February 10, 2009: The first place we went on our first night in Cairo was to the “Khan,” a famous bazaar or souk. It was a terrific start to our holiday, full of the traditional with a touch of the modern in some of the clientele. We had some shopping to do.
In a place like this we bought our traditional Egyptian galabeyas for a good price. Very comfortable Egyptian cotton. They were recommended by our tour company for a gala dinner that would occur five days later on our Nile cruise.
We ate a very enjoyable dinner here. The coffee shop is named after a famous Egyptian writer who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1988. His well known work, the Children of Gebelawi, published in 1959, managed to simultaneously tick off the clergy of all three Abrahamic “faiths.” It was banned in Egypt until 2006. Lest you laugh, I remember the Vatican banning sexy saxophone music in the same period when Mahfouz wrote this book. Sexy tenor saxophonist Sam “The Man” Taylor benefited immensely from the interdict. I and many other teenagers bought the offending album, Blue Mist. It sold like hotcakes. I enjoyed reading Children of Gebelawi almost as much as I enjoyed close dancing to Blue Mist.
Don’t be alarmed. This bill was in Egyptian Pounds.
We had a coffee here. I was tempted to try the sheisha, or waterpipe, with some flavoured tobacco. Chickened out. Fantastic atmosphere, decor and attractive, modern clientele.
We took taxis to and from the Khan back to our opulent Cairo Hotel Marriott on Gezira Island, Cairo’s “Manhattan.” The core of this hotel was once a palace built to accommodate Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III. Eugénie was in town to grace the opening of the Suez Canal in 1879.