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Cairo - Khan el-Khalili


Khan el-Khalili
is for many the most entertaining part of Cairo. It is an ancient shopping area, nothing less, but some of the shops have also their own little factories or workshops.

The suq (which is the Arabic name for bazar, or market) dates back to 1382, when Emir Djaharks el-Khalili built a big caravanserai (or khan) right here. A caravanseri was a sort of hotel for traders, and usually the focal point for economic activity for any surrounding area. This caravanserai is still there, you just ask for the narrow street of Sikka Khan el-Khalili and Badestan.
As for the suq, you can easily grasp most of its charm and possibilities by wandering about. You do not need a guide, not even a guide book. Should you get lost, just keep going in one direction, and you will quickly come out of the maze, and close to a taxi.

Shopping is almost compulsory in Khan el-Khalili. Since the decline in Western tourism to Egypt in recent years, prices in Khan el-Khalili has dropped, but the intensity of the shop keepers has increased. The golden rule is, check the range of goods and prices in several shops before you buy, keep your head calm and stay friendly. And remember: you should never feel that you insult or disappoint a seller by not buying. After all, it is your money.

There are items you should check out here, and items you better avoid. Clothes are cheap, spices are of good quality and affordable, souvenirs of just as good quality as in the hotel lobby, but at a better price. Jewellery is a matter of taste, some might find the work a bit too crude, and the colour of the gold might be to goldy for some. The perfume shops sell copies of virtually all international Western perfumes, but the quality is not good. Chances are that your bottle of expensive drops will smell like spearmint.

While all of Khan el-Khalili is an attraction, there are some local sights. The most treasured for visitors is Fishawi's cafe, which you can count on being open when you get there: It has been continuously open, day and night, for more than 200 years. Its interior is charming, claustrophobic but with mirrors almost everywhere.
For readers of Nobel prize laureate Naguib Mahfouz, Khan el-Khalili is the place of Midaq Alley. Start in Sharia al-Mu'izz, find the Sharia Sanadiqiyah, and look out for the first passage to the left. This is it. When the novel was filmed (not the Mexican version), this narrow strip of road was rightfully the location.
 
Islamic CairoPharaonic Cairo
 
 
 

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