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Khan El-Khalili, Cairo

Egypt's insider take:

The grand souk of Cairo since the 14th century, this market fills the streets that slope gently down from Midan El-Hussein, a square whose mosque is believed to house the head of the Prophet's grandson Hussein and is thus considered among the most holy spots in Cairo. Though flooded of late with pharaonic tourist gimcrackery made in China, the Khan is still divided into working markets devoted to gold, spices, silver, textiles, cookware, and even shisha pipes. If you don't want to make a purchase, the souks are still worth visiting for their microcosm of Cairo life—the swirl of commerce, scent of spices, sounds of metalworkers, and the variety of 1,001 Arabian goods, including the perfume and incense still used by Cairo's faithful to purify themselves before prayer. Try to venture a bit beyond Midan El-Hussein before buying, as the goods get less touristy and the sellers less intent on fleecing foreigners the deeper you get. Shops open around 11 am and are busiest in late afternoon when tour buses arrive (after spending the morning at the Pyramids). Many of the merchants here are Christian and so close shop on Sundays.

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