We headed out yesterday for our annual visit to Khan el-Khalili, the tourist bazaar, familiar to most Cairo visitors. We had with us, our friend and licensed guide, Roshdy. He, of course, suggested first visiting nearby Islamic Cairo before heading into the bazaar.
This probably illustrates the importance of utilizing a good local guide in most cities one visits. It turns out that in all of the trips we have made here, we totally missed a major section of old Islamic Cairo. Wikipedia has a map of Islamic Cairo in this article. We have usually concentrated our "Islamic" tours on the area south of Al-Azhar Street and only visited shops and markets on the north side. With the Spice Market, miscellaneous shops, restaurants and the Khan all on the north side, it is easy to get distracted.
Yesterday, Roshdy took us on the full tour of Al-Muizz street, featuring "...the greatest concentration of medieval architectural treasures in the Islamic world." Oops, sorry we've missed that in the past.
A big reason for missing things like this is the lack of good maps here. Apparently, Nicholas Warner suffered from the map and guidebook problem some years ago and moved here and wrote this $51 book with 31 maps and a very detailed catalog of all the monuments. I'm still debating whether to buy it for next winter here.
As an alternative, just hire Roshdy as your guide (his e-mail is listed on that picture of his card) and/or find this map not far from the Khan. It is a great map with recognizable images of the major monuments. (click on the map for a great deal more detail in the full image on Flickr.)
If you follow the green line from the usual place where your taxi driver will drop you at the Khan, you will pass through a tunnel and find yourself in the center of that "your are here" circle in the center of the map at Bawabet Beit Alkady. The map is located there and you will be on the "street of scales," facing the first major attraction on Al-Muizz, the Complex of Sultan al-Mansur Qalawun.
Here are the marker and map.
We'll pick up the trail in the next post.