Sunday, January 25, 2009

Khan El Khalili Souk, Cairo - One of the Most Magical Places on Earth

Pascal Sebah (1823-1886) - Photograph of Khan el Khalili, Cairo (c1880)

You're probably aware by now that I'm dead crazy about Egypt and take any excuse to post about it. With Khan El Khalili being a particular obsession - on my second visit I literally jumped off the bus and rushed into the souk!

The market was established as a caravanserai by Emir Djaharks el-Khanili in 1382 - خان being khan in Arabic.

And it's still a veritable Aladdin's cave of 'treasures' - a riot of colours and textures ...

... where all the senses are challenged, with the olfactory being firstly and almost over-poweringly but sensuously assaulted in the spice markets ...

... and then in the perfume quarter ...

... where your nose is taken in a half-nelson by the pungent aromas thickly emanating from sacks of rose petals, cinnamon, frankincense and all manner of flowers and unguents ...

Here, you can even have your own fragrance concocted ... and then of course recorded in a suitably dusty old book for future purchases.

There are a couple of eyebrow-raising stops ...

... on your way to lunch at the worthily world-famous Felfela Restaurant (familiar?) ...

... followed of course by coffee or mint tea or a cool sherbet drink at the equally famed El Fishawy Cafe ...

After which it's just a short walk to the 1648 merchant's house of Bayt Al-Suhaymi.

Okay okay okay!!! So I've contrived an excuse for another post - sue me (LOL)!

Honestly, if you ever just happen to be in Cairo and have nothing to do (!!!), you'd be certifiably mad if you didn't spent time in Khan El Khalili and at the Bayt Al-Suhaymi house!


  1. One Who Lived To Regret It.January 26, 2009 at 4:24 AM

    It looks amazing, but isn't that one of those places where they hang gay boys?

  2. hey josh

    gay is not illegal in egypt but is prosecuted as "offenses against public morals and sensitivities" or "violating the teachings of religion and propagating depraved ideas and moral depravity" with a goal term for a guilty finding.

    cos women are pretty cosseted there, straight guys go with gays in a way they don't in the west.

  3. Nick,
    How many times have you been to Egypt?

  4. Great report on Egypt. Very classy, as always.

    The Felfela restaurants are actually franchise type places that serves authentic Egyptian food for a reasonable price. The reviews seem to say good things about the food and service. I would not hesitate to go there when in Egypt. A must do.

    Doug.....Los Angeles

  5. Nick -

    Thanks for allowing us to travel vicariously through your worldwide adventures. Sometimes I forget there is a world out there beyond my neighborhood.

    Alan down in Florida

  6. sadly only twice ... but the second one was over a month - i went up down the nile to abu simbel and to near the sudanese border and then took a falukka across to the tip of the sinai peninsular and overland to st catherine's monastry and climbed for the dawn on mount sinai - i am getting so excited re-living my journey in this coment i want to go again - RIGHT NOW! so thanks for this lovely motivation

    cya round here


  7. hey doug

    thanks for the appreciation

    and thanks for the info on the Felfela chain

    the food is good but not incredible - it's the atmosphere that's the thing for me - it has huge red hot charcoal-filled clay cooking pots at one end and is filled with old and ancient artifacts - even some stuffed monkeys tho not sure whether this is an incentive or the opposite!

    so see you there soon!

  8. hey alan

    vicariously is the best way to travel sometimes - the price is so seductive!

    and i get caught up in sydney easily enough too - but a look at some of my travel photos and the wander lust perks up pretty quick tho. in fact ... !

  9. I can always count on your blog to make me feel left out. lol
    Still, thanks for the pics and the descriptions of Egypt. I doubt I'll ever be able to go there.
    And, really, I'm not sure its safe to go there, unless you are with a flock of other tourists?

  10. hey greg

    some of the best (and least dangerous) travel is done at home

    don't mean to make you feel left out - hoping to let some people do some arm-chair traveling

    certainly not as safe as it use to be to go to egypt - but i've always been tempted to be a little bold - as the spanish say 'a life lived in fear is a life half lived'

    just come to my funeral!


  11. Talk about dark humor!! lol
    How about next time you go there, take me along to protect ya!

  12. hey greg


    actually i was being hoped to be taken just as read - i post a lot of travel stuff as a way of traveling again - but armchair-wise and at a pretty attractive cost

    tho some real travel is necessary every now and then

    so pack ya bag!