November 9, 2008
Learn about an authentic Cairo bazaar, not the ones that are designed for tourists.
Impressions of Egypt Number 11
In keeping with the blog’s theme of “Enrich Your Life, Enrich Your Relationships,” this is one of several posts about a trip we took in December 2007, to Egypt. It definitely enriched my life and expanded my understanding of that country, and of the many challenges they face as they evolve into a different kind of country than the one I visited. — Note added in 2011 after the spring revolution
This entry could also be filed as one of my “visual viewpoints” you may have seen in earlier posts.
One of the most interesting experiences we had in Egypt came on the last day there. We wanted to go to an authentic Cairo bazaar, not the ones that are designed for tourists. We had seen enough of them at temples, palaces, and monuments. There the authorities didn’t want merchants plying their wares inside national tourist attractions, but they allowed them to maintain stalls on the way out of the attraction. You always had to walk past them when you were through. Running the gauntlet was a challenge, for the merchants who were struggling to make a living were anxious to make a sale.
Wanting the experience of riding in a taxi, we had the hotel get one for us and asked the driver to drop us off at the old bazaar. As I started taking a picture of a mosque, a young boy about ten came running over and told us we weren’t allowed to take pictures there. I started putting my camera away when this man came over to us and in very presentable English told us we certainly could take a picture.
He owned the store in the back, where he sold miscellaneous pipes and other things I didn’t want and became our self-appointed tour guide for several hours through streets that winded and twisted so much that we may not have found our way out of them without his help.
This was a part of Egypt we never would have seen otherwise. Of course, he brought us to various establishments where we could buy something (he undoubtedly got a cut after we left), and I bought a few things I didn’t really want, but what an experience!
I’m not sure whether he has a scam going in which he sends the boy to talk to tourists and then gains their confidence. But even if he did, I didn’t mind. There were so many people and things we saw in this area where tourists almost never go.