Mesmerizing Lanterns, Delicious Coffee, and Friendly People – The Souq of Kahn-el-Khalili in Cairo

The ancient intricately decorated minarets soar above the sky, the enchanting smell of spices linger in the air as the twinkling lanterns hang from every shop and the sun sets over the sand colored buildings… welcome to Cairo

As a kid, I dreamed about going to Cairo and learning all about Egyptology. Now, years later, I am so happy to call this city like a second home and a place I know well. One of my favorite places in the city is the famous souq Khan-el-Khalili in the Islamic Cairo neighborhood.

Khan-el-Khalili is a maze of little streets with bright colored lanterns, golden dishes and lamps, and endless trinkets and unique objects. Sitting in the Medieval Islamic area of the city, you can see many old buildings, mosques, and decorated archways from hundreds of years ago.

As you walk through the streets, you will meet many friendly people who want you to come into their shops, often offering you tea or coffee as you browse. Although the haggling can be a little overwhelming at first, once you get used to it, it can be fun and become a game. I have bought so many beautiful pieces of traditional jewelry and trinkets for such a good price!

I just love walking through the streets with the colorful lanterns glowing and seeing them light up the sand colored buildings. The smell of coffee beans and spices fill the air and the distant voice of a call to prayer echoes off the buildings.

One of my favorite places to stop for coffee or tea in the souq is El-Fishawy. Said to have been serving coffee and tea every single day for the past 200 years, El-Fishawy is the beating heart of the souq and the center of all the action. Here, you will find locals and tourists alike enjoying each other’s company drinking tea, coffee, or smoking a shisha.

While you are at the cafe, you can see all kinds of people walking by selling things. The bread man, the carpet man, the jewelry man, the purse man, henna ladies, grandmothers selling tissues, the little boys selling Qurans – the list goes on. El-Fishawy is definitely the place to be to see the real people of Cairo.

Walking through the streets, you can see all sorts of patterns, colors, and shapes. You’ll see hanging carpets, shisha pipes, glittering gold plates, painted vases, genie lamps, statues of the ancient Egyptians gods and goddesses, and much more.  It is the perfect place to get a real Egyptian experience and see the daily life of the Egyptian people. For the past few years, Egypt has been trying to get its tourism back and many locals are struggling without tourists.

We have gotten to know many shop keepers who are struggling so much and we have fun trying to help them get business by standing in front of their shops and trying to get other tourists to come in. The more we visit, the more we realize how much these people rely on tourism and how much their lives have been changed over the past few years. Although this year we saw many more tourists than in 2015, Egypt still needs many more visitors to get the country back to where it once was.

For anyone wanting to visit Cairo and get a real local experience – Khan-el-Khalili is a great place to start!

Have you ever been to Cairo, share your experience! 


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