Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Streets are Alive

Our family stops to enjoy some fresh juice in the famous Khan al Khalili market in Cairo.

The streets of Egypt are alive with people. I think the mass of people outside is what struck me first about Cairo. Life happens outside on the street in a way that I have never seen in Riyadh. Egyptians are everywhere, walking, talking, eating, bargaining - simply socializing. The other thing we noticed immediately was the humidity - refreshing at first, then just sticky. Cairo is hot, but not nearly as hot as Riyadh and far more humid ... rather like a South Dakotan summer.

In short, Egypt was amazing. Our lasting impressions of Egypt is that it is friendly, busy, crowded, touristy, dirty, hot, and noisy - and filled with incredible remnants of history.

It was guaranteed that as we walked down the street, half a dozen people would say announce, "Welcome to Egypt!" simply upon seeing that we were foreigners. Plenty of people would ask us where we were from and, upon hearing our answer, exclaim enthusiastically, "America - ohhh, very good! Obama!" (It's so nice as a traveler to have a president I can be proud of!) They were completely charmed by our children, acting like they were the cutest kids to ever grace Egypt (which they very well could be). Misha's and Sebastian's photos are probably on a hundred random cell phones up and down the Nile. Even a police man stopped us to ask if he could take pictures of my kids. Taxi drivers would drive next to us solely for the purpose of making silly faces at Sebastian, and once as we wove our way across a busy intersection, a driver stuck in traffic thrust his arm out his window, eager to shake Misha's hand.

Since most of our time in Egypt was spent in its two biggest cities, Cairo and Alexandria, we got the full impact of Egypt's crowds. Streets are never empty. Even in the midday heat, plenty of people stroll around, and as the shadows grow longer, the moderate amount of people turns into a flood. The sidewalks are in fact so crowded that during our first evening in Alexandria while we were getting a walking tour of our suburb, Agami, we stopped for half a minute and then looked up to find ourselves staring into a sea of people with no trace of our group. Our group was hardly an insignificant bunch - it was over 15 people. How can you lose 15 people on the street? It's not hard in Egypt!

As for the roads, the traffic is another thing that never stops. To add to the hubbub, people are very fond of honking their horns. We once had a taxi driver who honked periodically even when no one was in his way - honking withdrawal, I suppose?

After two months of living and traveling in Egypt, we are now back in Riyadh, busying ourselves with doing nothing but catching up on laundry and sleep. But I intend to go back to the start of our trip and recount our adventures in Egypt. As you know, we spent the first three days in Cairo, which now tops Delhi and Istanbul as the biggest city we have ever seen. After our whirlwind Pyramid day, we checked out the famous Khan al Khalili market - a buzzing feast of the senses.

This bazaar is huge - full of twisting alleys lined with goods and, naturally, people galore. Taking a stroller to this market is not the most practical idea, as we discovered.

Misha in the middle of the centuries-old bazaar. It started in 1382 and has been running ever since.

Tammy with the kids among stores with mangos, T-shirts, and powdered-sugar crepes.

Khan al Khalili is in the Islamic District, surrounded by several beautiful, famous mosques.


Bill said...

Nice to read your update. Great photos! Glad you caught up with your group again. :) -mom

Tammy and Josh said...

Yes, we eventually found them - but it wouldn't have mattered. We knew how to get back home. :)

kate said...

I love the bazaar. How fun!!