Chapter 84: You would be mad to eat in the Bazaar

Mercado_de_Khan_el-Khalili,_El_Cairo,_Egipto4I met up with our cameraman Osman around seven in the evening.  He took me to the Bazaar in Cairo   In fact there is a series of bazaars in the same area, it covers a huge area.  The old bazaar, known as Khan al-Khalili was established in the fourteenth century under the Ottomans.

Part of the bazaar area has an ancient gate which would have protected the area from intruders.

Inside the bazaar, there are, mainly, narrow streets, some so narrow that the width is little more than the length of a mans outstretched arms.  Some are wider and can take small delivery vehicles.

There is an enormous variety of goods on sale, one might say that everything is sold there.  Textiles, carpets, carvings and statues, ivory, kitchenware are all available.  In terms of food and cooking,  there are a large number of shops selling herbs and spices.  In fact the spices would have made the market famous during the Middle Ages.  Every so often one comes across the smells of spices, mostly pleasant, sometimes pungent and awful.  Sometimes, the foul smell of rotting food and vegetables would waft across the alleys.  The whole bazaar was a magical collection of colours from bright yellow of the spices to deep blues and gold of the carpets.

There were tailors, ready to make you a suit before your flight took off for home.  And then there were restaurants.  Mostly the shops were quite tiny, some being only about six feet wide.  Others were large and as much as thirty feet wide.  It was these latter shops that would be selling carpets.

Strangers to Egypt, especially tourists, would, normally, be out of their mind to use one of the restaurants in the bazaar.  The chances of food poisoning were very high.  Some of the restaurants could be seen to be somewhat unsavoury, while others were able to disguise their condition.

However, I was in the hands of Nadrah, our Cairo Bureau manager, and Osman.  Being local, they knew where to eat.

We met up at the restaurant.  It was quite small, there were only about four tables inside the shop and two outside.  We chose one of the tables outside, so that we had the world walking past on their way into and out of the bazaar.  The restaurant was only just inside the bazaar.

Nadrah asked me what I wanted to eat.  I said ”I will leave it to you to choose, you are locals and know what is best”.  The fourth member of our party was Ray Bennett, the UPI Bureau Manager. He said that he would go along with whatever she chose.

She ordered a sort of Mansaf which arrived on a silver platter about eighteen inches across.  It was piled high with rice that was the style of a high class Mansaf, it had nuts and sultanas and lots of herbs.  There were lamb chump chops and some whole root vegetables.  Dotted here and there, were white balls, a little smaller than a golf ball. It was a wonderful display.

We ate and we talked.  The meal lasted a long time.  I ate a lot of rice and a lot of lamb, but I was never tempted by the golf balls.  Ray tucked in and ate several of them.  Nadrah asked him if he knew what they were. He said ”No, but they are very tasty”. She said, triumphantly, “They are sheep’s’ testicles”.  Ray did not bat an eyelid.  If it had been me, I would not have been able to retain up my dinner.

© Terence Gallacher 2016.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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