The Khan el-Khali Bazaar
Feb 5, 2004 Was Fran Having any Fun? We finally had to leave the Gaza plateau behind us and move on to other things. You may wonder if Fran was having any fun while I was taking all these pictures. Well, she had her days too. (photo 0149s) We were taken to the hand tied oriental rug carpet shop where we started looking at a "small hand made rug for next to the kitchen sink." Beautiful blues and burgundy. Wool carpets, 200 hand tied knots to the inch. "Don't you really need a larger one?" the shop owner asks? "Won't this one look great under your kitchen table?" he says. "An opportunity of a lifetime." I say. So, the small blue one sits next to the kitchen sink to keep Fran's toes warm in the cold winter and the large one makes a beautiful adornment under our kitchen table. Every time we go into the kitchen we remember our trip - and that's what it is all about. The carpet may not be museum quality but we love it and the price was right. The even shipped it home for us and it arrived just two days after we did. Besides - It flies. Shopping with Fran Someone told me to have a "theme" when I did my pictures and don't worry about them being in chronological order. (Thanks Dick, that was good advice.) So I have saved talking about our adventures in the market places and bazaars for one group of photographs. (photo 0148s) The bazaars have narrow streets and you can buy almost anything. One thing to keep in mind is that the areas which sell beautiful and exotic treasures are generally segregated from those areas where you buy your fruits and vegetables or meat and fish. I suppose it is not unlike a department store where women's clothing is on floors 1 through 15 and men's clothing is in the annex. LOL The point is you have to keep looking for the meat market and fish market (which I think take the best pictures). They are generally adjacent to the rest of the market but at one end or on a side street of its own. (photo 0150s) If you are looking for something special you find a shop that carries that sort of goods and then ask for it. If they don't have it they will not send you down the street to the store that does, they send their boy out for it. They don't want to loose a sale. So, when I knew I wanted a brass mask of King Tut we went to this store that carried brass plates. It wasn't long before the boy came back with just the treasure I wanted - It must have looked good because the police in the Luxor airport had to search my bag to make sure it wasn't a golden artifact from the Valley of the Kings.
Feb 6, 2004 The Kan el-Khali Bazaar is reputed to be the oldest and largest bazaar in all of Egypt. Who am I to disagree? You can find anything you want and if you can't find it just go into some little shop which carries a similar item and tell them what you are looking for and they will send someone out after it.
(photo 0151s) As a matter of fact, more than once I was told, "My sister has a shop and I am sure she has just what you want. I will get it for you." They spend so much time running around trying to do the shopping for you that you lose the enjoyment of poking your nose into every nook and cranny. They don't want to lose the sale. This is the best place in the world to get some real "character" shots. People doing their normal thing which I found exotic and wonderful.
(photo 0152s) Do you want some nuts to snack on until dinner? How can you pass down such a wonderful moving vendor?
(photo 0153s) Or maybe you are just looking for a silver bracelet that fits your wrist perfectly.
By tradition, if you are doing some serious shopping - I'm not talking about some little trinket to pack in your suitcase - I'm talking important treasures such as silver service set inlaid with gold, or perhaps precious jewels, or even maybe a rug - it is common to bargain for a long time and with great intensity. The shop keeper will make you feel welcome by offering you a chair and some hot mint tea. Naturally they don't have tea brewing in the back. They send off someone to get it for you.
(photo 0162s) There are young boys who make their living just running after something to drink for a potential customer. Maybe they will also bring you a pipe. We saw these people running throughout the bazaar, weaving in and around the crowds in the narrow streets balancing a small tray with one or two cups of tea above their heads and never spilling a drop. I watched this young man weave his way through a busy intersection twisting and bending his body to avoid being hit and yet preserving every drop of precious tea. It was like watching a ballet dancer doing pirouettes on stage. You have to be quick with the camera because they don't stop to pose.
When we bought our rug it was far too hot for tea but small bottles of Coca-Cola flowed freely. More than once the merchant yelled to his boy to "bring this gentleman another coke". I was intoxicated by the magic of the moment.
Unfortunately when traveling with a group we have too little time to do some serious bargaining. But our Grand Circle Program Directors were readily available to do some essential translating, giving advice on a proper price, or even doing the bargaining for us. I always felt satisfied with the product and the price when I gave my handshake at the end of the sale.
Of course you may need something to wear after you get home and shopping for clothing is no serious problem - that is if you are able to translate the sizing charts into "American".
(photo 0158s) Our first real experience took place at Abu Simbel when I saw this beautiful hand embroidered blue shirt. I just had to have it. The price was right but I did what I could - without trying it on naturally - to get an extra large. It was so hot I didn't want to be taking off and putting on shirts - you know what I mean, right? When we got back to the ship we discovered that what we consider top be an XL is not what the Egyptians mean. But there is no loss, the blue shirt matches Fran's blue eyes exactly. Of course Fran wouldn't dream of buying anything without first trying it on - and in several colors.
(photo 0156s) If you needed a new pair of sandals or an old pair repaired this cobbler in the spice market in Aswan would be happy to accommodate you.
If you are interested in a great water pipe you have come to the right place in the Khan el-Khali Bazaar in Cairo.
(photo 0154s) Whatever you desire, gold, brass, inlaid with jewels or only cut glass, small or tall, you can find one here. Just look at the beautiful wood carvings decorating the entrance to this shop. It would have been fun to bring one home but there are limits you know although the shop keeper will insist you can fit it into your suitcase or small carry-on. Fat chance.......
(photo 0157ms) But some things are just too good to pass up. In the spice market in Aswan, after having spent the day in the heart of the ancient Nubian territory at the majestic temple of Ramses II The Great and his wife Nefertari at Abu Simbel we couldn't pass up this lovely brass tray containing an etching of the temple. Whenever we buy a treasure such this we insist on getting a picture of the craftsman as well. This plate looks lovely on the hearth next to my mask of King Tut.
In the Khan el-Khali Bazaar (Cairo) we finished our walk through the "dry goods" department and headed to the food market. As you have seen, carrying produce on your head is not uncommon, however I would be derelict in my reporting if I gave you the impression that everyone in Egypt walks everywhere.
(photo 0155s) Sometimes they use wheeled vehicles. Of course if you can go faster that means you can carry two baskets of bread. Since we were in Egypt in October this was the time to buy fresh olives.
(photo 0160s) But olives can not be eaten off the tree like a cherry, or blueberry, or apple, but they have to be pickled. Each family has its own recipe which includes secret ingredients of.....
(photo 0159s) fresh spices. Lots of spices too be bought. It is interesting to watch how the merchant keeps piling up their wares after each sale. The more spices you have exposed to the air the greater the aroma to attract the next customer. They have this down to a science.
I don't know what delicacy he is selling but he sure has a fancy cart.
(photo 0161s) After a long day of visiting the pyramids and then the bazaar it eventually became time to grab a cab and head back to the hotel. It looks like this one is full......
In Ramadan (July) 610 C.E. Mohammad sat secluded in a cave in meditation in Mount Hira which is two miles north of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. At this time Allah (Arabic for "God") revealed his words to Mohammad through the Angel Gabriel. Mohammad was an illiterate man and the verses he recited were the verses of God, not man-made-words.
Because the Islam calendar follows the lunar month Ramadan comes 11 days earlier each year. Thus eventually it will occur in July once again. In 2003 it started at the end of October while we were in Jordan and when we returned to Cairo before our flight home.
Ramadan is a time of fasting during the daylight hours and celebration from sun-down to sun-up. Nothing to eat or even drink during the daylight hours. This might not be so hard in November when it is cool and the days are short, but I can imagine it causes quite a challenge during the long hot days of the summer.
(photo 0163s) Everywhere we went we saw these Ramadan lanterns for sale and hanging in the streets. They are lit at night to show the way to the mosque. We often saw other decorative lights in the stores, hotels, and streets. It reminded us that we would soon be home for Christmas.
Go to The Egyption Museum of Cairo - Under ConstrucionGo to The Religious Faiths - Under Construction Go to Street Scenes of Cairo - Under Construction Go to Who are the Gods? - Under Construction. Go to Chapter 9: The Khan el-Khali Bazaar - Under Construction Go to Chapter 8: The Pyramids - Under Construction Go to Chapter 7: East Thebes and the Temple of Luxor - Under Construction Return to Chapter 6: The Pyramids.
>Return to Chapter 4: Kom Ombo, Edfu, Karnak and Dendera.
Return to Chapter 3: Cruising Down the Nile.
Return to Chapter 2: Abu Simbel and Aswan.
Return to Chapter 1: Introduction to Egypt.
Read about my version of The Gods of Egypt and Diagram of Temples.Return to Belli's Home Page
Feb 7, 2003
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For more information about our travels write toBelli.