In recent years there has been a growing awareness, especially within Europe, regarding the planet and the need to develop sustainable tourism and encouraging responsible travel.  Following are some suggestions of areas directly within our control as tourists and global travelers.  It is entirely up to you how far you want to go with these suggestions.  At Mara House we are implementing as much as we can along the lines of conserving water, energy, minimalizing the use of chemicals and controlling our amount of waste. 


If you travel lite and buy locally when you arrive, you help the local community and can save yourself a lot of packing problems.  If you have an eye for a bargain you go home with a complete change of wardrobe.  So, if you want to do some serious clothes shopping do remember to schedule in the extra time for it when planning your trip.

Most people take home a few souvenirs for themselves and as gifts – make an effort to buy something produced locally as opposed to the Chinese imports with which the markets are flooded.

Some items made locally in Egypt

  • scarves, shawls, pashminas – but check the label as not all are Egyptian made, and check for signs the label has been changed
  • t-shirts
  • tablecloths
  • khayyameys (colourful patchwork, handmade) cushion covers, wall hangings, bedcovers
  • papyrus – what is papyrus?
  • stone plaques and ornaments – but again check because some are imported
  • ornamental hand etched silver, brass, metal plates – watch for cheap imported copies
  • jewellery – much of it made here in gold, silver, metal, wood, bone, crystal gemstones.
  • chess and backgammon sets
  • bedouin bags and clothing – hand made mostly by the bedouin women in the Sinai
  • paintings – artwork

If you travel lite to Egypt and decide to buy clothing etc here, additional bags or suitcases can easily and cheaply be bought in Luxor or Cairo.

Note on Egyptian Cotton Sheets

They are not that easy to get here as most sets only come with one sheet.  I know that sounds crazy.  When I needed sheets for Mara House I was surprised too.  But, due to the heat here most families only put one sheet on the bed during the hot months, especially if they don’t have air-con.  In the winter they cover up with lovely fluffy blankets at night and these are hung in the sun during the day. 

So, for Mara House I had to search long and hard for rolls of Egyptian Cotton material and spent hours upon hours on a home sewing machine myself making up the sheets and pillowcases.  Actually, I did the bed covers and curtains too!  As a foreigner the prices quoted outside for this was way too high for the amount of work I needed done.  So I bought a wonderful electric Singer sewing machine on one of my trips to Cairo and it served me really well for years – especially since I barely remembered even how to thread one.

I cannot recommend buying sheets here.  Having bought and tested some myself,  I have been unable to source ones which won’t “bobble”.  Bobbles are those annoying, tiny balls of cotton you keep picking off some of your clothes?  Even to buy the material and make them up at home, you could not be sure of the quality you are getting.  Some of my sheets were luxurious but some, (I now know) contained a small amount of polyester.