Khan Al-Khalili is a large market in Cairo’s Muslim district, one of the city’s brightest attractions. The square occupied by Khan al-Khalili originally housed the Saffron Tomb grave, the burial place of the Fatimid caliphs. In 1382, Emir Al-Khalili ordered the destruction of the Fatimid cemetery in order to build a large caravan serai. At that time it was the central region of Cairo, the center of trade and economic activity. Later, numerous trade establishments were built here. By the end of the 15th century, the area became a major center for foreign trade, which included the sale of slaves and precious stones.
Sultan Al-Ghuri (1501-1516) carried out a large-scale campaign to demolish dilapidated, chaotic buildings and reconstruction of the city, and therefore the design of the quarter was changed. Al-Khalili was destroyed along with all the religious and burial complexes built by this period. In 1511, a shopping complex with monumental gates and perpendicular streets was erected in its place, resembling similar establishments in Ottoman cities. From the original market and caravanserai of the 14th century, the arches of the gates and the upper floors of the adjacent ancient office building – Al-Kutn (cotton gates) remained partially preserved. Two other monumental buildings – the Bab al-Badistan and Bab al-Ghuri gates, date from the beginning of the 16th century.
With the beginning of Al-Ghuri rule, the district became associated with Turkish traders, during the Ottoman period the Turkish community of Cairo settled here. The Khan El-Khalili market today is predominantly occupied by Egyptian rather than foreign sellers, who are essentially tourist-oriented. The stores usually sell souvenirs, antiques and jewelry, there is a separate “golden market”.
In addition to shops, there are several cafes with traditional cuisine on the market, many trays with street food, coffee shops offer the Arabic version of a popular drink and a hookah. One of the oldest and most famous cafes – Fishawi, opened in 1773. Al Hussein and Al Azhar mosques are nearby.
In general, the range of goods in the market has changed surprisingly little over the centuries. The slave market was closed in 1870, and you will no longer find any jewelry, silks or diamonds here, but clothing is still a popular commodity. The thick aroma of spices is inseparable from El Muizz-li-Din-Allah Street, where the counters are full of colorful seeds, pods, peas and powders. Further, to the east, on the same street, the copper smiths minted dishes and cups, here they create miniature coffee pots and huge crescents, which are crowned with the tops of minarets. Whatever you buy, you will have to bargain. This is a bazaar ritual that is equally obligatory for both a local resident and a foreign guest.
To get some rest from the market noise, you can take refuge in Fishawi’s, the oldest and most famous coffee house in Cairo, located in a narrow passage one block north of El Hussein Square. The coffee shop is open 24 hours a day, but it really comes to life only late in the evening, when most of the visitors leave, and the locals take their places. One of the famous regulars of this place was the writer Naguib Mahfouz. He spent his childhood nearby, and later he collected literary evenings in the back room of the coffee house every week. Right around the corner there is a more comfortable for tourists cafe called “Naguib Mahfouz”. The Khan El Khalili restaurant in the same building is a great place for lunch