In a city as vast and sprawling as Cairo one could easily get lost in a simple neighborhood, imagine then a massive market or souk that is centuries old spanning several neighborhoods and touching up against all the famed sites in the ancient city. Such is the length and breadth of the Kahn Al-Khalili market.
This bazaar is the site of famed craftsmanship in glass, jewelry, spices and the tenets of ancient trade. It is also a place ridden with scammers, fake goods and exaggeration which knows no bounds. Still all of this makes for an attractive experience, it is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike and with some patience and curiosity one can begin to understand what makes the place so unique.
Historically this market has been moving goods for almost a millennium. It is the place for food, clothing, cafes and furnishings in the heart of the city. There are several ways to approach the market for tourists and all of them take some preparation. Know that many products are mass produced and cheap, still they may look like wonderful souvenirs to bring home and are quite affordable. There are also one of a kind crafts and custom made rarities, but these will be pricier and one might do well with a guide to guarantee authenticity and a proper price.
For the run of the mill souvenirs and for the good stuff too, don’t be afraid to haggle. The price is always negotiable on anything and that is what few tourists fail to realize. Many in fact would rather not bargain because it may seem rude or even insulting since the prices are already affordable compared to many other souvenirs around the world. The point is however shop keeps expect one to haggle and it is part of the culture, impassioned discussions over value and feigned attempts to walk away are all part of the act, so play along and enjoy the process and see what deals you can get.
To reach the Khan approach it from al-Azhar Street to the South or from the Muski Market on the West end. One indispensible site within the market is El-Fishawi Cafe, or Cafe of Mirrors, which was once a meeting place for local artists, and even some modern ones too. Parts of the market are in open air, under canvas or under building archways. The Western End of the market is famed for the street of the goldsellers and similar streets sell other precious metalworks too.
The markets hours are mostly sunrise to sunset but may carry on later. Friday it is closed and don’t worry if you are lost or are looking to find something specific, the vendors know each others shops well and are good at recommending places, just be sure and know you may have limitless options because the market is so vast and diverse.