going to Khan El Khalili, the taxi will usually stop on Al Azhar St. at the end of the high road. Walk over the green pedestrian bridge, walk back in the direction where you came from for 50 m, then enter the bazaar to your right. Got to the next cross road, then again to the right. Soon you will find a shop with dance costumes in the window on the right hand side. This is however NOT Mahmoud! Instead you take the dark little street beside it, where there is a sign for Mahmoud's shop. Then simply walk up the stairs. Give yourself some time, there are 4 floors to explore!
Diagonally opposite there is a shop that' also called M. Abd El Ghaffar. They sell beads and sequins by the kilo.
After the pedestrian bridge, walk on in the driving direction. The shop is not directly by the road, but in a short lane to the left. There's a big sign over the window. Ask for the "professional" costumes to be led to the 2nd floor.
Continue to walk down the road past Al Wikalah. Almost at the end there is a shop "Oriental Dresses" on the left. Enter the lane and turn left again after some meters.
Al Fahem Shops
Shiwikar Building - Passage No. 2
Grandsons Hag/Yassien Agaty - Ahmed
10 Khan el Khalili St.
Nice hip scarfes, costumes with embroidered skirts, also takes custom orders
Directly besides El Fishawi
Various qualities, inexpensive
Ahmed Omar -
The haberdashery shop
Phone & Of fax 011 202 592-7452
The following three designers are all on the same small street. Go to the museum of Islamic art on Bab El Khalq Square / Midan Ahmad Mahir. From there it's best to ask.
Madame Abla Atelier / Madame Tawheeda
11 Darb El Emary
Tel. 011 202 390-4324 or 011 202 390-4475
Fax 011 202 360-1614
5 Darb El Emary
Tel. 011 202 390.6209
Fax 011 202 360.1614
11 Darb El Emary
Ahmed Dhiaa El Din
117 Mohamed Ali street
Fax and Telephone (011 202) 391.2005
Every child in Cairo knows Mohamed Ali street, so just ask anybody for directions. Apparently there are a few more costume designers in this street - just keep your eyes open or ask.
Amira El kattan -
Pharaonics of Egypt
27 Basra St., Ground floor (off Iraq St.)
Manial El Roda
41 A El Akhshed street
Tel. 231 382 48 / Mobile 680 004 00
Famous for desiging many of Dina's costumes whe is now a popular designer among other dancers as well
Eman Zaki - Golden Lotus
40 El Mesaha St., Dokki
Facebook link for pictures of her latest designs
Elegant, fashionable designs, also sold through various vendors in other countries (there is a list on her website)
She's American which makes communication easier. I have seen some of her costumes in person, they are really well made.
Info to follow
I have read mixed reviews about his costumes. The design is very original but apparently custom orders not always work out as ordered. It's best to go there in person and see if the special shape of his bra cups is good for your body.
Elrassoul Sharia 5
To get There you will go to the end of Haram street. Next to NGSB Bank Mashal branch / next to Remaya square.
13 El Arish Street, 4th floor
Phone: +202 35840768
Gorgeous, well fitting, sturdy costumes with nice beading technique. She sells part of her costumes through Mahmoud Abd El Ghaffar. Direct communication can be difficult unless you speak Arabic.
I have seen many pictures of lovely models they made and dancers on the bhuz.com forum were very happy with the costumes and with their service for custom orders by mail.
Many of these teachers travel the world to teach workshops for a good time of the year, so be sure to contact them at least a month before you go to make sure that they will be around.
Yasmina - www.yasminaofcairo.com
A british dancer who has been living and working in Cairo for many years. I enjoyed taking a class with her
Raqia Hassan - www.raqiahassan.net
She's the guru on modern Egyptian style :-) Many, many dancers have taken workshops and classes with her. I hear that her private lessons can vary in quality though.
Diana - email@example.com
I had some workshops with her in Switzerland and can recommend her.
Mahmoud Reda - firstname.lastname@example.org
Stylized stage folklore is his speciality
Farida Fahmy - www.faridafahmy.com
She used to be Mahmoud Reda's principal dancer
Prof. Dr. Hassan Khalil - www.hassan-khalil.org/
He's a specialist for folkore dances of several Middle Eastern countries
Leila - www.leilainegypt.com
Mohamed Kazafy - www.myspace.com/kazafy
Nour - www.nour-orientaldance.com
Russian dancer who has been working successfully in Egypt for many years
Liza Laziza - www.sphinxfestival.com/liza.html
Gamaet el Dewal el Arabeya street, a main street in Mohandessin, offers various clothes and shoe shops. One with various beautiful models is Abdo Saleh. They also have shops at Kaser el Nile road. There and in Talaat Harb street (just around the corner) you will find dozens of shoe shops!
You can buy instruments in "souvenir quality" everywhere
in the Khan El Khalili (compare prices!).
For professional instruments: Mohammed Ali street. There's a large choice, look around befor buying.
Sheraton Qahira (in Dokki)
Rest. Casablanca on 26th floor
Show every night with dancer, singer, musicians
Nile Maxim (boat, belongs to hotel Le Meridien)
Reservations over Tel. 739 4608
Show runs each evening twice, boat starts around 7.30 and 10:30 o'clock (be there approx. 30 minutes earlier).
There is an extensive list with pictures on Gilded Serpent
For more tips from dancers who went to Cairo or even live there: