The Last Tarboosh (Fez Hat) Maker in Cairo, Egypt

My wife and I with shop owner

One of my favorite souvenirs to buy on a trip is a hat native to the country that I am in. It can be a traditional hat or one popular with locals.

In Egypt, the tarboosh used to be worn by every “effendi” (gentlemen) according to Lonely Planet. It was also worn by the military until 1950. I read in my guide book that there was one shop left in Cairo that makes the tarboosh. The shop is a close walk from the famous Khan Al-Khalili Market & right near Mosque- Madrassa of Al-Ghouri. It is located in the clothes & carpet market at 36 Al-Ghouriyya Street.

I was once offered a Fez hat for my collection but turned it down. All of the hats that I have were purchased or given to me in the countries that they were traditionally worn in.

When I read that Egypt had a Fez hat called a Tarboosh, I had to track down the shop that makes them. I want the real deal, not some touristy version!

Brass Press

When we arrived at the Khan Al-Khalili, my main mission was to find the shop. I asked a street vendor if he knew where it was and he offered to take my wife and I there. I didn’t really think that he would bring us to the shop but after a few pit-stops at some of his “cousins” shops (yes they did try like crazy to sell us anything they could) we arrived at the tarboosh shop.

Demonstrating how the hat is shaped

The shop was quiet asides from a few employees. They were all very friendly and happy to see us. They showed us all different versions/ colors of the tarboosh and explained the process of how they are made. The hats are shaped on heavy brass presses which you see upon entering the shop. I was wondering if the presses were as old as the shop which has been in business for over 150 years.

The hats are all handmade and it was very interesting to hear about the process used to make them. The tarboosh is made from felt and lined with a straw-like material. They seem to be a pretty time consuming item to make and I was worried that they might be a bit too pricey for me to add to my collection.

Trying on the felt before it is formed on the press to become a tarboosh.

I spoke a bit with the shop’s owner and haggled with him for a better price. I can’t recall exactly what I paid, but I think it was in the $20-30 range. I think it was a fair price to pay to get an authentic hat from the last tarboosh maker in Cairo!

12 thoughts on “The Last Tarboosh (Fez Hat) Maker in Cairo, Egypt

  1. Impressed with your photos. We are from the US, Oregon. We were there in April, 2012. Got there early and watched as a man washed the store by pouring about a quart or two of water onto the floor and sweeping it out onto the large dirt pathway outside. The owner soon emerged and was ready for business–we also got a Fez for 100 Egyptian pounds.

  2. I envy you and your wife (not in a bad way). In April 2008 my wife and I spent a few days in Cairo and while we were there I bought a “fez”. It looks great but on closer examination you can see its tourist quality and not made by traditional methods or with traditional materials.

  3. I have always wanted a fez (or tarboosh) and always figured I would just pick one up in any old shop in any old North African country. Now I know I can never have peace until I have a tarboosh from this very shop in Cairo. Coup or no I am going to Egypt to buy this hat!

  4. I was recently in Cairo with my family. While my wife and mother shopped in khan el khaleili, me and my son managed to reach the shop. We took directions from a number of shopkeepers. They all seemed to know the ‘ Tarboosh Shop’ in al ghauriya st, so i assume it was the same shop as in the picture. The owner was an elderly gentleman called Hassan. I bought one maroon cap for myself and a red one for my son. He referred as best quality to the maroon one and asked for 300 Egyptian pounds and referrred as second quality to the red one and quoted 90 pounds for that. In the end we paid 350 for both which amounts to around 45 US dollars. Indeed it was a treat to visit this shop. Had always wanted to own a tarboosh, but getting down to procure one this way, was quite an experiance. The second quality seems as well made as the best quality, the main difference seems to be quality of the cloth.

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