Results 1-8of 8 Reviews
by Liam Hetherington
Manchester, United Kingdom
March 3, 2008
From journal Conquering Al-Qahira: a Walk Through Old Cairo
Cary, North Carolina
June 6, 2006
From journal Cairo: We're Literally in BFE!
by Elena V
Closter, New Jersey
February 14, 2006
From journal Walk Like an Egyptian
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
October 29, 2004
Built in 1382 by Garkas al-Khalili, Master of Horses, to Sultan Barquq, Khan al-Khalili is one of the biggest bazaars in the Middle East. This is the Oriental bazaar of fable, where gold, silver, brass, and copper goods glitter enticingly in the cave-like interiors, and sacks overflowing with exotic spices fill the air with their pungent scents. Its maze of narrow, canvas-covered alleyways is crammed with shops selling a huge variety of goods. You can also find traditional Egyptian crafts, such as dyeing, carving, and sewing, being practised here, as they have been for centuries.
Khan al-Khalili is also a major tourist attraction. Hordes of tourists arrive here by the coach loads to haggle and stock up on the kitschy trinkets and souvenirs that are sold in nearly every shop in the main part of the bazaar.
The bazaar grew up around several KHANs(also known as WIKALAs or CARAVANSERAI), which served as both warehouses and lodgings for travelling merchant caravans. Most have been swallowed up by later structures, but a few remain. The Wikala of al-Ghouri is Cairo's best preserved example of medieval merchant hostels and is now an arts-and-crafts centre, with its courtyard serving on occasion as a theatre.
On a side street off Sharia Muski, stairs lead to the upper level of the Wikala of Silahdar (1837), where the former living quarters can be made out, arranged around the central courtyard. Two carved stone gates in the Badestan area, added during the reign of Sultan al-Ghouri (1501-16), are the oldest surviving part of the Khan.
At noon, you can hear the prayer calls resounding throughout the Khan and echoed through the alleyways from the mosques that surround the Khan including:
-Mosque of al-Ashraf Barsbey (on Sharia al-Muizz Li-Din Allah): Built in 1423, it boasts a beautifully-carved wooden pulpit, inlaid with ivory.
-Mosque of al-Azhar (Sharia al-Azhar): Founded in AD 970, this mosque and centre for Islamic learning is one of the oldest in the city. The mosque displays a mix of architectural styles, including an18th century Gate of the Barbers.
-Mosque of Sayyidna al-Hussein: Next to Midan Hussein, this is the holiest site in Cairo. It is said to contain the head of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammed. It was built in 1870 on the site of a 12th century mosque and is off-limits to non-Muslims.
From journal Phascinating Pharoahs
Charlotte, North Carolina
May 9, 2004
At every step, you are propositioned by very aggressive hawkers. Everyone has the best deal or can take you to the best shop. Many times, you think a person is working for the shop next to you, but you find yourself being led to a shop several yards away. How you tell which shop is best is beyond me because there are so many places to buy the same things. I ended up buying a really nice backgammon and chess set, some nice but inexpensive jewelry, and a ton of souvenirs for friends and family back home. I probably paid too much for the stuff I got, but I didn’t feel like haggling too hard for everything. The little bit of extra money didn’t mean that much to me, but hopefully helped out the merchants, given the decrease in U.S. tourism to Egypt the last couple of years.
A few observations:
- You have to be firm. If you don’t want anything, politely but overtly say "No, thank you" and move on. You will not wear these people down by being passive. - Don’t jump on the first thing you see. Go to a few different places and see what the prices are. Feel out the merchants to see how much bargaining room there is. When you have done a little investigating, you are ready to jump into the intense negotiations that accompany every purchase.- Don’t be afraid to explore some of the less frequented alleys. Of course you should be careful and avoid being the only tourist, but many of the best shops are in more obscure parts of the market.- Take some time to enjoy the coffee at Fishawi's Café. It is a very famous café in the middle of the market. If you get a seat, you will have a great spot for people watching. Interestingly, Fishawi’s has been open for 200 straight years (day and night, 24 hours a day). The coffee is very strong!- It was pretty easy to get around and the people were very helpful when I asked for directions.- I particularly enjoyed visiting at night, but only after I got comfortable with the layout during the day.
From journal A Hectic Week in Cairo
June 30, 2002
From journal Deserted Egypt
February 28, 2002
We spent an hour or so at the bazaar before we boarded our train. We were accompanied by a different guide, another Mohammed, who we'd become familiar with over the last four days. He was a big, muscular guy, one of Cairo's handball champions, friendly, and more relaxed than our official guide. I felt totally protected with him around. We wandered the chaotic narrow streets as vendors urged us to enter their stall to "just have a look, no obligation."
Although guide books suggest that tourists offer 1/3 to 1/2 of the asking price when bartering, vendors seemed unwilling to negotiate on anything. At one point, we wandered into a stall and offered to pay half of the asking price, to which the vendor countered with another amount. We looked to Mohammed, as if to ask if that was a good price. The vendor began yelling at Mohammed, and threw us out of his stall. Obviously the vendors don't want Egyptians to mix with the tourists and give them the inside scoop as to the real value of a given item, so Mohammed lagged behind when we entered a stall. He said his very presence would ensure that we would get a fair price over unassisted tourists. Interesting. We didn't buy much of anything. Just spices and aromatic wood pulp for our fireplace back home.
There were several little cafes scattered about the bazaar, and we had ahwa at the renowned Fishawi's Teahouse somewhere in the interior of the maze. I wandered around on my own for about 15 minutes, making my husband nervous as no other foreign (or Egyptian) women were solo. There was one man who began following me, and continued to walk boldly beside me, even with Mohammed at my side. Guess he was just curious. I held my pocketbook a little closer nevertheless.
The funniest memory I have of our experience at Khan el Khalili was watching our guide fend off harassing vendors who thought he was American (guess it was his khaki pants and golf shirt). They tried to push little trinkets into his hands as we passed "a gift for you, my friend." He'd get irritated and tell them to bug off in Arabic. When they didn't listen, he'd tell them sharply "I'm Egyptian, I'm Egyptian" (in Arabic of course). One vendor persisted and successfully shoved something into Mohammed's pocket, then pleaded for money. Mohammed angrily stormed ahead to another vendor's stall, shoved the trinket into a barrel of plastic ornaments, then kept on walking. It was a kick to see someone else get harassed for a change, ironically an Egyptian!
Overall, I have to agree with the Lonely Planet book on this, "a great deal of it is simply tourist junk."
From journal Honeymoon in Cairo
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
November 19, 2000
Khan el-Khalili, once known as the Turkish bazaar during the Ottoman period, is the market situated at one corner of a triangle of markets that go south to Bab Zuwayla and west to Azbakiyyah. The Khan is bordered on the south by al-Azhar Street and on the west by the Muski Market.
From journal Cairo, starting point to a travel in history