Located in the ancient teaming center of Islamic Cairo is the large and beautiful Khan Al-Khalili Souk. I visited here with fellow travelers in February 2016. It became a souk sometime in the 14th century after being a mausoleum and various other things over its long history.
There are quite a few spots to see along the way, one of the main entrances to the souk is the large and beautiful Imam Hussein Mosque. There is a large courtyard here with lots of Egyptians going about their day and cafes nearby as well. The mosque also has beautiful umbrellas that open with the sun (similar to ones that exist in Medina Munawara in Saudi Arabia) to shade worshippers when the main mosque overflows. Unfortunately, it is not open to non-Muslims so those visitors will need to only admire it from the outside.
Nearby, however, it the impressive Al-Azhr University and Mosque which does allow visitors. It is a beautiful set of structures and you can watch students and teachers wander about there day and listening to lectures.
The market is generally bustling throughout the day, however, these days you are more likely to only find locals shopping for home goods than the usual hordes of tourists. Egypt is still engaged in a very significant downturn from the recent years of turmoil. This is good for the shrewd bargainer but sadly bad for businesses and the local economy. Expect to be sold hard when you are traveling through. Don’t let that discourage you however as the souk is very worthwhile to see and wander on a beautiful Cairo day.
You will find quite a few locals shopping here but these days the shops do tend to focus more on tourist goods. Expect to find local goods as well as the general run of the mill tourist stuff.
Other practical information:
The souk is open generally from early morning to late in the day most of the week. However, as with most Muslim countries, expect the souk to not open on Fridays until well after Friday Prayer (usually opening about 3-4pm).
People are going to want to sell to you and obviously, that can be a bit tough if you are wandering about. Sadly with the economy so, bad people may be more aggressive than usual. I found the shopkeepers to be generally friendly if you engage with them and it is wonderful getting the chance to talk and hear more about their stories in Cairo.
Be careful with quality. There is a large difference in quality across the souk. You may perhaps want to try to find more authentic local goods in other stores around the city.
If you are looking for a good respite from the day, be sure to check out the beautiful Naguib Mahfouz Café run by the Oberoi Hotel Group. It is a beautiful little oasis within the market. It has great food from local various smoked meats, to hummus, rice, drinks and more. A bit on the pricier side compared to other local options but with great food and impeccable service.
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