Having heard that Khan el-Khalili, a major souk in Islamic Cairo, was great to see in the evening, we made the trek across town to see it after a long day of touring the pyramids in Giza. I was very glad to be with companions for the visit to the souk, including the men who accompanied us, instead of being on my own.
Nothing I’ve experienced in the US really compares to the feeling of being a foreigner without agenda or direction in the midst of Khan el-Khalili. It was packed. People seemed to be everywhere – cutting through the alleys on their way home, picking up spices or other necessary item, or pushing a packed trolley through an impossibly small space already full of people.The closest thing I can imagine is trying to navigate your way (for the first time) through the NYC subway system via Grand Central at the height of rush hour with a suitcase!
At one point as we wandered away from the more touristy portion of the souk, we were practically sandwiched between people seemingly commuting through the souk while we were at the same time still fielding requests to shop from the salesmen lining the souk. They continually assured us that “They had exactly what we needed.” Whatever that might be.
There were a few moments of relative calm during our walk through the souk, and the pictures below are mostly from those moments.
Fresh dates for sale.
Alabaster jars and sheesha water pipes (a.k.a. hookah).
Loofahs and fabric.
Clothing piled and hung high.
Milling about outside the souk.
As you can see, the area was packed. This was Friday night traffic in downtown Cairo. It’s clearly the time to be out and about in the city. Since Cairenes don’t work on Fridays, it’s much like a Saturday night out in the States.
For more on my trip to Egypt, check out 5 Busy Days in Cairo.