Behind the palace that once stood on the western side of Bayn al-Qasrayn, there was a garden called Bustan al-Kafuri, which was known in Ayyubid times for the fine hashish that was grown there. After the garden was destroyed (which the historian al-Maqrizi reckoned a fitting punishment for such sinfulness), the area became Cairo’s Jewish quarter, and still bears the name Haret al-Yahud. Most of Cairo’s Jews left after the triple blows of Israeli independence, the Suez Crisis and the Six-Day War made their position increasingly difficult, and though a few still live in the downtown area, none now live in the Haret al-Yahud. Two synagogues still survive among the quarter’s labyrinthine lanes, but are not open to the public. From Sharia al-Muizz, you can enter the quarter at its southern end along Sharia al-Makassisse (second left heading north from al-Muski; see map), or at its northern end along Sharia al-Khurunfush, by the Sabil-Kuttab of Abd al-Rahman Katkhuda (see map). You’ll probably get lost in the maze of alleys and covered passageways, crammed with workshops and dwellings, but local residents are generally very helpful, and will often go out of their way to guide you through the labyrinth.

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