At the Khan al-Khalili

Egypt has over 5000 years of recorded history.  Often, people concentrate on the days of the pharoahs from Menes (Narmer) to the suicide of Cleopatra VII.  But Egypt continued to play its part in world history even though it wound up being ruled by a series of invaders: Romans, Arabs, Fatimids, Mumluks, Ottomans, French and English.   

Much of the area around the Khan al-Khalili dates back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries when caravans would take their silk and spices safely inside its walls.  Its narrow alleys have more recently turned into an extensive tourist trap.  I made the mistake of admitting that I was looking for a Horus statue for Sara.  About four shopkeepers raised their voices insist that what I wanted was in their shop. 

The crowded market at the Khan al-Khalili
The crowded market at the Khan al-Khalili

I made this photo a bit larger than my usual ones so that the incredible detail on the stone work would come through. 

In addition to doing the research for what my characters would experience in what the local expats call The Khan, I wanted to find a scarab made of lapis lazuli.  A low-key shopkeeper politely took me through the various grades of lapis and told me how the various scarabs would be sold by weight.  This encounter actually wound up being research as well for one of my Egyptian characters.  

We made our way deeper into the bazaar where many of the more expensive shops would be located.  There, I found the gate that I’d use in a key scene.  I love the way the blocks fit together like pieces in a puzzle.  I believe this technique is known as scroobling, but I’ll have to double-check this in a book. 

Having the photo is invaluable.  I didn’t remember all of the electrical wires dangling down or that fuse box that didn’t appear to be sealed against wet weather.  

This gate was perfect for my plot!
This gate was perfect for my plot!

After the bombing at the Khan al-Khalili earlier this year, my husband muttered that he couldn’t believe that I talked him into going here.

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4 thoughts on “At the Khan al-Khalili

  1. Kristin- your pictures and comments make Egypt come alive. Some lucky children are going to get an amazing school visit!
    Stephanie

    1. Thanks, Linda. I’m hoping to post information on the expat experience in Maadi as well as well as a serendipitous visit to a friend of my sister. I had to rewrite six chapters rather extensively due to a visit that took place after I thought all of my official research was finished.

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