With a history dating back to the 14th century, the Khan Al-Khalili bazaar is Cairo’s signature shopping destination. It’s an intoxicating warren of streets, houses, and merchants selling everything from gold and spices to shisha pipes and toy camels, not to mention the inevitable scarabs, pyramids, and belly-dancer costumes.
Khan Al-Khalili is an essential stop on Old Cairo and Islamic Cairo tours and a focal point of any Cairo shopping tour. Enjoy it with a guide, who can help you navigate the narrow passageways, advise on quality goods, and identify the many historic buildings within the souk. Walking tours typically visit the nearby Sultan Hassan Mosque and Al-Azhar Mosque, while Islamic Cairo tours often include the Citadel of Saladin, the Alabaster Mosque, and the Mosque of Ibn Tulun.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Khan Al-Khalili is a must for history buffs and shoppers alike.
- As elsewhere on the streets of Cairo, women will feel more comfortable dressed modestly. Wear loose, flowing clothing that covers arms, legs, and torso.
- Bring plenty of Egyptian cash and come prepared to bargain—haggling is a vital part of any Middle Eastern shopping experience.
- There is wheelchair access to parts of Khan Al-Khalili, but cobbles, narrow streets, and jam-packed stores present challenges.
How to Get There
Khan Al-Khalili is located in the heart of Islamic Cairo, around 2 miles (3 kilometers) east of Tahrir Square. The best metro station for Khan Al-Khalili and, indeed, all Islamic Cairo is Bab Al-Shaaria (line 3), less than a mile (1.5 kilometers) away. Time-pressed travelers will want to opt for a tour that includes door-to-door round-trip transfers.
When to Get There
Khan Al-Khalili is not an organized market but an agglomeration of shops and stalls, which open and close on a pattern that suits them. Most stores trade from around 9am until well into the evening, with the exception of Friday mornings and Sundays. A few vendors operate even then.
What to See and Do in the Khan Al-Khalili
Historically minded travelers should head straight to the gold district of the Khan Al-Khalili, one of its most authentic areas. Photographers will want to seek out Islamic arched gateways and towering piles of spices. Take the time to enjoy a traditional coffee in the neighborhood, perhaps at the historic Al-Fishawy Coffee House.