NileGuide Expert Says:
Khan el Khalili Bazaar is Egypt in microcosm – exotic, friendly, overwhelming and chaotic! Try the fateers at the Egyptian Pancake House next to Al Azhar street for an authentic taste of Egypt, and make sure you check out the many local markets that spiral out from the main part of Khan el Khalili bazaar.
Off Hussein Square
(Across from El Azhar Mosque)
11211 Cairo, Egypt
Established in the 14th Century, and in constant use since then, Khan al-Khalili (or more simply, The Khan) is Egypt at its most intoxicating. Cairo has always been an important trade centre, and this tradition continues today in the bustling maze of alleys that forms Khan al-Khalili Bazaar.
The Khan itself is relatively small, and is largely devoted to tourists. There are souvenirs here for every taste and budget: spices, jewellery, inlaid mother-of-pearl boxes and backgammon sets, water pipes, scarves, lamps, delicate perfume bottles (and the perfume to go in them)… you can even get yourself a singing, dancing camel!
Be warned, though, the traders here are black belts at haggling – so be firm, but maintain your sense of humour and enjoy the experience for what it is: the raucous, beating heart of commerce the old-school way.
When the banter gets too much, relax in al-Fishawi Coffee Shop
with a water pipe and a strong Turkish coffee. This café has been open 24 hours a day since 1773, and Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz is said to have visited every day up to his death in 2006.
At the east end of the Khan is al-Hussein Square, home to the beautiful al-Hussein Mosque
. The western end is bound by Muizz li-Din Allah Street. You can head north to Bab al-Futuh
, past Islamic monuments such as al-Aqmar Mosque
and Beit al-Souhaymi
, or south towards Bab Zwayla
and the Street of the Tentmakers
. Leading west from Khan al-Khalili towards Ataba is al-Muski Street, a crazy local market that is well worth exploring.
To get to Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, take a taxi to al-Azhar Mosque
and cross the road via the underpass. The more adventurous traveller can walk up to the bazaar from Ataba Metro station, along al-Muski.