How Bazaar

The bazaars of Cairo were completely outside my realm of experience. I've been told they are akin to the markets of Istanbul. So, if you've ever been to Istanbul, then you have some idea of what it was like. My market experiences were limited to Mexico, Western Europe, Scandinavia, and Russia...and I can attest with certainty that the bazaars of Cairo are nothing like any of them.

By comparison, the bazaar was grittier, more openly aggressive, beyond crowded, and felt raw and ancient. Women in full chadors walking around with bags of grain atop their heads. Barrels full of fragrant, unknown spices and the greasy smoke of street food. Cats and camels and donkeys and horses. It was exciting...and honestly, a little unsettling.

As we wound our way through the crowded, narrow streets, walking deeper into the thick of it, we were accosted by a small ferrety-looking Egyptian man who desperately wanted to guide us through the market and sell us the wares of his friends and families. Obviously, we stuck out like sore thumbs with our light skin and eyes, foreign dress, and cameras.

I smiled at and then promptly ignored any entreaties, but this man would not leave Daniel alone and kept pulling us further into the colorful maze of streets despite our protests. As he continued to badger and cajole Daniel, I walked further down the street, impatient, and was immediately seized upon by a large man in front of a spice shop who was insistent that I come inside his shop to sample his wares.

Politely, I declined, and turned around to walk back towards Daniel and ferret-man. This was when he physically grabbed my forearm and literally dragged me towards the opening of his shop. Now, I am not a little nor fragile person. I come from viking stock. But I swear I was pulling against this man with all my strength and was still being dragged along by him.

At this point I started to panic because I was quickly losing visual contact with Daniel. I was protesting loudly, but it was so noisy, Daniel couldn't hear me. Fortunately, the ferret-man glanced my way and saw me being dragged and alerted Daniel to my predicament. Whereupon Daniel basically told the guy to release my arm or things were going to get violent. He let me go with apologies falling from his lips as he continued to, more gently, guide us into his spice shop.

By that point though, I was done. I had had enough of the bazaar and wanted to find my way out of the crowded humanity into a small streetside cafe for a Turkish coffee.


mom said...

Yeah ferret man and Daniel to the rescue. About that time, I would have become dead weight and fallen on the ground in a major "seizure"

Donna said...

Ferrety-looking? Odd that I can get a clear visual of what he must have looked like. I'm guessing you probably didn't buy a thing in the market... I've heard that it's usually a pretty traumatic experience since they tend to zero in on the westerners and try to sell them anything and everything.

Those photos of the 2 guys on balconies made me think that they are the "lookouts" watching for unsuspecting tourists...

cathryn said...

Oddly enough, Daniel did end up buying some exotic spices ... although not from the guy who physically assaulted me :)