Boy selling bread in the Khan-el-Khalili bazaar

The Khan El Khalili Bazaar – There’s No Other Market Like It

Khan El Khalili bazaar is located in the Islamic district of Cairo. It is said to be the oldest open air market in the Middle East, and a must see Cairo tourist attraction.

When people think of Egypt, they typically think of the pyramids and other similar attractions such as the Sphinx, but the truth is, there is so much more to see in this ancient land of the pharaohs. Khan El Khalili is in fact a prime example. More people visit the bazaar than any other attraction in the country, but this is of course because the bazaar is equally as popular between tourists and locals alike.

A Brief History of Khan El Khalili

Located in the Islamic district of Cairo, Khan El Khalili bazaar was originally built to serve as a mausoleum for the Fatimid royal family, and was at that time a part of the Great Eastern Fatimid Palace which was built in 970 CE.

By the 14th century when the first Mamluk sultan ruled the country, Egypt had been ravaged by the Black Death. Nonetheless, it continued to act as a major trade center, and as a result, several commercial properties were constructed. By 1389 the original Fatimid cemetery had been destroyed in order to make way for a large caravanserai.

The original caravanserai can still be seen at Khan El Khalili to this day although most shoppers have little interest in the colorful history of this charismatic bazaar. Instead, most locals are only interested in securing the best possible deals, in a place where haggling is the order of the day.

Most Egyptian package tours include a tour of Khan El-Khalili bazaar and if not our flexible packages can be tailored to include a guided tour of the bazaar. However, our many years of experience have shown us that many tourists prefer to explore the market by themselves during their stay in Cairo. For this reason, most of our Egypt tour packages include at least a few days in Cairo.

The original bazaar built by El Khalili was demolished and then rebuilt in 1511. The trading hub was built complete with massive gates and several perpendicular streets, in much the same was as many other Ottoman era market places. While the market was originally built for the sale of luxury goods, vendors selling other wares soon began making an appearance.

Khan El-Khalili Bazaar As It Stands Today

The market is famous for clothing, spices, traditional jewelry and perfumes. The items are of high quality which is part of the reason that this market has survived for so long.

The bazaar is far from being a tourist trap even though there are plenty of souvenirs available. However, many of the high quality clothes; fabrics and other items that are made by local artisans often prove to be the best souvenirs since they are a part of Egyptian culture, and as such, they are bought daily by the countless locals shopping at the bazaar.

A Full Day Of True Egyptian Culture

The Khan El Khalili bazaar is a great place to while away an entire day. The sights and sounds are enduring examples of true Egyptian culture that has been thriving for hundreds of years.

For a break from the heat, there are plenty of coffee shops along the street. Egyptians like their coffee strong, so be prepared for quite a jolt from their favored drink, but also prepare for some of the most exotic tasting coffee you’ll ever have. If you do favor a cup or two of quality Arabic coffee, be sure to visit Fishawi’s Coffee Shop. This coffee shop has been open since 1773, making it the oldest coffee shop in all of Egypt.

Understanding The Workings Of A Souk

Open air markets such as Khan El Khalili and the other markets in Old Cairo are called a “souk” in Arabic. You’ll find these types of markets in all Middle Eastern countries, but as already mentioned, the Khan El Khalili Bazaar is one of the oldest; biggest, and certainly most famous of them all.  The tradition of buying and selling, haggling and bargaining among the crowds has being going on for centuries already.

Many tourists often tend to feel somewhat intimidated by the whole process of having to haggle for better prices, but the truth is, once you become accustomed to it, it can be a really fun experience. Bargaining and haggling is more than just a consumer activity in Egypt. It’s a great way to socialize and meet new people, keeping in mind that haggling is always done in a good natured way with plenty of smiling and laughing.

Nearby Tourist Attractions

Al-Hussein Mosque is located just a stone throw away from the bazaar, and definitely worth a visit if you still have time to spare after your fun filled day at the bazaar. Built in 1154 on a cemetery belonging to the Fatimid caliphs, the mosque is today considered to be one of the holiest Islamic sites in Cairo. It is also believed to contain the world’s oldest manuscript of the Quran.

Please remember to respect local customs if you visit the mosque, and keep in mind that women need to cover up prior to entering any mosque, regardless of what country you are in. Most mosques can proving head scarves and etc. if necessary.

Experience the Best of Egypt

From one of the Middle East’s oldest bazaars to ancient pyramids; temples; mosques and monasteries, Egypt has it all. Whether you want to spend your Egyptian vacation in the lap of luxury, or whether you’re going in search of adventure, we can make your dream come true.

We’ve been providing high quality Egypt package tours and custom tours of Egypt since 1955. With so much experience behind us, nobody is better equipped than we are for providing you with a holiday of a lifetime. Come join us in Egypt and soak up the atmosphere of the Khan El Khalili Bazaar during your stay.