One of the pleasures of Cairo is its old market place the Khan al Khalili. It is in the centre of the old Islamic heart of the city, bordered by Bab-Al-Futtuh (Gate of Conquest) Bab al-Nasr (Gate of Victory) and the Mosques of Al-Azhar, Al-Hakim and Al-Hussein all dating from 1000 years ago, marvels of Islamic Architecture. There are also many wonderful monuments to the different dynasties and rulers of the City from the Fatimid period.
Within all this architecture a great Souk established itself and has been in place for centuries now. You find everything in the Khan, from food to furniture, gold and silver jewellery, to tailors, spice vendors, restaurants, cafés, it is truly like Ali BaBa’s cavern.
One of the oldest Café’s in the old Khan al Khalili, Al-Fishawy always a nice place to have a Turkish coffee or a glass of tea with mint.
So many of the old Khan al Khalili is featured in the books of Nobel Literature prize Laureate (1988), Naguib Mahfouz, just like this street, an area he knew very well.
Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006), I had the very great pleasure to speak with him at the Zamalek Marriott Hotel in 1990. His books are wonderful, especially the Cairo Trilogy, full of humanity and life’s unruly details, his characters are so very real, the reader feels an attachment to them.
Bread delivery on a bicycle, I often saw them, day and night and wondered how do they do it without falling or being run over by a car or bus.
An area I came to know very well and I always enjoyed walking around
The Khan al Khalili was also an excellent gold market, Cairo was the Mint of the Ottoman Empire and to this day solid gold coins can be found and many other good quality gold jewellery pieces in 18k, 22K and 24K. White and Yellow gold rings, bracelets and necklaces with good craftsmanship can be bought. No gold is sold under 18K because it is not considered of good value by Egyptian customers. I bought my wedding ring in the Khan 22K white and yellow gold, the metal is so soft it took the imprint of my finger with time.
I also bought an old pocket watch with a Swiss movement, these watches were common as conductors on Tramways and trains used them in the Ottoman Empire to mark time and keep tram schedules. I bought two had them cleaned and they work fine to this day. I determine that the watches are about 105 years old. If they could talk the stories these watches could tell.
Cairo the City of one thousand minarets