The Khan is much much more than a simple market. It's nearly indescribable. The architecture dates back to 970 AD, and in the 1300's the area became a hub for merchants, craftsmen, and local artisans. The souqs (or little teeny markets and stalls) have been passed down for generations, so merchants are literally sitting in the same chair as their great great grandfather. You can feel the history. You can smell it. It is overwhelming.
The area known as the Khan is basically a small city of winding streets and alleys. Go down this road for silver, this road for fabric, this road for spices, etc. Men sit out front of their souqs drinking tea and speaking to you softly as you walk by. "I have beautiful scarves for you, Madam. Please take a look." Their whispers are so quiet you hardly hear them as you walk by. Others are hilarious and ask you to marry them, or "just give me some money, you don't have to buy anything." They know there are a thousand merchants to choose from. They hope to be one of your new favorites.
Amazingly, they speak multiple languages, English, French, Spanish, Japanese, so that they can cater to all of the tourists with ease. They remember your face and what you bought, who you bought it from, how much you paid last time. Even if it was weeks ago. I spoke to a man at my second visit who said "Oh I remember you madam. You purchased a copper lamp a few weeks ago from my competitor." Then he winked. It's all in good fun.
Bargaining is a game they all play with decades of experience getting what they need from you to support their families. When you ask "How much?" You are often quoted a price three or four times higher than they want to sell it for. If you bite, they are obviously thrilled. I usually come back with an offer of half that amount, still higher than a local would pay, but much much less than I would pay for a knock-off at Pier One.
Within the maze of shops, baskets of spices, under the canopies of brightly colored fabric, and hidden well behind the bustle, are medieval and modern mosques, the oldest hospital in the middle east, ancient schools, and more little historical nuggets. You can escape the heat by touring a centuries old spa that was carved into standing rock formations. It's one of those moments in life where you are trying to soak up every step, every smell, every moment so that you can paint a detailed memory in your mind.
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