Time for our first solo day out! We got a taxi to Bab Zuweila, hoping to find the tentmaker’s souk, then visit Khan el Khalili.
Bab Zuweila is one of the three gates still standing from the walls of Cairo. I’m not sure of its exact date, but it’s around 1000 AD. “Bab” means door or gate.
Even though we were in the area, we didn’t manage to find the tentmaker’s souk, but we did find a mixed market on a winding pedestrian-ish street through an archway right near Bab Zuweila. It was going in generally the right direction for Khan el Khalili, so we went in.
There really isn’t any such thing as a solely pedestrian street… there will be scooters, tiny trucks, possibly donkey carts, and hand-pulled carts no matter what, and everyone goes with it. You need to be assertive to get anywhere, but not rude. Sort of like the subway at rush hour, but without the angst and body contact. (In the metro there are women-only cars, so that’s another story, but on the street physical contact is avoided.)
Went we came out through the archway at the end of the street, some college student-age girls were sketching the architecture.
We were at a busy two-way road with a fence down the median, and I recognized Khan el Khalili, the old market, on the other side. Yay! We walked a ways till we found the tunnel under the road, and came up in front of Al Hussein mosque on the other side.
We settled in at El Fishawy with tea, coffee, and temayya (Egyptian felafel) sandwiches. This cafe is set on a mirror-covered passageway near the sort of front entrance to Khan el Khalili. It’s one of my favorite places to sit!
After our refreshing lunch, we found our way to Mahmoud’s shop… it’s practically a palace of belly dance heaven! Four floors of hip scarves, jewelry, folkloric costumes and bedlah, all granite and marble… and quiet!
Next, following Yasmina’s map, we found our way to Sharia (Street) Muezz El Din. Wow!! This street is lined with beautiful mosques from medieval times, and, of course, vendors including a silver area and a copper area.
Our destination was the Egyptian Textile Museum. Just 10 le to enter, this museum is filled with ancient pieces of cloth, starting with textiles found in the tombs of Pharaohs! Mummy bandages with writing, finely pleated dresses, funerary cloths… The threads are so very fine! The written info next to the pieces was very helpful. Even after visiting the tombs and the museum, it’s still hard to understand that these are real bits of fabric that are so old–not statues made of stone.
Unfortunately, we had only about 45 minutes before the museum closed. I’m looking forward to returning and seeing more! I hear there is assuit in this museum, too.
Exiting onto Sharia Muezz el Din at sunset was magical. The street, with all its textures and patterns, glowed pink and orange!
It was time to recharge so we headed to Nagib Mafouz cafe. This spot is an heavenly spot of calm in the middle of the intensity of Khan el Khalili. Plus, they have really nice restrooms–a precious find!
I ordered sahleb, a hot milk drink with rosewater that is thickened with sahleb root powder (or corn starch or arrowroot, depending on your access), and topped with nuts, raisins, coconut… It’s so warming. It’s winter here in Egypt so it’s the perfect drink for this season. (50-65 degrees Fahrenheit feels warm compared to Maine, but people here are feeling chilly!)
After a nice and relaxing sit, we wound our way out of the market, across the street via the tunnel, and around the corner to Wikalet al Ghouri for the tanoura show.
This is one of the most incredible ongoing (three times a week?) events here in Cairo. Each performer is absolutely absorbing to watch individually, and the group as a whole moves as one.
The building is from the 1500s, a former hostel for merchants. There are four floors surrounding a courtyard. Each floor is lined with doors, creating a really cool setting for this show. Musicians stand in the spaces between the pillars on the second floor, and the dancers and more musicians use the raised stage set up beneath. I wrote more about it last year, here… I’ve been so looking forward to attending again!
Photos are allowed, but no video, and they actually police it, telling those filming to stop. It’s so nice to be in the moment rather than trying to document.
After the show, we caught a taxi back home to Yasmina’s and to rest…. ahhhhh….