Of all the well-known places
in Cairo, the Khan el Kahlili Market is one of the most
original, if a bit overwhelming, areas to go to.
in 1382, as its history shows, the Khan el Khalili, or
“Khan,” was started by Emir Djaharks el-Khalili during the
era when the Fatimids governed Egypt. From that time on, the
market has developed and transformed, well known for its
ancient avenues, the shops selling everything from apparel
to spices to tourist souvenirs.
How could a place of commerce in Egypt be instrumental in
the founding of a nation known as the United States of
Maybe this very market was involved in the spice
monopoly under the power of the Mamluks,
the Europeans the idea and incentive to search for
new ways to get to the east and led the nation’s
founder, Christopher Columbus, to find the Americas.
Although this is all pure speculation, the
possibility is certainly interesting.
Named after the great Caravanserai, the Khan el
Khalili market was built in the later part of the
14th century by the Emir Djaharks el-Khalili in the
center of the Fatimid City.
Together with the al-Muski
market to the west, they made up one of Cairo's most
important commercial areas.
Aside from that, they
symbolize the market tradition which placed Cairo on the map
as a major center of trade, and at the Khan, you can still
find foreign merchants.
During this time, this area was also
the meeting place for subversive groups, often a target for
raids before the Sultan Ghawri renovated a lot of the area
in the early 16th century.
Nevertheless, it was
mercantilism which led to Cairo's early wealth, even
from the time of the Babylon fort which was
frequently a home of traders.
The Khan el Khalili
is located in one corner of a triangle of markets
that go south to Bab Zuwayla and west to Azbakiyyah.
The Khan is flanked on the south by al-Azhar Street
and on the west by the Muski Market. One of the
first and original gates blocks the entrance to the
original courtyard which lies in the middle of
Sikkit al-Badistan (street).
On a narrow street
leading off al-Badistand, one will find the El-Fishawi
Cafe, or Cafe of Mirrors, which was once a place of
congreagation for local artists, and is still
frequented by one of Egypt's most well known
authors, the Nobel Award winning Naguib Mahfouz.
There are a great number of canvas covered streets
in the area.
usually shop in the area north of al-Badistan and to the
west, where prices are much lower. Along the "street of the
goldsellers" better deals for gold and silver are to be
found west of the Khan. Walking further on you will find the
Brass and Coppersmith Markets.
The Khan el Khalili is perhaps on o the most memorable
places to visit in Cairo aside from the Great Pyramids.
Bargaining for goods in the Khan is expected, almost