Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ahmed's Factory Tour

Immediately following our first experience in one of Cairo's many tourist traps, we decided to jump over to the Egpytian side of the souk, where real Egpytians buy necessary household items (you won't find any replica pyramids or sphinxes here).So I was a little concerned when I turned around and saw the other three interns talking to an Egyptian named Ahmed outside a shop. However, it was immediately clear he wasn't trying to just sucker us for money. He had on nice clothes, he looked fairly clean, and he actually had all of his teeth(as opposed to Abdul, who only had three or four)!
It turned out he was very friendly and helpful, and even though he was supposed to be helping out in his uncle's store, he gave us the underground tour of the Egpytian side of the market, including the factories where they make both the real and fake trinkets that the stores sell in the souk.

This was the first place we went in, the shoe factory

This was the most interesting of the factories - and maybe I should clarify when I say factory, which in most of these cases were one or two men working on tiny, intricate designs by hand in a small 100 square foot room. This guy was the box/board maker, and he used shells and camel bone to make the designs on top of the wood. You can see the large backgammon board on the right side of the picture.

This guy carved animals out of some kind of tusk. In each case, the factories sell the fake things to most of the tourist traps, and the real things to most 5 star hotels. Either way, the original makers of the products are paid only about 1/5 to 1/10 of what they end up being sold for.Ahmed provided quite the learning experience for us on our first day there.

Later on, we ate Egyptian pancakes for lunch, which are like a cross between crepes and calzones, with meat on the inside and vegetables and spices on top.
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