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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Refreshments and DInner at Kahn El-Khalili

We have several favorite eating spots in the Khan. In recent years we had favored Mahony's and had planned to have lunch there on our first trip this year.  Unfortunately, they have dropped the food service and now only serve drinks.  Maybe they will be back again next year?
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We stopped in at the popular Naguib Mahfouz restaurant instead.  This is more like a five-star hotel restaurant than a "Khan" style eatery, but the food and service are excellent. The mixed grill served here is an elegant if pricey sampler.
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For authentic Egyptian cuisine, you just can't beat Farhat.  That is the name on the menu and as a result, turns up in a few places on the Internet.  But if you want to "Google it" - try "Farahat"!  Their specialty is pigeon - so naturally, I started out my meal there with a glass of pigeon soup - not too bad, a bit like chicken noodle without the noodles.
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The mixed grill at Farhat is much less expensive than at Naguib Mahfouz - as it should be, the overhead is much lower.  There are no costumes on the waiters, no front doors (half the tables are out in the alley) and the washroom consists of an outdoor sink  at the end of the alley.  The restaurant is easy to find in that alleyway off Al-Azhar Street!   You will see mostly locals enjoying dinner here.
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Our favorite spot for a cup of tea and a lemonade is El-Hawagy. The owner takes care to welcome us each year. All guests receive good service and it is a great place to sit, to visit and watch people and street vendors.
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When we arrived with a couple of pretzels from one of the street vendors, the owner graciously brought some complimentary tahina sauce for us along with the usual mint for our tea.
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Friday, March 15, 2019

Jewelry, Antiques and Crafts

We returned to Khan El-Khalili a couple of days ago.  We needed to have our shoes shined, to buy a few more things - and besides, it is fun to visit some of the merchants there.  We had interesting conversations with two shop owners.

I realized that I really needed an Um Kulthoum serving tray and had passed up the opportunity to buy it earlier.  We clarified that it is not just Egyptians buying the "Um" merchandise - visitors from the wealthy Gulf nations and north African countries love her too.
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On the western edge of the Khan there are plenty of opportunities to buy gold.  It was good to see large crowds in this area as the shops were quite deserted over the past few years.  But maybe gold demand is up because of various market fears?
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Linda's jewelry tastes run more toward the semi-precious stones - and they can be found here too.  We stopped in a shop making a wide variety of pretty necklaces and other adornments.
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I left her to find just the right combinations and headed down the narrow passageway to find other things of interest.  This craftsman was creating beautiful camels from boards.  He was quite an artist with the saw, file and rasp.
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There are a few antique shops to be found in the Khan too.  This one caught my attention with its display of old cameras so we walked in to browse.  The shop must be about 6 feet wide and 50 feet long with a single meandering aisle.  The locomotives and railroad track stood out to me.
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Later, I noticed the collection of old photos displayed out front which caught the attention of a small group of Japanese tourists.
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In a separate area, I saw this group of antiques displayed rather haphazardly near a shop I always check.  After wandering the alleyways of the Khan it was time to find some refreshments.
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Friday, March 8, 2019

A Visit to Khan el-Khalili Bazaar

We look forward to at least one or two trips to Khan el-Khalili Bazaar each winter in Cairo.  Yes, the Khan is a "tourist trap" - but I buy my watches there; get a great shoeshine from Ali, the best bootblack in Cairo and the photographic opportunities are exceptional.  It's just plain fun for us.

It was a clear day as we Ubered to the east side of town and we had a clear view of the Citadel and Mohamed Ali mosque before turning back in toward el-Azhar mosque and the Khan.
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We found Ali - or perhaps he found us at the usual spot on the square.  We get a good cleaning and polishing every year - usually twice.  Ali's son is now working the crowd too when he should be in school - but life here is not what the fortunate few enjoy in the wealthy part of our planet.
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Ali bought us tea from this tea vendor, we gave him a heavy tip, and moved into the merchandise area.
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If you were looking for tchotchke to take home from Egypt, this is the place to find it.  The sales pitches are finely tuned - in whatever your language.  "Sir, how can I take your money?" is direct - others are more subtle.
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Much of the merchandise is actually made in Egypt, not China.  "Not plastic!  See - won't burn!" says the salesman as he applies a lighter to the leather, silver or stone pieces.
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Linda was browsing for art to complement some existing pieces at home and in the Cairo condo.  She found a large selection.
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Linda left this shop with Ahmed, the sales manager, to go find an artist at work who might help with what she was seeking.  I kept an eye on the shop while they meandered into the depths of the Khan.
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I could sit for hours taking pictures in the Khan.  The colors - the patterns - the symmetries, the people, all lead to photographic nirvana.
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With business from foreign tourists still off from its pre-revolution peak, the merchants of the Khan are making more direct appeals to the local population. This appears to be at least part of the rationale behind the upsurge in Um Kulthum themed items.  Um Kulthum was a popular actress and singer from the 1920s through the 1970s.  She had energy and stamina:
A typical Umm Kulthum concert consisted of the performance of two or three songs over a period of three to four hours.
I suppose her audience had to have a high level of stamina too!  With that style and Egypt's heat, she is characteristically portrayed with a sweat rag in hand.  We visited her museum in 2014 and mentioned it briefly here.

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