Khan El Khalili Market: what to buy, what to visit

Posted On : 01/03/2023 Kate Clark 50
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No visit to Cairo is complete without taking the classic Khan Al-Khalili market tour. The Khan al-Khalili district is the main market in the Islamic district of Cairo and is one of the most important attractions for tourists and Egyptians where you can go on a shopping tour. This colorful, noisy, busy and exciting market offers all manner of wares and glittering knick-knacks. 

You can find the typical tourist items, but don't get distracted and focus instead on more refined purchases than on simple items that can also be found elsewhere. For example, in the adjacent spice market you can buy herbs of all kinds.

Test your bargaining skills when you would like to buy souvenirs such as figurines, spices, silver jewelry, T-shirts, galabiyya, belly dance costumes or anything else.

Khan el khalili in Cairo

The perfume market is overflowing with endless blends of essences and essential oils. Further towards the central part, you will find the greatest variety of products and stalls starting from gold sellers, through cloth sellers to carpet traders and literally anything you could wish for.

Don't be afraid to get lost or confused among the myriad of products, the Khan Al-Khalili market is a real neighborhood, where everyone knows each other, people are welcoming and supportive of each other: if you don't find what you are looking for, don't hesitate to ask the merchants themselves, as they are very likely to know where you might find it.

Even if you are not in the mood for shopping, we still suggest you take a walk in the winding alleys of this labyrinthine district, you will surely find something that will attract your attention.

We have no doubts about it and even if you find nothing at all, it is still worth wandering around the area to see the ancient buildings, mosques, palaces, museums, traditional restaurants and cafes found in the area. 

Above all, you will also be able to feast your eyes by observing the lively colors that characterize this place, as well as breathe an air of sincere joy.

Old cairo and khan el khalil old bazaar

This market dates back to the 14th century, to be exact when Emir Dajaharks Al-Khalili had the shopping complex built near the site of the tomb of Zaafran, the traditional burial place of Egypt's Fatimid rulers.

This structure was part of a rebuilding project undertaken by Sultan Barquq (1382-1399) to help the city recover from the devastation caused by the Black Death during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. 

Khan al-Khalili was built in the most important area of economic activity at the heart of the city of Cairo, and later the sultans built later commercial enterprises near it, including the office of Sultan Qaitbay south of the Al-Azhar mosque, the agency of Sultan al-Ghuri and the Kasbah area and which is now known as Al-Muizz Street.

Today the market has modernized significantly, but there are still parts that show the original architectural style of the Mamluk era, characterized by arched doorways and wide vaulted ceilings.

What to buy and what to do at khan el khalili market?

As already mentioned, the market has several restaurants and cafes scattered throughout where you can take a break from shopping. El Fishawy, this is the name of the oldest cafe in Cairo, adorned with huge mirrors and antique furniture. Even the famous writer and Nobel prize winner Naguib Mahfouz used to frequent this place. 

Given the fame of the author and his habit of frequenting the area, an exclusive and refined restaurant in the market bears his name. Khan Al Khalili is located next to Midan Hussein, the square facing the homonymous mosque, which also houses numerous shops and restaurants. 

Khan al-Khalili is notable for its old-fashioned mashrabiyas facing the street, as well as the streets are paved with bright black basalt stone and the market is covered with wood.

The shops are stacked next to each other to form vaults full of objects and masterpieces of craftsmanship. You will also find Pharaonic statues and relics and the Khan's famous Arabian perfumes and incense such as amber and jasmine.

A curiosity, Khan Al Khalili and Hussein are adjacent, but usually the Egyptians refer to the whole area as al Hussein, while Khan Al Khalili is the name by which the whole area is usually designated in the context of tourism.

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By Kate Clark

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