The Essential Guide to Cairo's Khan El-Khalili Market

Khan El Khalili Market © V Manninen / flickr
Khan El Khalili Market © V Manninen / flickr
Photo of Sarah Marzouk
7 March 2017

Established in the 14th century, Khan El-Khalili in Old Cairo has always been an important district for cultural and economic activities. Here is your guide to Khan El-Khalili market and the surrounding area.

Historic cafés

There is a great number of cultural and historic structures in Khan El-Khalili. So, it’s no surprise that the area has featured in many movies and literary works such as Naguib Mafhouz‘s famous novel Midaq Alley. Once you’re there, you’ll be steps away from Muizz Street which has many examples of medieval Islamic architecture. You’re also close to Al-Hussein Mosque as well as Wekalet El Ghouri, and Al-Azhar market. It’s like stepping back in time to medieval Cairo.

Khan El-Khalili | © Joelsuganth / wikipedia

A variety of items to buy

While strolling the market, you may find your eyes becoming lost between the unique mix of merchandise displayed in shops and allies. There is a variety of goods — from sparkling silverware, gold artifacts and antiques, to stained glass lamps, incense, handmade accessories and ancient Pharaoh souvenirs. Also, the soft touch of the handmade carpets will take your breath away. There are also districts for gold-selling, copper-made things and spice-selling.

Small souvenirs at Khan El Khalili | © Ahmed.aldahshoury / wikimedia

Where to go

The spot is home to many old cafés and you won’t know which of them to try first. There’s El-Fishawi cafe, one of the oldest in Cairo (established in 1797) and one of Naguib Mahfouz’s favorite cafés. Also worth checking out is El-lord café where you’ll get to enjoy Umm Kulthum‘s awesome songs all the time. As for food, there is a plethora of places serving traditional Egyptian food.

Al Fishawi Cafe | © Michał Huniewicz / flickr

Enjoy different kinds of activities

You’ll have a new type experience if you’re lucky enough to go the area at the same time as the Mawlid Al-Hussein celebrations, which is a Sufi celebration of Imam Hussein’s birth. During this time, Sufists perform litanies and do other traditional activities. A few steps away you’ll find Wekalet El- Ghouri where you’ll enjoy another type of Sufi spiritual activity, the Tannoura show. There are also many carnivals taking place in Muizz Street every now and then.

How to go there

As Cairo’s Khan El Khalili Market is located in the heart of the city, it won’t be that hard to follow one of the public transportation routes to get there. If you want to save yourself the hassle, you can just order Uber or take a taxi. The metro is one of the easiest means, just reach Ataba Station and you’re almost there. From Ataba you’ll be minutes away, so you can either decide to walk, take a taxi or take one of those small micro-buses right in front of the station. You can also take a bus from Ramses station or Tahrir Square.

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