With its new paving stones and elaborate mashrabiyya (wooden lattice screens), Darb al-Asfar alley conjures up the Middle Ages – if the Middle Ages were clean. The first few buildings you pass are part of Beit el-Suhaymi, a family mansion and caravanserai built in the 17th and 18th centuries. After jogging through a narrow hall, you arrive at a peaceful courtyard surrounded by grand reception halls, bedrooms, storerooms and baths.
The house has been thoroughly restored, though barely furnished (the fire extinguishers, a precaution required by the extensive new woodwork, are the most prominent item on display). As a result it can feel a bit ghostly. The changes on Darb al-Asfar have been heavily debated, as they displaced at least 30 families in the name of restoration, but it has brought some peace to this crowded area, for the residents who were allowed to stay.