Shopping in the 14th century Khan el-Khalili bazaar


We seem to have good timing when we travel.  Last year we visited Damascus, Syria in February, just a month or so before the Arab Spring arrived in that country.  Now, less than two weeks after returning from Cairo, that city is once again experiencing revolts, injuries and killing of protesters.  When I mentioned this to our school counselor today, he called me “The Destroyer”.  It would be funny if this wasn’t such serious business for the people in these countries.

Tahrir Square, site of the January revolution that toppled Mubarek

A small protest in Tahrir Square, viewed from our hotel room

It saddens us to watch the current events in Tahrir Square.  Many of the pictures we see of that site could easily have been taken from the same hotel we stayed in while visiting Cairo and The Pyramids.  We had a bird’s eye view of Tahrir Square, and actually witnessed one very small, short, and peaceful gathering one morning.  We send our prayers  to the people of Egypt.

The National Antiquities Muesum on Tahrir Square

What a city.  It is much easier to romanticize this metropolis of 22 million from a distance and after a visit than it is while there.  We were greeted by many friendly people who loved to welcome us to their country.   We have found to be true in all the Middle Eastern countries  we have visited.  In Cairo this friendliness was, at least in part and at times, a guise to get us to go with them to their relative’s shop to spend, spend, spend.  And once they convinced you to look, the pressure to buy was remarkable.

The Mohammad Ali Mosque

It wasn’t so much the vendors in the Khan el-Kahlili bazaar that got to us.  The pressure from them was to be expected and at times was even humorous.  It was the people on the street who offered to “help” us, AND then brought us to their shop so we could spend money.  We had to work to not have this color our experience while there; not an easy task.  We do understand that given the poverty found in this country, people are just trying to make a buck from the western tourists.

In Coptic Cairo. Coptic Christians make up 10% of Cairo's population

Even with all this, Cairo is a place that was worth visiting.  It is the gateway to the Pyramids which we could visit again anytime.  The city and its museum, bazaars, history, and strong Muslim identity make it a fascinating place to visit.  As we advised in the blog on the Pyramids, having a guide is the best way to tour in this city.  Again, we recommend Hesham.

We ended our visit to Cairo with an evening boat ride on the Nile.  A buffet dinner, belly dancing and whirling dirvish dancing capped a great trip to the land of the Pharoahs.

The Nile with Cairo in the background. The land to the right is an island in the middle of the river.

Dinner show, Egyptian style

At the entrance of a Coptic Christian church

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One Response to Cairo

  1. howdy802 says:

    I continue to be inspired by your explorations while you are abroad. I enjoy reading about how your trips intersect the political upheavals throughout the region. Obviously you are being very thoughtful. Sure don’t want to see you on the news. You folks are going to be able to be guest lecturers at the Windham Foreign Policy Forums along with Peter Galbraith when you return.
    Joel just returned from Morocco and along with the beauty and history he also was affected by the vendors and the people on the streets trying to befriend him.

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