Shopping in the Shuk

I hate bargaining. I want to ask a price, be told what it is, and decide if I want to pay for it. It’s a personal thing. I understand that it’s cultural to bargain. Some people love to bargain. Heck, my mother will bargain at Macy’s. Luckily, those people were on my trip and they could bargain for me at the shuks.

The streets of Israel and Egypt are lined with outdoor shopping called ‘shuks’. Personally, I found the ones in Israel to be full of touristy stuff that I didn’t really need to bring home. Visually, it’s more than an eyeful.

Need a pot, coffee maker, dates or olives?

They tried to get me to buy this for ‘going to disco’. I briefly considered it for Halloween. But, thought better of it.

Spices! How cool is that??

Costume jewelry and leather goods in the shuk. The jewelry is made in the Bedouin style. Using coins and semi precious stones and beads.

Pomegranate juice making inside the walls of Old City of Jerusalem

This last bit is from Egypt. During ancient civilizations, only the kings and queens could have their names written (in hieroglyphics) in a circle. The circle symbolized eternal life or reincarnation. I had this one made for about $20 with my name (not that I believe in reincarnation but, it looked pretty cool).

Luxor’s Temples

I flew into Luxor at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday and was again out the door by 9:00 a.m. for sightseeing and work meetings. I don’t remember much of the sites. I’m sorry. I was so tired at this point I was pounding back Turkish coffee like it was water. And it was hot. Miserably hot. Estimates were 105 to 110 degrees. Israel was pleasant and warm, mid 80s. This, was an oven.

So quickly, Luxor has two thirds of the antiquities in Egypt. What is in Cairo is nothing in comparison. It’s known for it’s temples built by the kings. The temples were only used by the royal family. They were gilded with gold on top so ships coming in would see that there was temple and the land was protected by the various gods.

There are loads of cool hieroglyphics. It’s also pretty obvious where the design for the Washington Monument came from.

To give you a sense of scale, that’s me standing next to a broken obelisk. It’s huge.

The Pyramids

Don’t worry dedicated sewing readers. I have maybe two or three more posts about my trip and then I’ll be back to my fabric, sewing, vintage machine obsession.

To be honest with you, I was so busy leading up to my trip that I didn’t focus too much on the Egypt / sightseeing portion. I got in to Cairo around 3:00 a.m on Friday morning and was out the door at 8:00 to do the tourist thing. And let me tell you, it’s AMAZING!!

The three ‘main’ Giza pyramids are so much bigger than I imagined. Almost 400 feet tall! That’s me on the sitting on just the first level. Each block is almost as tall as I am. The other shot is trying to shoot up the pyramid.

You can of course also buy cheap and tacky gifts about five feet away from the Giza pyramids. That and KFC and Pizza Hut. I’m not kidding. I don’t have a photo but the tourism side didn’t keep up with the development side in Cairo. So apartments, stores, banks and restaurants are in viewing distance and less than 1/4 of a mile from the pyramids.

Then again, it’s so ancient and old I guess you get used to it? I feel like I remember things being really close to to sites in Florence too.

This little pyramid (on the right) behind the main three was built for a pharohs wife to be buried with him. This way when he crossed over, he could take her with him.

I cannot express to you how neat it is to see something like these pyramids. Wait until you see the temples and sphinx avenue from Luxor!

Religious Thoughts

I felt very conspicuous in Egypt. One, because people kept thinking I spoke Arabic and I had to make that goofy face that says, ‘I’m an American. I only speak English because our public education system doesn’t value multiple languages. Because of that, I speak English and haven’t a clue what you’re saying.’ And two, because I wasn’t wearing a hijab (the fabric Muslim women wear over their head).

I was really intrigued by the hijab. I’d say only 1 out of 10 women were not wearing one and the assumption was they were Christian or foreign. To be frank, I think everyone looked far more beautiful with the head covering. Your eyes were just drawn to their face and strong features. My guide tells me that 30 years ago, few women wore them. But, it’s more common now — and not just for religious women.

Cairo has horrible air quality, lots of sand and wind. Some cover the hair because it’s easier. Others have social pressures to wear it. Personally, I gave up on my hair after the first day. There was enough sand in it to fill a Scrabble timer. I just started twisting and going.

In Israel, I visited the Old City of Jerusalem and walked the Via de la Rosa. There, we stopped at all the stations of the cross. I found the markers along the way visually fascinating.

Here at the Church of the Holy Seplechure, you can enter Jesus’ tomb, touch the slab of rock his body was prepared on, and feel where they cross was planted.

I found the Western Wall / Wailing Wall / Kotel the most interesting. It sits next to the Dome of the Rock. What a juxtaposition of two of the three major monotheocratic religions.

I placed a prayer in a crack of the wall. Men and women must pray on different sides. When done, folks walk away from the wall without turning their back to it (you don’t turn your back on God) and washed their hands. I also read that the wall was erected where God created Adam. Cool, huh?

Fabric Around the World

For once, I showed some fabric shopping restraint. Between travel time and work, I really only had about two hours in Cairo to seek out the world famous Egyptian cotton. While I was making my way down to the Wikalit al -banah market where I had seen stalls upon stalls of fabric to be had, I stumbled across this:

Yeah, that’s right, a Burda fabric store!! It was a few streets away from my hotel. It was a thrill to buy some gorgeous wools at $5 a yard! So, I got just three pieces and called it a day for my fabric shopping.

After this little purchase (pink/grey herringbone, slate blue windowpane plaid and a coordinating solid blue), I decided to skip the market.

Shay, I didn’t make it out to Na Cha lot /Benyamin St in Tel Aviv. My flight was moved up several hours and there just wasn’t enough time after flying back into Israel from Cairo :(

Between the three pairs (yeah, that’s right, three) of boots I bought in Israel and other clothes from Egypt, I honestly didn’t have any more space in my luggage.

On another note, did you know that Arabic numbers are different than our Latin based figures? I had to go shopping with a cheat sheet to figure out what things cost!

One of those people

There are two kinds of people in the world.

There are those who travel to interesting places like New York City and Istanbul and eat the local food at independent restaurants, and those who beeline to American chain restaurants like Ruby Tuesday. I consider myself to be a part of the former group.

I am too impatient for group trips, I don’t quite understand repeat vacations (the Bahamas every year on a three day cruise with the same ports of call) and I don’t do chain restaurants on a first date. I mean, I sew. Inherently, I want to be unique and different. Eating at those places is asking to have my Buppie card revoked.

Would you like fries with that?

So imagine my chagrin when I found myself eating at McDonald’s not once, not twice, but FOUR times in 10 days!

1. Breakfast in Israel is fruit, hard boiled eggs, and salad. I like all of these things. I like all of these things for breakfast in fact. I loved the olives. But, after a week, I was missing my carbs. I *need* french fries and starch in my life.

2. Apparently, olives eaten by the kilo make you retain water and turn you into weird Aunt Sue. You know Aunt Sue. She’s the aunt who pays you a nickel to rub her swollen feet. I do not care for my 30s if this means my feet swell up like I’m nine months pregnant.

3. You can’t drink the water or eat the veggies in Egypt. This includes ice. Three accidents later, I just started going to McDonald’s. It is not cool to have stomach discomfort when you speak neither Hebrew nor Arabic. McDonald’s veggies come prepackaged from headquarters and they use filtered water for ice.

4. My first day in Egypt, I watched a dinner companion eat pigeon. Came out on the plate like a little Cornish hen. Honestly, haven’t had meat in four days.

Finally, thank heaven Egypt is Pepsi country. While I love the Kosher ‘real sugar not corn syrup’ Coke of Israel, I was really missing my Moutain Dew. I truly squealed with delight when I came across this at the Sheraton in Luxor.

This one’s for you Carolyn! I tried to bring some home, but security threw them away.