Our first full day in Cairo was wonderfully full!
Nibal picked us up at 10 AM and we headed straight to Khan el Khalili, the old market in the center of Old Cairo.
We started with breakfast at El Fishawy cafe: fuul (a bean dip), musa’a (aubergine dip), pickled aubergines, and a special falafel, plus Egyptian mint tea, of course.
I just love El Fishawy! It’s a mostly outdoor cafe, with mirrors lining the narrow walkway, making it seem like there are secret windows throughout. The floors are inlaid with tile mosaics, and vendors constantly pass through, carrying fresh bread on their way somewhere else, offering pashminas, necklaces or shoe polish. It’s a magical place!
When we finished eating we headed to a spice shop, lined floor to ceiling with all kinds of good smelling things. On the ceiling hangs a crocodile skin, and in one corner are snake and fox skins and tortise shells. There are boxes of dates and other dried fruit, open barrels of grains and herbs, bins of saffron, cumin and so much more.
After stocking up on spices (Heather) and hibiscus for tea (me, shockingly), we walked a short distance through the winding pedestrian streets to Mahmoud’s veritable costume palace! Three nice cool stone levels absolutely packed with belly dance goodies of all kinds… beaded bedlah, folkloric costumes, hip scarves, jewelry and more.
I loaded up on hip scarves to bring back for my students, and treated myself to a Nubian style folkloric dress, complete with tarha.
After spending a good number of hours at Mahmoud’s, we stopped by a music and movie shop, where I found, among other goodies, a copy of Bahebbek Hassan (I love you, Hassan), a Naima Akef movie that I have been trying to find for years! No subtitles, but I’m thrilled to have it and be able to watch some of the scenes that I have only ever briefly glimpsed on YouTube before they disappeared.
During the day, Nibal kindly called Mme. Noussa and made an appointment to visit her at her workshop in Giza. After checking out a couple more shops in Khan el Khalili, we met our van driver and jumped into thick traffic to Giza!
Egyptian traffic is like nothing I’ve ever experienced… it’s kinda like a big game of chicken. Maybe like Boston but without the rage and with far fewer rules. Lanes and traffic signs are really just decoration. Honking and flashing lights is a legit form of communication. It’s kinda awesome–at least when you’re not in a rush, cause you really have no control!
Upon arriving on El Haram Street in Giza, we had to cross traffic. There are no crossealks…. you just go. And we did, grabbing on to each other to take up as much space as possible!
Mme. Noussa is the absolute kindest woman. Her costumes are dreamy and she takes great care in helping us find a good fit. After trying on a few costumes I settled on two to take home. Yippeeeee!
Having Nibal with us made all the difference. She knows how to navigate the labyrinthine streets of Khan el Khalili, and how best to speak with the vendors for the best results. It was a stress-free first day–just lots of fun and exploration with great guidance.
Next up, a day at the Saqqara and Giza pyramids, the the Makan Center and the Mazaher ensemble in the evening!