Khan el-Khalili, Cairo
Why to Go: Cairo is a fascinating city because, within its confines, the modern and the ancient live side by side. At Khan el-Khalili, they’re more or less intertwined. The city’s largest market is full of treasures – some ancient – hookahs, textiles, postcards, snow globes, beggars, holy men, students, daggers, silverware, and perfumes. Before the call to prayer sounds, it’s always abuzz with photogenic activity. Foreigners can expect to be approached by friendly and unfriendly locals. Some will be eager to practice their English (many Egyptians are fluent) while some will offer summary judgment of U.S. foreign policy. A little politeness goes a long way, and a shopping trip to the area is always a learning experience.
What to Buy: Skip the tourist junk, and buy some perfume. Egyptians have been manufacturing the stuff for thousands and thousands of years, and though the local mixes are a bit oily, you won’t find similar scents in a department store.
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