Khan el Khalili Market

Posted: September 13, 2011 in Egypt
Tags: , , , , ,

Before I begin, I have to give a shout-out to my friend Teymour for letting me stay with him and showing me around Cairo.  I find it strange that traveling can turn normally uninteresting activities into amazing experiences.  Like any tourist I had to get souvenirs, so Teymour and I went to Khan el Khalili market.  A boring cab ride turned exciting when my friend tried to pay the driver.  As soon as the the cab driver counted the money he began yelling.  I don’t speak Arabic, but I assumed that he felt we didn’t pay him enough (I’ve never had anyone yell at me for paying them too much).  My friend said something back at the cab driver.  The argument went back and forth like a ping pong match.  Finally my friend told me to get out of the taxi.  The driver parked the car and got out and continued screaming.  By this time people in the marketplace were watching the spectacle as if it were their favorite morning soap opera.  Luckily it was a short episode because a police officer came over and spoke to the driver and he got in his taxi and drove away.  I asked Teymour what happened and he said that the driver was trying to rip us off because he thought we were tourist.  Then he said the police officer told the driver he couldn’t park where he did so he had to leave.  This left me confused for two reasons: 1. Why did the taxi driver think my friend was a tourist?  He’s Egyptian! (I assume he thought I was a local) 2. Why did the yelling between the driver and us not even phase the officer, but the inconvenient parking caused him to confront the taxi driver?

After that experience I knew it was going to be a great evening.  My first stop was to get a Tarboosh (Fez hat).  I ended up getting two and made my friend wear one.  He needed help blending in and I thought a Tarboosh would do the trick (look at the picture to the right, with a Tarboosh I blend right in).  Teymour then began describing to me the history of the Tarboosh and that hardly anyone wears them now because it used to be a symbol of oppression.  Let’s just say I let him stop wearing it after that.  As we walked through the crowded market, we came to an alley with people sitting around watching soccer.  Instead of walking by we stopped and started to watch the game.  Immediately one of the storekeepers went into his shop and grabbed two chairs for us.  We sat and watched the rest of the match with everyone.  It was a lot of fun cheering with everyone during the match.  It made me feel that I fit right in with everyone else (luckily Teymour told me who to cheer for or else I could have been in trouble cheering for the wrong team).

By the time we left some of the stores were closing, so I finished getting souvenirs and some spices.  We then went to El Hussein Mosque.  As we looked around we heard some music playing and decided to check it out.  We went inside an old building and at the end of the hall was an open courtyard with a band playing and a bunch of people sitting and listening.  The atmosphere was awesome because we were sitting in a large courtyard in the middle of an old home.  The band was playing folk music, but it was unlike anything I had seen before because the band was huge.  There were a ton of instruments, several singers, and a few band members dancing around on stage.  Although I couldn’t understand the songs it was a lot of fun to listen and enjoy the culture.  During the concert Teymour said, “that’d be funny if you got on stage and started breakdancing.”  I took his joke as a suggestion and asked, “do you think they’d let me?”  He immediately replied, “you wouldn’t do it.”  With that challenge I went up to the stage and asked if I could dance along with the band.  They let me up on stage and I danced for an entire song (the song was 8 minutes long).  I’m not sure how they could tell I wasn’t apart of the band, but everyone was laughing as they watched me dance around.  I was happy with my performance because other crowd members got up and began dancing in the aisles.

I love traveling because there is no such thing as an ordinary time souvenir shopping!

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