On my first morning here I had a few moments of peace just strolling through Egypt’s world renowned outdoor market, Khan al Khalili. I never got the chance to go the first time I came. It was a sight to see. And yes, there was some bargaining to be done.
Peace didn’t last long though, as vendors swooped in to offer me their finest selections ranging from silver jewelry to leather wallets to handmade platters to refrigerator magnets. I was overwhelmed by the endless choices, unsure where to begin or how to navigate my way through this sea of colorful goods.
I left wishing I had been more prepared for the experience and a little less tired from the traveling.
A few nights later I got the chance to go again. This time I was ready. I came prepared with Egyptian currency in hand, and a cousin of mine who was willing to stop, inspect and haggle with me. (She is a girl and after all, shopping is a universal language!)
Nighttime offered a whole other experience with adults, kids, babies, animals, food carts and vendors all talking, yelling and maneuvering at the same time. Lit up lanterns swayed from streamers in the sky and a child blew oversized bubbles at passerbys. We twisted, turned, ducked and dodged our way through the cobbled streets steeped with such rich history. I was told that because it is the holy month of Ramadan, Khan al Khalili was even more crowded than normal.
I passed the Naguib Mahfouz café, named for the famous Egyptian author that I’ve read. We entered and the smell and smoke of hookah enveloped us as the sounds of several men playing traditional music in a corner charmed us. We tried to grab a table, but every seat was full.
At one point, as we neared the end of our visit at the market, a friend who was with us looked to me and asked, “Well, did you like all this—the crowd, the noise, the craziness?” He said it in a joking way, expecting me to say it was a bit too much or that it was just alright.
Instead I smiled wide and responded, “I love it here.” And I meant it.
If and when I get back to Egypt, I’ll be sure to go there again.
Thank you for the opportunity. It was nice to experience a place where I know my parents, grandparents and countless other generations before me did.