Spice Markets of Cairo
Cairo, Egypt –
Our first day in Cairo we headed over to the grand bazaar for the day, and the first thing that I noticed was that it exemplified everything I’d ever imagined about Egypt; the hustle and bustle, small back alleys full of spices and materials, the people selling their wares, and the tea boys making their way through the crowd delivering the merchant’s their afternoon tea. I’d heard about the main market from Melinda, and now that I was there I was seeing the images she’d described to me during the months previous. We wandered through the throngs of people – gawking at the women dressed in their robes (head to toe, showing only the eyes) while balancing a huge basket of vegetables or other items on their heads. We made our way into a small back alley which was solely full of spice sellers. The smell wafted down the narrow corridor and my nose couldn’t distinguish one smell out of the fifty or so that I was inhaling. The Egyptian sellers kept putting small amounts of the spices in our hands to smell.
As Westerners here everyone knows we’re not locals (obviously, nor could we even pretend to pass for one) so they’d call out to us as we walked by their stalls. Buy this, try that – it was coming from every direction. I can’t say I was particularly disturbed by any of it, it was just so different from anything I’d ever experienced before. While we were walking around the city I noticed all the Egyptian men were staring at Sarah. Granted she’s a 6 foot tall, beautiful Western woman walking down the street, and she turned a lot of heads. She was rather content to know that Rich and I were usually on either side of her so no Egyptian men could alter their paths of walking and “accidentally” bump into her and rub her chest. We did meet other women who’d had that type of problem, but not Sarah – she was in good hands.
The Egyptians were all generally very friendly. When we were looking for a monument or a certain street there’s always be some man who’d come up to us and help us with the directions. The funny thing was that they’d always give us the directions, then, after they’d helped us, ask us to come visit their perfume shop “just down the street”. It was always the same. The children there all wanted to practice their English, so sometimes when we would be walking down the street the kids nearby would scream “Hello!” at the top of their lungs. We’d just appease them and call Hi back to them. I know now as I write this that I was a bit nervous being there and wasn’t going to be holding any conversations with anyone without a reason. As I traveled more and more and got used to being stared at I would talk to whoever was nearby; they would always be delighted to be able to practice their English.