As with my previous post, I am writing this from memory and not from my fresh memories of Khan El Khalili.
Though I've never bothered to know the etymology of the word, this is one of the oldest operative souks in the Middle East, functioning from a time as early as the 13th century. This is one of the MOST happening places in Cairo, undoubtedly.
And how do I justify that ? The number of buses that ply on the road to Khan-El-Khalili far outnumber the ones that ply to the Cairo Museum. Tourists come here by scores and buy stuff worth thousands of Dollars !!!
The market is literally built around the Al-Hussein Mosque, a very impressive structure for a prayer hall. The mosque is also rumored to possess the oldest copy of the written Quran.
The street surrounding the Mosque (rather the streets adjacent to the walls of the mosque ) are actually less dazzling and more conservative, dealing predominantly with embellishments for the womenfolk. The roads that lead from the Mosque and into the buildings are the actual market place.
And though it appears as if it is one big market in which you can easily get lost, it is all interconnected. You can start at one end and still end up at the other diagonal end of the market. The market actually looks like the replica of the market that comes in 'I Dream of Jeannie', just that there are too many good looking Jeannies around
There is one big complex full of eateries right outside the mosque. They are way too expensive and not worth the price, according to me. The shops near the mosque start out as a small lane immediately after the eatery complex.
On your right is a small, dimly lit shop selling Turkish eyes. The shop is full of them, but they are priced a bit on the higher side. Unless and until you have a thing for Turkish eyes, do not try to bargain here. A couple of shops after this is a shop selling ladies hand bags, and other ladies accessories. There are some really good Sheesha's (Hookah like) arranged outside for display near this shop.
Further down the lane, takes you to a narrow junction. On your left you see lamps covered with metallic covers with mindblowing filigiree looks. This corner takes the breath out of you, at first sight when the shop is fully lit. It suddenly transcends the mortal frame and transfers you into a realm of impossibility and immortality at the same time.
You should know how to bargain here.
Bleese my friend, I make good brice and good disiskount for you. Only for you my friend, Walla, I give sicaksty bounds.
He probably meant a discount and a price of sixty pounds. It will definitely help knowing the Arabic numerals before you go there, so that you can bargain. And NO !!! You need not bargain everything in dollars and Euros. You'd better deal in EGP or else you might get conned right royally.
Wallahi my friend, this is good brice my friend. I am poor man, and allah knows it.After the shop with filigree work come the shops with shawls and other stuff. The moment you cross these shops you come into an area that is actually a junction with some open space. Just before this is a small staircase to your right, where you can get the best shawls and woolen wear in Cairo. After that the road meanders into an alley of jewellery shops and the crowd too thins a lot after this.
There are innumerable coffeeshops and pub-like houses all around and also inside Khan-El-Khalili. Many of these pubs also showcase the famed Belly Dancing. This is one item that is still unchecked on my Bucket List.
The street parallel to this is one which is every woman's dream and every husband's bane. It's so full of stuff that women would love to buy. Right from cozy evening wear to attractive footwear and glamorous hand bags you have it all here. You'd better forget your thriftiness at home, if you really want to buy something for folks back home.
I swear on my god, my friend, I give you good brice. Lesser price I lose my friend. Wallahi Zamili. You are from Hind, so I give good brice. For tourists this is tharty bounds. For you my friend, special brice, twendy bounds. Last price twendy bounds.Apart from the fact that you are called Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan, the place is an Indian market in all aspects. As you go down that main street of Khan El Khalili you come to a t-shirt shop that sells t-shirts of teams like Egypt, Portugal, Brazil etc. Then comes a junction. This is a very important junction.
If you proceed to your left, a 100 metres, you land up on the main road. Just before you come to the main road, do not forget to taste BazBouza from the old man standing at the corner of the street. They are really good. If you cross the road and go on to the other side, it is a smaller textile market. A pretty decent one. But not much variety.
If on the other hand, you proceed straight ahead from the junction, you end up in perhaps the longest market street in Cairo. This is a place where you can bargain a 40 pound item for 6 pounds and get it at 8 pounds. And No, I am not joking. During my most recent visit (and perhaps my last) to Khan-El-Khalili I got two T-Shirts that I was looking for, for more than 3 months. I even managed to get some other material that I was planning to buy in Wakkalat (Another Cotton Market, on the other side of the Nile) all at dead cheap prices. The entrance to this street has many shops that specialise in rare herbs and plants, which are piled up in pitchers. It lends the air the fragrance of a 'naatu-marundhu-kadai'
O.K, and here is the price-list. A T-Shirt of good quality Egyptian cotton costs you about 15 EGP max. If you are buying more than 5 nos., You can bargain for 12. They don't lessen the price more than that. :) And trust me, the TShirts are worth the 15 pounds that you pay.
Glass Pyramids (3 Nos.) not more than 15 EGP.
One big metallic Pyramid - not more than 30 EGP.
3 small metallic Pyramids with sizes in decreasing order - 30 EGP.
Turkish Eye Chains - not more than 10 EGP (no matter how many turkish eyes they contain)
P.S:- Don't forget to taste the coconut at the old man's shop. It'll be awesome.
P.P.S:- And do not float in air, if they address you as Amitabh Bachchan. They would not mind conning the Big B himself
P.P.P.S:- All photos are acknowledged to be the clicks of their original 'shooters' and no copyright violation is intended.