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Khan El-Khalili is one of the most important areas of Old Cairo, which is more than 600 years old, and, because of its fame and history, enjoys a great tourist attraction.
History of Khan El Khalili
During the Fatimid state in Egypt, whose rule lasted for 200 years, Al-Muizz li-Din Allah al-Fatimi chose this place to establish tombs for his family from the Fatimid caliphate. These tombs were next to the Great Eastern Palace, and he named it “Turbat al Zafr’an”, the palace had nine doors, including a door that opened directly to these tombs, and it was called “The Gate of Turbat al Zafr’an”. The first people to be buried in these tombs were people who did not die in Egypt, rather, Al-Muizz li-Din Allah al-Fatimi brought the remains of his father and his ancestors from Morocco and buried them in Turbat al Zafr’an, and all the Fatimid caliphs were buried in these tombs except for “Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah” who was killed on the Mokattam Mountain.
The historian “Taqi al-Din al-Maqrizi” mentioned in his book “Itti’az Al-hunafa Bi-akhbar Al-a’immah Al-fatimiyin Al-khulafa” when he talked about the Mustansirian distress, which occurred in 1065 AD, that a group of Turks asked for alimony from the Fatimid al-Mustansir Billah, but he kept delaying giving them this money until they attacked and stole Turbat al Zafr’an. It is said that these thefts were estimated at a value of 50,000 dinars, which indicates the extent of the wealth of these tombs.
The Fatimid state ended at the hands of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, and the Ayyubid rule in Egypt remained in place for a period of 80 years, but when the Mamluks took control, specifically in the era of al-Zahir Saif al-Din Barquq, there was a prince called “Jaharkes al-Khalili” and his title was (prince Akhur), who was responsible for the stables of the Sultan. This prince detested the Fatimids, which led him, Without any human feelings, to exhume the Fatimid tombs, “Turbat al Zafr’an”, and dispose the remains in the ruins outside Cairo, which considered a violation to all divine religions.
After that, “Jaharkes Al-Khalili” built a khan over the place of these tombs, the word “Khan” means a place equipped for resting and overnighting for merchants and travelers.
In 1389 A.D, Sultan Barquq assigned Jaharkes al-Khalili to lead a battle in Damascus, but he was defeated in this battle and was killed, his body was left to be eaten by birds and animals. The historian al-Maqrizi considered this event as a divine punishment for him because of what he had done in Turbat al Zafr’an and his lack of respect for the sanctity of the dead.
122 years after the death of Jaharkes Al-Khalili, the sultan “Al-Ashraf Abu Al-Nasr Qansuh al-Ghuri” took control in 1511 AD, he demolished this khan and established new buildings and gates, but there are still 3 gates left of these gates bearing his name.
Despite the removal of the khan that was built by Jaharkes Al-Khalili and the re-building of the place by Qansuh al-Ghuri, the place to this day still bears the name “Khan al-Khalili.”
Details about Khan El Khalili
This legendary ancient place is considered as one of the most famous tourist destinations in Cairo, and known as a market that offers many traditional and popular products, such as clothes, shoes, accessories, and others that reflect the heritage and popular culture of the place. Gold shops there also offer jewelry with unique and distinctive designs, and visitors to the place can buy Souvenirs, there are also various restaurants, cafes and bazaars.
Khan Al-Khalili is a very narrow streets that do not exceed about two meters, and as you wander through them you will be impressed by the designs of the old houses that still exist today, which are distinguished by their decoration of wooden mashrabiyas that indicate the ancient history of this place.
One of the most prominent features of this place is “Al-Fishawi Café”, which was founded in 1767 AD.
This wonderful place with its shrines was a great source of inspiration for many writers and authors, most notably “Naguib Mahfouz”, who wrote a book bearing the name of this place, “Khan Al-Khalili”.