Khan el-Khalili (خان الخليلي) is a souk (shopping area) in the historic center of Islamic Cairo. The bazaar district is one of Cairo’s main attractions. The site was originally that of the mausoleum known as the turbat az-za’faraan (Saffron Tomb), burial site of the Fatimid caliphs. It was part of the Fatimid Great Eastern Palace complex, begun in 970 AD by Gawhar al-Siqilli, the general who conquered Egypt for the Fatimid dynasty and founded Cairo that same year.
Today, it’s mainly occupied by Egyptian merchants. Some shops sell souvenirs, antiques, and jewellery geared towards tourists, but many traditional workshops continue to operate in the area and the adjoining gold souk, among other trades, is still important. Along with shops, there are several coffeehouses (مقهى maqha), street food vendors, and restaurants. The coffee shops are often small and quite traditional, serving Arabic coffee and usually offering shisha. One of the oldest and most famous coffeehouses is Fishawi’s, established in 1773. The al-Hussein Mosque is adjacent to Khan el-Khalili, and Al-Azhar University and its mosque are nearby.