Bustling marketplaces always add a particular flair to any city in Egypt, and Alexandria’s markets are no exception. In addition to its Mediterranean spirit, soothing sea view of the Corniche and laidback atmosphere, the city of Alexandria possesses one of the most interesting and popular markets known to date; Zan’et El Sittat.
Loosely translated as ‘women’s cramped alleyway,’ the market is exactly that: located at the furthest end of Faransa Street in Mansheya, Zan’et El Sittat is made up of a labyrinth of alleyways, where loads of tiny kiosks and shops are packed with accessories and clothing items that majorly cater to women. The market has an extensive and colourful collection of fabric, gadgets and beads, as well as studs, accessories and other goodies similar to those found at shops such as El Nomrosy and markets like Khan El Khalili and Wekalet El Balah in Cairo. It also has products for men such as average quality belts, wallets and chains that can be purchased at a good deal.
If you start out on Faransa Street and keep walking straight down the small street, you’ll come across shop after shop selling gold and jewellery. Take any left and follow the crowd; Zan’et El Sittat starts out as a small narrow street and then becomes a tightly packed labyrinth. The alleyways are so tight, and the kiosks overflow with so many products; the market rarely sees the sunlight in certain parts.
This is the market that you come to if you need to customise your clothing with accessories, beads, string and sewing material. You can also pick up cheap scarves, underwear, hair and body creams, makeup utensils, fake diamond tiaras and brooches, cooking pans and kitchen utensils. You are bound to come across something of good use for a maximum of 50LE, with room for bargaining, of course.
Zan’et El Sittat is also home to hundreds of herbs and spice outlets selling both the usual and the peculiar by kilo as well as natural hair treatments that range between 30LE and 60LE. Candle-making fans can also get raw wax of different consistencies (20LE to 40LE), as well as wick thread by the meter, natural oils and scents ranging between 10LE and 30LE.
Aside from the accessories, Zan’et El Sittat is best known for its cheap materials. This is where you come to pick up a metre of tulle, satin or polyester without having to pay out of your nose. With several shops located side by side, it’s easy to browse their extensive selection of prints and compare between different offers. It is recommended that you bargain, and take your time to check out the competition next door before deciding on your purchase.
Just like any market in Egypt, you will find the traditional and folkloric items on show such as traditional Egyptian shawls and flower-print headscarves for 10LE, while a belly dancing costumes goes for between 100LE and 120LE.
Because of its narrow alleys and cramped ambiance, it is advisable to avoid Zan’et El Sittat during the summer or before national holidays when it gets extremely crowded. To many Alexandrian shoppers and DIY fans, Zan’et El Sittat has long been a perfect source of cheap and important material all under roof.
Zan’et El Sittat is open every day from 10AM until 10PM. Most kiosks and shops close on Sundays. Park your car in the Mansheya parking lot across the street; then follow the crowd towards the market. Parking tickets are a very affordable 5LE per hour.