Thursday, September 17, 2009

Khan al-Khalili

Yesterday I made a silly decision and went to Khan al-Khalili, a gigantic, exorbitantly overpriced marketplace that seems (and potentially is) endless. Anything and everything kitschy is sold there--little model pyramids, big model pyramids, sphinx towels, stuffed animal camels, papyrus bookmarks, King Tut totes.

Every store has rows and rows of the same things.

I thought it would be entertaining to walk through the market. And it was for a while. I watched little boys and grown men running behind tourists, shoving bracelets and keychains in their faces screaming in the language that the tourists look like they might speak. They always started off with English but if the person didn't really respond, they started speaking Spanish, French, Italian, etc... Luckily, since I never opened my mouth, I passed as an Egyptian and navigated my way safely along the main street.

When I made a few turns in the side streets, the novelty wore off quickly. The market is like a maze and seemingly impossible to navigate. I somehow got stuck in a looooong, narrow corridor that only Egyptians were shopping in (the non-touristy part of the market) and there was no way to get out--side streets were non-existent. What made it worse was that in both directions, there were men riding bikes and carrying giant racks of bread on their head or lugging huge boxes stacked on carts. They could barely fit even if there weren't throngs of people walking alongside them. And if they were trying to get in front of you, they wouldn't say anything. They just started hissing. Long, high-pitched hisses. I would turn around to find a man on a mission, ready to run me over. The worst was when a guy on a motorcycle came through. I don't know how he managed to get into the alley but he didn't have to hiss.

I eventually figured out that certain stores connected to parallel streets and only people familiar with the area knew which stores could lead you out. After about 30 minutes, I made it back to the main touristy part and vowed never to go back to Khan al-Khalili til the week before I left for America so I can get you all miniature hookah keychains.

Light at the end of the tunnel. This is the main street which is much wider than the streets deeper in the market.


  1. I almost died in Khan al-Khalili. When I was there last year with my white friend Maria we went and I decided to be a hero and tell an American couple that the owner of a shop was ripping them off. I almost got my head ripped off. Literally.

  2. I'm in Bahrain...i'm thinking of creating a blog for the week called Chris and Bahrain

  3. I like that idea Chris! It'll kind of be like Fail Blog.

  4. Dude I went there! It was nuts but bargaining with those people is hilarious.