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Egyptian Tentmakers Bazaar in Cairo coverlet

The Art: A coverlet from the Tentmakers’ Bazaar in Cairo

The Story: I think I put off going to Egypt for many years, despite my fascination with it, for one reason: I was intrigued with the world of ancient Egypt, a world that hadn’t existed for 5000+ years. To be honest, I didn’t think that modern-day Egypt would impress me, and might, in fact, take away from my expectations and disappoint me.


On a two-week trip to this amazing country,  I saw two very different but equally fascinating Egypts (and I’m not talking Upper and Lower). Visiting ancient Egyptian sites is like walking into a History Channel’s archaeological dig and discovering quiet, yet monumentally impressive evidence of a wealthy aristocracy long dead.

Modern Egypt, on the other hand, is the opposite: Cairo is loud, very crowded, and very much alive with over 9 million residents. Rural Egypt is poor, yet we met friendly and hospitable people who greeted us with smiles and invitations into their homes, however meagre by our standards.


It was this hospitality that impressed me most – even extending to something as everyday as shopping –  where having tea with the merchant when contemplating a purchase is considered the only civilized way to conduct business.

Shopping in Egypt

shopping at the markets in Egypt

Unfortunately, I didn’t allow enough time for these pleasantries when I set off to Khan el-Khalili, the massive open-air bazaar in downtown Cairo. With only a limited amount of time to explore before meeting my tour mates to return to our hotel, I made my destination the Tentmakers’ Bazaar, a covered medieval section of the market where shopkeepers sold a particular type of appliquéd textile I had read about, originally used to make tents (hence the name).

Two hours later, I found myself racing through the market, like the crazed foreigner that I was, hurrying to meet my friends at our rendezvous before they left without me. Lots of choices in the bazaar had meant lots of pots of tea shared with merchants, but I made it to the rendezvous point in time, bladder bursting, prize in hand.

Egypt today may not be the same as it was when I was there many years ago, but the lesson I learned is that pre-conceptions about a country shouldn’t prevent you from visiting it. While it may be the past glories that attract you, it’s often the beautiful things from the present that stay with you, too.

TIP: Unless you’re really good with signs in foreign languages, (and it doesn’t get more foreign than Arabic!), always carry the address of your hotel with you. Not all taxi drivers speak English, and in big cities like Cairo you’d be surprised how many “Hotel Cairos” there can be. Kind of like being in Canada and saying “I’m staying near the Tim Horton’s.”

Jane with Hat Tanzania

Jane Canapini is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada and the North American Travel Journalists Association. She established in 2014 to share information and tips based on personal experience so her readers could get the most out of their travels.

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