Khan El Khalili is one of the most popular historical tourist markets in the whole world. Visited by numerous tourists who spend their vacation in Egypt, the market has turned throughout the years to be one of the attractions of the Nile land included in almost all tours to Egypt.
Travelers from all over the world who spend their holidays in Egypt visit Khan El Khalili to buy Egyptian style gifts and souvenirs.
There isn’t a single type of gifts and souvenirs that are not sold in Khan El Khalili. Anything a tourist dreams to buy can actually be found in the Khan, from the simplest items like small bracelets to the most precious goods like gold and silver.
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Khan El Khalili is situated in the heart of Islamic Cairo. Surrounded by a number of wonderful Islamic monuments like El Azhar Mosque, El Hussein Mosque, the Complex of Qalaun, and Al Aqmar Mosque. The Khan El Khalili touristic market is almost open for 24 hours a day 7 days a week, except for Sundays where most of the shops close, to serve tourists coming from all over the world to visit Egypt.
A traveler during his tour in Cairo can easily reach Khan El Khalili by a taxi from anywhere in Cairo or using Uber application for private cars. The traveler would leave the taxi near El Hussein Mosque and then start his tour of the market walking, exploring different shops, and resting in one of the oriental cafes spread all over the market.
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Khan El Khalili was established by the Mamluk Sultan Jahrkas El Khalili at the end of the 14th century exactly in 1382 on the ruins of a Fatimid graveyard that was called “El Za’afran tombs” that was relocated by Sultan Qalaun around 100 years before the establishment of the market.
Some historians claim that this famous touristic market derived its name from the fact that many residences of the El Khalil city in Palestine immigrated to the Khan when it was first established and this was why it was called Khan El Khalili or the market of the people coming from El Khalil. While most of the scholars assert that the name was derived from the establisher of the market, Jahrkas El Khalili.
When Al-Maqrizi, the famous Arabian historian visited Egypt at the end of the 14th century, he described Khan El Khalili is a common Wikala or market in its outline. He said it consisted of a square-shaped building with an open courtyard in the middle. The building consisted of two floors; the first was specified for the shops, while the second floor was for the storage of the goods and the residence of the tradesmen.
However, the market of Khan El Khalili we see today was actually constructed by Sultan El Ghory who destructed the Wikala that was established by Jahrkas El Khalili in the year 1511 and built many stores and shops instead with three gates connecting the market altogether.
Khan El Khalili is featured with its large number of small shops that are attached to each other with narrow lanes that connect the different parts of the market where all the gifts and souvenirs that might interest the tourists who travel to Egypt are sold.
In fact, there isn’t a single type of gifts and souvenirs that are not sold in Khan El Khalili. Anything a tourist dreams to buy can actually be found in the Khan, from the simplest items like small bracelets to the most precious goods like gold and silver.
The goods sold in Khan El Khalili include replicas of Pharaonic statues and artifacts, plates, jewelry, and different items made out of copper; as a section of Khan El Khalili was actually called El Nahaseen, or the copper makers.
There are also many shops that sell leather products like bags, wallets, jackets, and different outfits. Not only tourists who spend their vacation in Egypt visit Khan El Khalili, but also a large number of Egyptians visit the market for shopping or to spend a wonderful time with the family or friends.
Khan El Khalili also houses a large number of traditional Egyptian handcrafts and antiques like handmade carpets, glass, crystal, and papyrus paper, simple jewelry and golden and silver items. These handcrafts can hardly be found anywhere else in Egypt with this variety of products, tastes, and prices.
Khan El Khalili is like a carnival of goods and wonderful tints of different colorful outfits and dresses which are sold all over the Khan for the tourists who are fond of the traditional Egyptian galabeya. There are also a number of shops that sell musical instruments including the famous Oud, oriental drums or tabla and many stores that specify in belly dancing outfits, which are considered, among the goods that attract many tourists especially the children the young aged.
It’s not only the wonderful scenery that welcomes the tourists spending their vacation in Egypt when they visit Khan El Khalili, but the market is also famous for its magnificent odor. This is because the market is also specialized in selling the most wonderful oriental perfumes like amber, jasmine, and different flower perfumes. These perfumes are put into colorful bottles with different attractive shapes that make a wonderful gift for the tourists to take back home.
There are also the finest spices and herbs which are sold in Khan El Khalili market. The herbs tradesmen claim that they have a remedy for all diseases one can think of. This is besides herbs that have magical effects as well.
After a long walk shopping all over Khan El Khalili, the tourists usually rest in one of the oriental cafes in the Khan. The most famous among these cafes is the El Fishawy Cafe that was actually established in 1769. The guests can sit in an awesome ambiance, smoke a Shisha, and have a wonderful Turkish coffee, Sahlab, one of the most popular Egyptian drinks, different fresh tasty juices, various types of tea and coffee.