A Nobel Prize Winner’s Story Comes to Life

November 22, 2008
When going through the bazaar in Cairo with our guide, he pointed out Sugar Street (hundreds of years old) and looking up I saw this balcony and thought of the windows that played a role in Mahfouz’s prize-winning story, “Palace Walk,” for this was the way in which women were able to look out at the world without having someone see them.

Impressions of Egypt Number 15

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.

Shuttered Windows
Expanding Your Horizons with an Egyptian Travelogue

Before going to Egypt, I read Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz and discovered it made Cairo so much more understandable for me. A prolific writer and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Mahfouz described traditional urban life with an undercurrent of political comment that was conveyed with symbolism and allegory. He undoubtedly did this both because he enjoyed writing in that style and because some of the subjects were forbidden to be discussed.

This picture is particularly interesting to me because one of the streets in the book was Sugar Street (and one of his books is titled Sugar Street). When going through the old Cairo bazaar with our self-appointed guide, he pointed out Sugar Street (hundreds of years old) and looking up I saw this balcony (though I can’t swear this particular picture was taken on Sugar Street itself). I thought of the windows that played a role in the story, for this was the way in which women were able to look out at the world without having someone see them.

Women must feel much more liberated in Egypt today (at least in the cities), even though they sometimes have burkas and have many more restrictions than we do. But at least they can leave their homes more freely.

Incidentally, in the center of a roundabout near the National Museum in Cairo stands a statue of Mahfouz. He was clearly a very revered author.

An Egyptian Pound for a Photo

November 20, 2008
Every culture has its traditions and I like many of those we discover in our travels. But I found that asking for money in Egypt for the most minor of acts surprised (and sometimes annoyed) me.

Impressions of Egypt Number 14

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.

Every culture has its traditions and I like many of those we discover in our travels. But I found that asking for money in Egypt for the most minor of acts surprised (and sometimes annoyed) me. I can see that one might be asked for a contribution if you took their picture, something I’ve noticed elsewhere. So in that regard it didn’t seem extraordinarily strange that this man wanted a pound to have me take this picture of him and his son. However, at first he seemed to simply want to give me a chance to record life in Cairo. Then he held out his hand for an Egyptian pound.

Similarly, we found that policemen guarding a temple or monument would point out the best place to take a picture (without our requesting the information) and expect us to tip them. Everywhere people had their hands out, though not necessarily in an aggressive manner. It was just one of those things that tourists were expected to do.

I imagine this custom comes from both the fact that the great majority of people are very, very poor and because there is a tradition in Islam of giving gifts to the less fortunate.

Talented Egyptian Applique Artist and Lawyer

November 14, 2008
Meet a special applique artist in the old Cairo bazaar.

Impressions of Egypt Number 13

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.

Applique artist

A neat place to visit in the old Cairo bazaar is the section of applique and quilts made from Egyptian cotton, of which the country is very proud. Our self-appointed guide took us to this man’s stall where he greeted us with hibiscus tea and showed us his wares.

What especially pleased me was that he was very talented in creating a graphic representation of a flower and a fish by using Aramaic letters for our names. Though his English wasn’t great [since that’s the only language I know, I never complain when a foreigner can’t speak perfect English], we had a nice conversation and were surprised to learn that he was a lawyer who runs this small business on the side.

Egyptian Flat Bread Baker

November 12, 2008
Take a peak inside a Cairo bakery in the old bazaar.

Impressions of Egypt Number 12

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.

Egyptian baker

This man was one of the workers we saw with our self-appointed guide in the bazaar. He was baking the flat bread you often see young boys carrying through the streets on large flat pans. I don’t know whether the restaurants serve the loaves made there, but I was interested in the difference between the plastic bags on the man’s hands for cleanliness and the wheat piled on the floor and shoveled into a mixing vat by this man. I can only hope they scrubbed the floor before they began their day’s work, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

My husband was most impressed with the way in which another man, who mixed the dough, would grab a handful that was exactly the correct weight before putting it on the baking pan. I suspect that many of the women who make tortillas here and in Mexico must also be very good at choosing just the right amount of dough so the finished tortillas will be the same.

Self-Appointed Guide Through Cairo’s Old Bazaar

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.