The Oldest Market in the World

In a document dating back to 1434, traces of Dresden’s Striezelmarkt Christmas Market’s existence were found. Additionally, the Turks tell us that the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul has been around since 1455.

Although proponents of both regions claim title to the oldest market (souk) in the world, 100 million Egyptians would beg to differ, because deep in the midst of historic, Islamic Cairo, stands the beating heart of city commerce–a pulsing and twisting labyrinth of passages that is Khan el Khalili–the world’s oldest continuously operating market since 1382.

Passengers of Viking Ra who elected to crowd surf through the Khan el Khalili, got a glimpse of life as it once was during the Mamluk dynasty (from 1250 until 1517), when self-pronounced sultans occupied Egypt after driving out the Crusaders. The souk was built atop the mausoleum of the Fatimid Caliphate, which founded Cairo as its imperial city in the 10th century.

Once divided into distinct districts serving merchants trading copperware, gold accessories, and spices, the souk now balances its variety with every imaginable trinket and souvenir sold among competing vendors standing just a breath away from each other, forming an almost impenetrable wall of sounds, sights and smells…

across alleyways that could barely accommodate our bus.

We disembarked from the bus and melted into a crowd of families strolling past aggressive venders hawking endless supplies of camel pants, pashminas, and pyramid paper weights to tourists,

with a variety of daily-living goods for locals.

For the informed collector, haggling generally starts at 40% off the suggested price, and somehow balances out in the negotiation.

Hungry? No problem! How about a sweet potato…

or fresh baked pita?

Our group enjoyed restaurant dining above the fray,

which was a pleasant respite from the tumult below us.

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