Explore Cairo

Five Cool Cairo Markets You Might Not Know

Things to Do, Travel Tips — By Pharaonick on July 30, 2010 at 7:28 pm
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Cairo is famous for its [insert cliché here... I favour “bustling”] bazaars. But everyone has heard of places like Khan al-Khalili and The Street of the Tentmakers. Here are five you might not know.

The Friday Market

What is it and why is it awesome?
A huge, weekly market between the Citadel and the City of the Dead selling everything from live snakes to antiques, knock-off clothing to (probably stolen) bikes, and hardware to broken computer monitors.

Why is it unknown?
It’s not exactly unknown, it’s more that people don’t bother to go there. Well, except for the tens of thousands of poor to middle class Egyptians who descend on it each week. Tourists don’t tend to go there often because it’s a way off the beaten path, and most people they meet will try to dissuade them from going, claiming it’s dangerous (it’s not) and full of thieves (maybe).

Who wouldn’t like it?
People who don’t like crowds (it gets Rock concert busy), people who can’t take seeing dogs in cages or live animals being bought and sold for food, people who don’t like chaos and dirt, people who don’t like to feel out of place.

Al-Azbakiya Book Market

What is it and why is it awesome?
A second hand book market next to Ataba Metro station, where as well as new and second hand books in Arabic, English and other languages, you can also unearth old photographs, film posters and magazines.

Why is it unknown?
Again, it’s not really unknown, it’s just that few tourists visit. But it’s well worth going, especially if you are planning on exploring the Ataba market area or walking to Khan al-Khalili.

Who wouldn’t like it?
People who aren’t interested in rummaging around piles of old books and photos – because rummage you must, if you want to turn up the real gems.

Wikalit al-Balah

What is it and why is it awesome?
A varied and busy market just north of Downtown, best known for its textiles. This is the place to go if you want to buy some fabric to get made into clothing.

Why is it unknown?
Unless you’re a real market-o-phile (yes, I made a word up) there’s no real reason to have heard of it. Plus it’s not in an area that tourists tend to frequent, unless you are staying at the Conrad Hotel, visiting Tamarai, or heading to Turgamon Bus Station.

Who wouldn’t like it?
Anyone who doesn’t care much for markets, crowd, dirt and noise. Or fabric!

Al-Muski

What is it and why is it awesome?
Busy market street that links Khan al-Khalili and Ataba Square. Interesting because if you start at the Khan end, you can see the transition from tourist tat to local goods – mainly household stuff, clothing… and fireworks!

Why is it unknown?
Not unknown, just unappreciated. Which isn’t surprising, given all the other amazing sights there are in Islamic Cairo.

Who wouldn’t like it?
Anyone who doesn’t enjoy being elbowed in the stomach whilst dodging bicycles carrying bread, push carts carrying God-knows-what, and tea-sellers.

Suleiman Gohar

What is it and why is it awesome?
Food market in Doqqi. It’s awesome because you can experience a traditional, very local food market that although really busy is not too big, and is in an accessible and non-threatening area. (Note that very few places in Cairo are threatening; but Soleiman Gohar is in a relatively touristy spot.)

Why is it unknown?
Why would holiday makers think to visit a food market when eating out is so cheap?

Who wouldn’t like it?
Anyone who doesn’t like the sight of offal or fish lying about in the sun, or who doesn’t like evading cars on narrow, cramped roads.

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If you enjoyed this post, make sure to check out the Top 10 Markets in Cairo guide.

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Note: Photo of the cloth used for Wikalit al-Balah taken from flickr Creative Commons, by milele. All other photos by the author.

Tags: al-Muski, Azbakiya Book Market, bazaar, Friday Market, Khan al-Khalili, market, Suleiman Gohar, Wikalit al-Balah

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