Saturday, March 14, 2009
Hanging Out In The Khan
The other day Maryanne walked in and said, "OK. Enough sitting around. We are going to the Khan." I wasn't really sure what she was talking about, so I asked. The Khan is an area of old Cairo where the medieval caravans from Eastern and Western Africa and from Asia would stop. After a while the entire area became a market area and you can find almost anything there.
That sounded like fun. On the way in to Khan el Khalili (not very easy to say) there were small shops where people were selling hats and scarves and other funny things to wear. I tried on a pink beaded cap with dangly things. It wasn't really me. I looked around at all the different hats that were there in the shop. Finally I found one that I really liked.
We weren't there to buy hats, according to Maryanne, as she led the way into funny little streets barely big enough for a person and a really small moose. We stopped at one interesting shop in a corner that was down some stairs and around the corner from somplace else. If it sounds like I was lost, I was. I had no idea how to find my way out so I stayed really, really close to Maryanne. She seemed to know where she was. The first place that we stopped was a glass shop.
The old man who owned the shop talked with Maryanne for a while, and she watched me very closely to be sure that I didn't move around too much and break some of the lovely blue and green glassware that was all around me. There were plates and glasses, pots and vases, and some wonderful glass balls that just begged to be juggled. I tried very hard to be still and not bump into anything. Even the alleyway outside was so narrow that it was hard not to hit anything. Finally she finished talking to the glass man and we could start moving again.
We did go down a narrow alley and we did both corners and stairs. Finally we were in the best shop in Khan el Khalili....the junk shop! Well, it isn't all junk there. There's good stuff too. There were all sorts of things there. I saw watches, cameras, hammers, tea sets, binoculars, surveying equipment, old telephones and musical instruments. One time Maryanne saw a strange round black metal thing in the shop and decided to buy it. The man said that it was an old way of telling where you are by the stars.
She took the black thing home where we cleaned it up to find that it has amazing pictures carved all over it and that there are a whole set of carved brass disks for it. Now if we could just figure out what it is and how to use it, if it does get used. We didn't find another brass thing but it was really fun to look through all the old stuff in this shop trying to figure out what it would be used for.
But that's really dusty work in Cairo. We decided that it was time to wet things down a bit and headed for someplace to have a cup of tea. There are lots of coffee houses in Khan el Khalili, but the most famous one is Fishawy's. I've never seen a place with so many mirrors that are not for sale. Maryanne had a nice time, but she was sad at the tea shop. Normally Khan el Khalili would be crowded with people but we hardly saw anyone. Recently there was someone (Maryanne says they weren't normal people but kind of crazy)who left a bomb under a bench in the square near Khan el Khalili. Quite a lot of people were hurt by this and one girl was killed, but now all the people in the area are having such a difficult time because no one wants to come there. Maryanne says that bad things can happen anywhere anytime, so you may as well do the things that you like as long as you pay attention to what's going on.