The Old Cairo Bazaar | Photos

by Elouise


It’s January 2010, already past my bedtime. A friend is driving D and me to visit the old Cairo bazaar. Vehicles and people fill the streets and sidewalks, including families enjoying the cool night air.

Our friend knows his way around. He has nerves of steel and is quick. He doesn’t wait for safe openings in the traffic. Instead he dives right in, using the horn and brakes as often as necessary.

We arrive in the vicinity of the bazaar and begin looking for parking. There isn’t a single space in sight. Our friend turns into a maze of narrow, sometimes bumpy streets that look like alleys. Small shops line each side of the narrow street.


Cars and trucks already crowd the tight space. Sometimes the sidewalk is a narrow edge along the street. People turn to look as we inch our way along. Every now and then our friend rolls down his window and asks for help finding a place to park. No help.

We keep inching along. At last he spots what might be a space, stops and speaks with the man who seems to be in charge of these precious few feet of space. Then he convinces other vehicles to wait or even move a bit while he jockeys his car into an impossibly small amount of space.

Bystanders offer advice and wave their hands in the air, tossing opinions and directions his way. After agreeing with the man in charge about the cost of this space, we’re on our way, following our friend to the bazaar.

In just a few minutes we’re inside an endless maze of shops. Goods are hanging from the rafters, spilling over onto the walkway. Shopkeepers vie for our attention and our money. Our friend keeps moving.


The air is filled with voices shouting, music blaring, and pungent odors of food, spices, perfumes, bodies. Light glitters on gold, silver, brass and brilliantly dyed fabrics.

We turn corners, walk around an open courtyard and enter more passageways. It’s quieter here. I don’t have a clue where we are or how to exit this maze.


When we arrive at our friend’s choice of shops, I’m relieved. It’s quiet; no one pushes us to buy anything. By the time we leave with our purchases, it’s nearly 11pm. We make our way back through the maze and the glitter, wasting no time along the way.

My eyes and ears are on overload; I’m overwhelmed. We turn a corner and there she is, oblivious to everything around her, doing what she needs to do. Undisturbed, calm and right at home.


We keep going. No time to waste. We finally reach the exit to the bazaar, walk through the plaza and head back to our friend’s car. I can’t wait to put my head down and sleep.


One year later, in January 2011, the Egyptian revolution began.

A bit of nostalgia is just what the doctor ordered for today. Thanks for coming along!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 October 2015, reposted 29 August 2020
Photo credit: DAFraser, January 2010, The Old Cairo Bazaar, Egypt