Established in the 14th century, the Khan El-Khalili market in Cairo has always been an important district for cultural and economic activity. Here’s your guide to Khan El-Khalili and the surrounding area.
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There are a great number of cultural and historic structures in Khan El-Khalili, so it’s no surprise the area has featured in many movies and literary works such as Naguib Mafhouz’s novel Midaq Alley. Once you’re there, you’ll be steps 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.
While strolling the market, you may find your eyes becoming lost among the mix of merchandise on display. There are a variety of goods to purchase here – from sparkling silverware, gold artefacts and antiques, to stained-glass lamps, incense and handmade accessories. Also, the soft touch of the handmade carpets will take your breath away. There are also dedicated districts for gold, copper and spices.
The spot is home to many old cafes and you won’t know which to try first. There’s El-Fishawi, one of the oldest in Cairo (established in 1797) and one of Naguib Mahfouz’s favorite cafes. Also worth checking out is El-lord where you’ll get to enjoy the songs of Umm Kulthum. As for food, there are plenty of places serving traditional Egyptian food.
You’ll be guaranteed a fresh experience if you’re lucky enough to visit the market at the same time as the Mawlid Al-Hussein, a Sufi celebration of Imam Hussein’s birth. During this time, Sufists perform litanies and take part in other traditional activities. A few steps away you’ll find Wekalet El- Ghouri where you can enjoy another type of Sufi spiritual activity, the Tannoura show. Carnivals take place in Muizz Street every now and then, too.
As Khan El Khalili Market is located in the heart of Cairo, it isn’t hard to follow one of the public transportation routes to get there. If you want to save yourself the hassle, order an 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 walk, take a taxi or jump in one of the micro-buses right in front of the station. You can also take a bus from Ramses station or Tahrir Square.