Khan El-Khalili is the largest and one of the oldest bazaars in the middle east. Khan El-Khalili is Cairo’s labyrinthine and most famous tourist market. Khan El-Khalili is bounded on the east by Sayyidna Al-Hussein and on the south by Muski street. Khan and Muski are two terms used interchangeably by foreigners and Egyptians alike, but they are actually two different adjoining bazaar areas.
Khan means caravanserai. The original khan was built in 1382 by Barquq’s Master of Horses, the Amir (prince) Garkas Al-Khalili, hence the name Khan El-Khalili. You can still see vestiges of the Mamluk structure and early additions here and there. Khan El-Khalili was closed to common people during the Fatimid period. It was made open to the public by Saladin (1174-1193) when he became a sultan.
Historically, Khan El-Khalili has always been a resort for foreign merchants, Armenians, Jews, Persians, and non-Egyptian Arabs. In recent years, however, its composition has changed. Khan El-Khalili is occupied by local merchants and traders. Although less widespread than in earlier days, many craftsmen’ workshops continue to operate within the bazaar or in the surrounding districts. There is still a considerable variety of souvenirs, antiques, and jewelry offered for sale. Except for gold, which is sold by weight. No prices are fixed and bargaining is usually possible.
There are lots of restaurants and coffee shops throughout the market. The famous Fishawi’s Coffee Shop, just off Sayyidna Al-Hussein Square, when one can still have a cup of mint tea, Turkish/Arabic coffee, and shisha (water-pipe/hookah) and gaze at an incredible assortment of objects hanging from the ceiling, is sadly truncated today. If you’re interested in buying something, better to bargain, and bargain a lot.