Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The walled city and the souq

Mohammed Ali Mosque
So after my little bout with all things not fun, I slept until noon and woke up feeling like a new woman. 
I asked about half-day tours but it was too late, so I was on my own.  I first went into the Citadel - the ancient walled city of Islamic Cairo, which was uber awesome.  I got to go into a couple of mosques, this was a first for me.  One thing I will say: if Westminster Abbey is almost enough to inspire a girl to attend church, mosques are almost enough to convert a girl to Islam.  Beautiful!  And, thank God (al Hamdal Allah!) I wore a hijab because there were a lot of inappropriately dressed tourists who had to donn these hideous paper robes with hoods that made them look like Ku Klux Klan.  I took a picture of one.  Poor lady.

KKK Robes
Then I went to Khan al Khalili, the ancient souq (marketplace) of Cairo.  This is the picture you
envision when you think of Arab vendors in the street peddling everything from spices to scarves and these days, cheesy T-shirts.  Oh my God, Laurie, there are purserias and jacketerias galore!  My nephew humbly asked me to bring him a pyramid, so I bought him a set of three.

I can only assume that this marketplace that has been in operation for hundreds of years has changed considerably in the last fifteen.  Because I know an Arab male who went in fifteen years ago with a watch and two other Arab males and came out without the watch.  However, I went in and walked all the way through from beginning to end with: a bag, an iPhone, a camera, a pocket full of cash, a bogus wedding ring and a belly pouch containing more cash, my credit cards and my passport.  I came out with everything, and three pyramids to boot.  At no point was it crowded enough that I was worried about being pickpocketed.  I had much worse experiences in major cities in Spain.

Kahn al Khalili
So I'm glad I felt well enough for these things this afternoon but I'll be taking it easy tonight.  Tomorrow, I'm off to Alexandria!!

Egyptian pharmacology: the elixers of the gods

Egyptian Wonder Pills
Have you ever taken a stomach remedy and felt better almost immediately?  Because I haven't.  In my
experience, when one has a stomach bug, one cannot even keep medicine down long enough to absorb it.  So it becomes a game of trying to keep the medicine down, failing, and thus simply passing the time until the illness just takes its natural course.  And then you are stuck taking an antibiotic regimen you have already started.

Not in Egypt!

Those of you who have read the first half of Vesuvius will instantly recognize life imitating art, because I'll be damned if that Egyptian wonder-pill didn't clear up my symptoms immediately.  Within an hour, I felt essentially fine, but I had pretty bad insomnia (a highly welcome trade-off) and got a ton of writing done for the book.

So I slept late today and am taking it easy.  To be honest, I might sleep some more.  Good night!