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A Cairo Girl's Guide to Handbags

Zaina Hassan tackles, head on, how the flotation has affected her handbag game.

Every girl has developed some sort of serious romantic relationship with a beautifully quilted high-end designer handbag. But these handbags are torturous - they reel you in then break your heart with a five-figure price tag looking to kill you. If you’re like me, and have a champagne taste on a beer budget, this list of local handbags should be your bible.

HL Designs

HL designs offer minimalist dream bags with simple embellishments in pretty much every common silhouette (tote, bucket, backpack, the list goes on). Their bags are like little houses you carry around - big enough to fit your entire life in, but super stylish and chic (shocking, right?) HL Design bags will carry you from work to drinks and anything in between. “Practicality and style can co-exist, this is all what HL Designs is about,” say Heba Ragaee and Laila Sherif, founders of HL Designs.

Prices range 1,500-2,500 EGP
Available at Hype, Rax Concept Store and Zag Store
You can follow them on Instagram here


We can spot an Okhtein bag from a mile away – this brand has taken the fashion scene in Egypt by storm. There’s nothing to say about Okhtein’s leather quality and designs that hasn’t already been said before. “We have a dream and we work our asses off every day to make it a reality,” tell us Mounaz Abdel-Raouf, co-founder of Okhtein. Their bags have been all over the red-carpet over the world. Spotted on the arms of Kris Jenner, Diana Ross, Emma Watson, is fast becoming the most popular brand out of Egypt. Queen Bey herself flaunted her orange doom belt and shoulder bag with not one but three Instagram posts a few months ago. Prominent Egyptian celebrities like Yousra, Nelly Karim, and Amina Khalil have also joined Okhtein’s army of customers.

Prices range 1,000-6,000 EGP
11 Hassan Sabry St, Al Gabalayah, Zamalek, Giza 
You can follow them on Instagram here

Les Miniatures

It’s about time we purge our big bags of gum wrappers and months-old receipts, and consider one thing: downsizing. Les Miniatures' itsy-bitsy bags – who’s tagline is clearly ‘control your portions’ are super cute – they’re like tiaras for our hands. We’re lusting over their tiny leather and velvet half-moon and box bags with gold tree branch handles. “A handbag isn’t your luggage, it’s not just a way to transport your essentials; it’s a way to elevate your look,” tell us Farah Yasser and Hana Hazem, founders of Les Miniatures. 

Prices range 1,800-3,000 EGP
Available at Hype and Rax Concept store
You can follow them on Instagram here


These glamorous box clutches, rendered in mother of pearl and semi-precious stone, accurately describe our nights out. With these tiny, hard-case bags, you won’t be that girl constantly digging for your keys. And that’s not just why we love them – they shine as bright as diamonds, with no definite colour. “Anything that’s natural isn’t a fully solid colour. Interestingly enough, the lightening and surrounding effects the colour of bag,” says Dina El Sheikh, founder of Sadafa. We’ve always had the craftsmanship of mother of pearl inlay in Egypt – think of the tawla and your grandma’s jewellery boxes; “I wanted to revive that tradition because its slowly dying,” adds El Sheikh.   

Prices range 3,000-4,000 EGP
Available at Mounaya Galler, Rax Concept store and
You can follow them on Instagram here


Oozing a strong rock star vibe, this bag is the golden ticket to grab everyone's eye. We’re talking floral embellishments, pop patterns, crystal beads, studs, anything that makes a (very loud) statement. “I can have 10 or 15 different kinds of beads in one bag; all handmade. One of my main motivations is helping women who make the beading work from home. I trained them and I’ve been meeting with them three times a week for the past 5 years,” says Omnia Ezz El Arab, founder of Omni's. Their glossy snakeskin bag from looks far, far more expensive than its price tag. Omni’s high-quality leather bags can also be embossed with your name, initials or any symbol you choose.

Prices range 900-3,000 EGP
Available at
Mounaya Gallery, Rax Concept Store
You can follow them on Instagram here


If you're tired of the same-old handbag silhouette, opt for a playful Zaam piece. Grabbing fans (and fannies) Zaam’s double hip hugging accessories and leopard designs are really just begging for Instagram attention. “We get inspired from everything old, classic and vintage, we use real antiques at times and it’s all full of fashionable very heavy drama, we use real antiques at time,” tells us Ahmed Azzam, founder of Zaam. With cross printed leather and handmade copper elements these bags take the meaning of eye candy to a whole new level. 

Prices range 1,200-3,500 EGP
Available at
Ground floor of Galleria 40 El-Sheikh Zayed
You can follow them on Instagram here

Celine Daoud 

Celine Dawood’s clutches and ‘wallets on a chain’ are for when you're feeling extra—which should basically be every day. Exotic skins, suede, genuine leather, fabric, synthetic leather – you name it, Celine Dawdood uses it. While these bags don’t carry very much, they’re super stylish and make the perfect dinner companion.  “I had a big atelier specializing in wedding dresses. After having twins the business became too difficult to maintain but I loved my embroidery team so much – they were so good, I couldn’t let them go so we started making bags,” tells us Celine Daoud, founder of her eponymous brand. 

Prices range 1,300-3,500 EGP
Available at
Mounaya Gallery, Asfour ElNil  


This brand offers the essential ‘larger than life’ workhorse handbag. The kind Mary Poppins would be jealous of. The numerous pockets and an extra roominess makes the bag as practical as it is stylish and you won’t have to cry yourself to sleep every night as you attempt to pay off credit card debt. “I wanted to make bags that are fashion-forward using cool patterns and patches, but still for anyone spending the entire day out. We also have laptop cases and smaller versions of our big bags,” says Mostafa Magdy, founder of Palma.   

Prices range 350-575 EGP
Available online
You can follow them on Instagram here

Nevin Altmann

A mother-daughter business, blending traditional handmade embroidery with modern trends, Nevin Altmann truly puts Egypt’s rich history of handicrafts under the spot light. Nevin Altmann’s bags, pouches and shawls are ornamented with beautiful handmade additions from all over Egypt – like tassels from Aswan, beads from Sinai and gold plated copper jewellery. “We work with over 500 women from all over Egypt. It feels like community more than a business; all these women are like family to us, and they work from home at their own pace,” says Tamara Altmann, co-owner of Nevine Altmann.  

Prices range 1,500-2,500 EGP
3 Hassan Aassem Street Zamalek and 28 Road 233, Maadi
You can follow them on Instagram here


These beautifully study bags instantly elevate every outfit to Carrie Bradshaw status. With neat and clean design layouts, Manoya pretty much reigns supreme in the minimalist category. Put it this way, this bag is your classic catch and new favourite day-to-night accessory. “We’re inspired by simple Islamic motifs and you can tell from the subtle pattern. Quality comes first, so you can trust the durability of the product even with your whole life tucked in there,” says, Yasmine Abo Youssef, Noha Aly, May Kassem, founders of Manoya.

Prices range 2,000-3,000 EGP
Available online
You can follow them on Instagram here