After digressing from my travels to my micro marathon, today I write about an activity almost every girl cannot resist: shopping. This time though, it’s about shopping in Cairo. If you are anything like me, whenever I travel abroad I always want to take a piece of it back with me for “memories” sake. So where do people go to shop in Cairo? You go to the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar which also happens to be one of the oldest and biggest bazaars in the middle east.
This bazaar is not only a place for tourists to go shopping, but it is itself a great place to get lost in and discover a part of ancient life in Egypt. Since 1382, this had been a place where merchants from afar came to sell their goods, have coffee, smoke a sheesha and perhaps spend a night in one of the travel lodges. It’s filled with small alleyways and crammed with shops selling anything they can.
As you walk by, merchants call out to grab your attention in a number of international languages. To my surprise a lot of them speak Thai. You squeeze pass strangers in small alleyways and then suddenly find yourself standing before huge medieval gates carved in beautiful stone. They are breath taking. I walk around some more, peer into a dark shop and upon entering discover how beautiful its ancient ceilings are. The owners quickly turn on the lights and show us the beauty of their shop. They have exquisite but expensive Egyptian decorations. I like it.
Outside, the smaller shops sell egyptian lamps, brass, leather goods, and other hand made products. I see beautiful boxes with inlaid mother of pearl, silverware with beautiful motifs, leather seats, copper trays, bracelets and even papyrus pictures. There are egyptian cotton scarves and jewelry shops with beautiful exotic designs.
Now almost all the shops require you to do a lot of haggling before finally getting the desired price, but there is this one shop that I was taken to called “Jordi.” The owner I believe is Spanish (well he spoke spanish anyways) and its great in that everything here has a price tag. No haggling required. Everything is at very reasonable price and so you are able to do your souvenir shopping in peace of mind.
You have to go up a steep flight of steps before you find the place, but I think if you ask around you will find someone to direct you to it. Up the stairs, you find yourself on a balcony with several rooms looking over a courtyard. Jordi occupies around 3 rooms each selling different varieties of products. One sells scarves, clothing while others sell wooden inlaid boxes, papyrus bookmarks, magnets and other souvenirs. They even have silver earrings and jewelry, but they are all piled into plastic boxes and you have to find your own pair. It’s fun. I buy some gifts for friends and family before once again wandering out into the chaotic bazaar.
On some cobblestoned street I spot someone with a large tray of the traditional Aish bread on their head walking around looking for customers. It’s amazing how he can carry such a large tray like that. As evening arrives the lights from the colourful egyptian lamps shine out and the belly dancing costumes glitter. I love the colours that fills up this bazaar. It’s full of colour and excitement. As I find my way back to my ride home, I look back and wonder what it was like thousands of years ago when camels probably brought all these goods along. What did people sell back then?