There comes a point in every trip when a traveler needs a moment to themselves. A moment to just sit back and take it all in. This happens to me whether I’m sitting beside a busy pool on a family vacation or in the middle of a crazy market trying to negotiate my way into buying some ridiculous souvenir I’ll probably wish I hadn’t bought when I return home. (Editor’s Note: Ok, so I am still in love with everything I buy overseas – I just don’t know what to DO with it when I get home!)
One of the nicest things about traveling in the Middle East, especially Egypt is the tradition of tea drinking. Egypt holidays wouldn’t be the same without the hustle and bustle of a local market, nor the busy streets and shouting vendors, nor would they be the same without the brief break for a few sips of tea with a shopkeeper. It’s like stepping away from the world for a few moments.
I’ll never forget the moment when we stepped off the busy street in the Khan el-Khalili market in Cairo. We had just entered the area with souvenir shops and night had fallen on the market. Vendors had their stalls lit up like Christmas enticing passersby with welcoming gestures and good natured heckling. We stopped to look at a drum in a stall across the street, careful not to approach until we knew we were really interested. As we approached the vendor, who had other customers in his shop welcomed us with a hearty greeting and pulled out a cushion for me to sit on. Immediately a cup of tea was thrust into my hand as he invited me to sit while he continued with the other customers. We sat there for a moment discussing the drum in Spanish (another market buying technique- avoid speaking English if you can!) before he came over to join us. Then of course the negotiations began, but for that brief moment before he returned I remember looking out onto the bustling, noisy, bright as daylight street and feeling cocooned in his little shop.
Sip, smile, repeat. Take a break from the bustling market outside.
Then walk out with something that if you’re like me, you’ll cherish, but not know what to do with when you get home. Onyx candle holder anyone?
Photo Credit: Flickr user AG Gilmore via creative commons licensing.