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Khan el Khalili is one of these vibrant places that you must visit once in Cairo. It is also an opportunity to see the city's face in all its intensity, with people walking all over the place, dozens of small cafes, sellers trying to sell their products, buyers bargaining, etc. Don't miss it!
Khan el Khalili is a souk, a local market. But is not just any souk, it is very special because it is the oldest in Egypt, perhaps in the Middle East. It was founded in the XIV century and even though it has changed throughout the centuries it still holds original parts and, of course, has a rich story.
What is Khan El Khalili's background?
Khan el Khalili as we know it today is a famous souk but it hasn't always been like this. In the beginning, there was a mausoleum and a palace in the area, built by the Fatimid dynasty in 970. But during the Mamluk invasion Egypt was placed as an important route and commercial centres were built. Consequently the Fatimid cemetery was destroyed in the XIV century to give place to caravan hotels (some original parts can still be seen).
But around 1511 Khan el Khalili was about to change. It was demolished and rebuilt with big entrance gates e organized streets. More varied products were incorporated to the market style and it still is like this nowadays.
What to do in Khan El Khalili?
Khan el Khalili is an invitation to exploration. It is the perfect place to buy souvenirs, jewellery, spices, scarves, and exclusive regional products. But visit the place with plenty of time and lots of patience if you want to find specific things. Prices will vary and it is necessary to bargain. Most of sellers deal with money only, so do not rely on credit or debit cards.
If shopping is not part of your interest, enjoy the opportunity to walk around this historical place. Visit Al-Hussein Mosque, built in 1154 and considered one of the most sacred places in Cairo. Watch the Tanoura show in Wekalet el-Ghori or sit down in one of the many cafes and enjoy some tea time. Khan el Khalili is home of many traditional cafes, including the oldest in Egypt.
Sure. You will find plenty of restaurants specially nearby Al-Hussein Mosque. There are also many cafes. One of the hot spots is Fishwai's Coffee Shop, the oldest in Egypt, founded in 1773. Many personalities sat down around its tables, from singers, politicians and writers.
Where is Khan El Khalili?
In Islamic Cairo. Best ways to get there are by taxi or metro.
Is it worth to visit Khan EL Khalili?
Definitely yes. You can feel the real Cairo vibes in Khan el Khalili, and it is considered a must-go place. It is not just a place for shopping, it is an opportunity to integrate with locals and the city itself.
Any tips before visiting Khan El Khalili?
Khan el Khalili is definitely a fascinating place, but you should pay attention to some tips before visiting the market. First, get prepared to bargain - a lot. Most products will not be priced and you should not accept the first price sellers tell you. It is fine, this is expected. Bargaining is nearly a sport in the Khan. If you are not satisfied with the final offer do not feel embarrassed about walking away. Be polite yet firm in your decision.
Next, take care of your belongings. This goes without saying in any crowded place. Don't worry, in general, the souk is considered safe but extra care is always welcome.
Either you are visiting Khan alone or with a tour guide be aware of taxis around the souk. It is always better to order a cab after walking few meters away or if taking a street cab ensure counting meter is turned on or just pre-establish price with the driver prior starting your trip.