The Egyptian Museum and the Crazy Bazaar

Well, we’re just finishing up day 2 in Egypt, and it’s already been a bit of a wild ride. We haven’t been able to upload any photos just yet, but I have written down what we’ve done over the past two days, and we’ve included this lovely webcam photo from the hotel’s lobby computer.

June 28:

Early this morning we arrived in Cairo, about an hour or so later than planned. We got our visas from one of the banks by Immigration, and then joined the Passport Control queue. We also made the (sort of) mistake of asking one of the policeman patrolling the line about our visas, since the man at the bank said to have a policeman put them in our passports. Well, after looking a bit confused, and searching through our passports, the policeman stuck mine on one of the blank Special Modifications pages, and stuck Evan’s diagonally spanning two pages. Thankfully, it turned out not to be a problem, and we were stamped on through to the baggage claim quickly enough.

Once we grabbed our bags, we found the driver for Havana Hotel and went with him to his car. The parking lot was packed, and we were parked in. There were words, lots of honking, and we eventually got out to the craziness that is Cairo’s streets.

Two-lane roads are treated as three lanes, everyone passes from every direction, motorcyclists don’t wear helmets, and horse-and-donkey-drawn carts use the same roads as everyone else. We even saw a bicycle in the left lane of the freeway. We did manage to make it safely to the hotel, and tipped our driver what we later learned would’ve been the full fare from the airport.

Egyptian Museum
In front of the Egyptian Museum

This morning, we headed out to the Egyptian Museum. The place is massive and filled to the brim with Egyptian antiquities, statues, carvings, sarcophagi, jewelry, mummies… The King Tut section was amazing, especially the gold mask, jewelry, and nested sarcophagi. Plus some of the side rooms with extra-special pieces, like Tut’s gold mask, were air-conditioned — very nice in the midday heat.

We stopped for lunch, and when we felt rested we set out for Khan El-Khalili bazaar. We spent quite a bit of time, sort of accidentally, in the non-touristy, calm southern side of the market and its surrounding neighborhood, which we liked very much. The narrow streets were full of stalls and locals doing their shopping. I bought a scarf, we didn’t get hassled, we had children say hello to us, sing, and then ask for money, but we just smiled and laughed them off.

buying a scarf
Buying a scarf at Khan El-Khalili bazaar

Then we got a little bit lost. We started wandering further down the alley-like streets, and we got to an area full of construction shops. We decided to head back to where we came from — of course not on the same path — and wound up down an incredibly busy street, which had a traffic jam of cars, trucks, mopeds, rickshaws, donkey carts, and pedestrians. We had to walk in the road amidst all this because there were no sidewalks, and we almost got squished by a truck making a very close turn to a car. A young man made the truck stop and pulled me to safety, but it was a pretty scary moment. We ended up having to walk back the way we came, and finally found our way back to our starting point.

When we crossed over to the touristy side of the market, we were hassled and chatted up at every turn. We left the market shortly after we arrived there, feeling rather spent.

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