Thursday, November 1, 2007

Day 6: The Suq

Our final stop for the day was the Khan el-Khalili (variously spelled) bazaar, which can best be described as a miles-long tourist milking pen.


This is one of those "must see" locations where tourists bargain nose-to-nose with authentic Egyptian shopkeepers. Remember my performance back at the Citadel? This should be interesting.

Still in souvenir-mode, I entered the narrow alleyway that is the Khan el-Khalili bazaar with two intentions: to find a T-shirt in my size (I liked the ones Dad bought from the guy at the Sphinx, but they were too small) and to find something for my friend Sarah. I thought since she's a major cat lover that she might appreciate a statue of the goddess Bastet similar to this one.

Dad and I had conferred on strategy, and he was primed to play Bad Cop to my Good Cop by saying things like "I think I saw what you want at another store down the road" which would then force the shopkeeper to come down in price.

The first problem I ran into was that it is very difficult to examine merchandise and make decisions when you have a guy trying to get you into a bargaining session before you even make it all the way across the alley to his shop. If what you want isn't right out on top, you may as well forget it, since asking someone to see if they have whatever in your size is tantamount to promising to buy something at their shop even if they don't have what you wanted in the first place. That's how I ended up with a polyester galabeya instead of a T-shirt.


The second problem was that the previous day, in response to requests from some of the Blue Group, Ihab had written our names in Arabic on the back of our nametags. (One of the other group leaders did this for his group, and some of us were apparently jealous.) This meant that as we walked down the alley, I was hearing stuff like, "Come over here, Dee-ah-nah! Best merchandise, Dee-ah-nah! Beyooteeful Dee-ah-nah!" *loud smooching noise*

The third problem was the sheer overwhelming amount of...EVERYTHING!

Tourists, locals, shopkeepers, stuff, more stuff, different stuff that looks the same as the first stuff... I tried to do the kind of shopping I would at a craft fair or something - make a pass through and identify things I was interested in, then work my way back to the start, purchasing the items I had decided on. Orderly. Manageable.

The bazaar is not that way.

I had identified a couple of shops that had cat statues (NOBODY had appropriate T-shirts) but on the return trip, I couldn't even find the shops I thought I had noted.

In addition, there was the...I can only describe it as filth.


There was no actual pavement on the ground - actually it was worn to a foot or so below what had been the case when the stores were built - some of the more enterprising shopkeepers had built makeshift steps of cinder blocks or pavers to help people clamber into their storefronts. People had thrown trash and litter and the dregs of whatever they were drinking on the ground, and you know how I wore my Crocs to make the mosque easier? You know how Crocs have these HOLES in the tops?


Diana had a stress reaction and had to go have a little lie-down when we returned to the hotel.

I also took a shower and took my Crocs right in there with me for a good scrub!

No further activities today, to prepare for our extremely early morning wake up call. We did sit out on our balcony in the gorgeous but mosquito-infested night air until the scandalously late hour of 8:00 PM. Nighty night!

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