Khan Al Khalili

Top choice


in Cairo

Khan al-Khalili (Great Bazaar).

Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

The skinny lanes of Khan Al Khalili are basically a medieval-style mall. This agglomeration of shops – many arranged around small courtyards – stocks everything from soap powder to semiprecious stones, not to mention tacky toy camels and alabaster pyramids. Most shops and stalls open from around 9am to well after sundown (except Friday morning and Sunday), although plenty of the souvenir vendors are open as long as there are customers, even on Sunday.

Cairenes have plied their trades here since the khan was built in the 14th century, and parts of the market, such as the gold district, are still the first choice for thousands of locals. The khan used to be divided into fairly rigid districts, but now the only distinct areas are the gold sellers, the coppersmiths and the spice dealers. Apart from the clumsy ‘Hey mister, look for free’ touts, the merchants of Khan Al Khalili are some of the greatest smooth-talkers you will ever meet. Almost anything can be bought here and if one merchant doesn’t have what you’re looking for, he’ll happily find somebody who does.