haggling in the souq al-joumaa is tame when i think of going to market in cairo. the souq al-joumaa, halfway up jebel quasioun, north of the embassy district and strangely near upscale residential neighborhoods, is the cheapest place in town for soap and brooms, fruits and vegetabales, plants and dvds. going to bab zuweila in cairo for rugs and pillowcases, or bundles of oranges, always required extensive haggling. part of the game. even in cairo’s souq al-joumaa (“al-goumaa”) which spreads underneath a highway a little south of the citadel, near the old mameluke tombs that guidebooks call the “city of the dead,” haggling is still required to come away with treasures like dusty old coin and cigar boxes and state  posters of past presidents. at the souq al-joumaa here yesterday, haggling was minimal. it isn’t only the low price for a kilo of grapes or a tray of new glasses for the kitchen. it’s the calm of so many interactions here that might be embodied in the sing-song local dialect, always lilting. i didn’t have to haggle for my first plant yesterday; the price was, and sounded, good. it’s a small leafy potted thing (clearly i am a botanist) that sits on my balcony now. filling up an apartment with greenery in cairo inevitably meant the occasionally aggressive back and forth, arabic’s soft “ja” replaced with the force of egypt’s “ga,” until you’d made away with a few palms for half the price.

i may get a small cat soon. university classes don’t start for another week and half. i have a membership to the danish institute’s library. the institute is housed in a beautifully restored beit arabi (arab house). unlike one recently opened boutique hotel here in another beit arabi, which replaced the fountain in the central courtyard with a lap pool, the restoration of beit al-aqqad, the home of the danish institute, preserved the building’s past integrity for the sake of the present. there is a large volume on the work available at the institute. step one of research.


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