Monday, March 14, 2005


We went to one of the most astonishing bead shops I have ever seen one in a street of closed shops. Walls of turquoise, walls of pearls , walls of coral. Semi precious stones all mixed up in huge vats – treasures I can hardly bear to think about. I priced two necklaces. One has a thick triple strand of amethysts and a heavy silver pendant. Fifty dollars Australian.

The other had four ropes of lumpy turquoises of that strange shade between green and turquoise which I love, and a heavy pendant greenstone mounted in silver, with delicate flowers and leaves twisting sinuously over the pendant front. It was seventy dollars.

In the street around the corner was a row of shops with sterling silver – findings and glorious beads.

Most of the shops in both streets were closed for Sunday – it is obviously a Coptic area. I can hardly believe what it must be like when all of two whole streets are open for business, all with the same sorts of beads. The choice must be breathtaking.

“What are you looking for?” from the urger in the souk.


“We have nothing. What colour would you like?”

We had to go to the licence registry to organise an Egyptian licence. I had organised something else, but arranged to meet my friends later so we could go – most paper work is a long and complicated process in Egypt, and can require several signatures in several different locations.

I was told it would be ten minutes. I rather cynically assumed about forty.

We drove to the area – and the traffic was heavy so that was complicated.

We realized Ashraf, one of the Embassy drivers was standing at the entrance, elegant in his suit and waving.

The car was waved straight in. It pulled up, we stepped out and followed Ashraf. We went straight into a room so packed with people that I couldn’t see how we could get through. A word from Ashraf to a man at the end and they all melted away like water on a hot bonnet at Bondi.

We moved into a small crowded room at the end, and once again, as we entered everyone vanished. They closed the door. I sat on a row of chairs at Ashraf’s suggestion, and the whole thing tilted back dangerously. I sat a little more gingerly.

They asked me to move to another chair almost immediately.

I did, my photo was taken, then Bob’s, and we were out. It must have taken a maximum of three minutes – and Ashraf stayed to organise the paperwork while we went off with Mohammed, another Embassy driver. I now have a licence to drive here. Our car is now registered, and in a few days we will have coped with insurance. Then I have no excuse not to drive.

Our favourite restaurant in the souk, Naguib Mahfouz, was booked out completely by a tour group.

We headed for another coffee shop nerby.

They came to take our order. We asked for mezze with Aish Balady (local bread). No Aish balady, but they had other bread.

What did they have.?

“Potato, falafel, and ful.” The latter is a broad bean and garlic mix common here as a breakfast dish – and it would guarantee you a seat of your own on most buses at home!

We asked for one of each and sat to enjoy our little dishes of food.

What we got was three sandwiches – half a piece of local bread, one filled with falafel and salad, one with ful medames, and one with potato – mashed!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the "We have nothing. What colour would you like." I do look forward to reading your stories from Cairo. Dorothy in Canberra.

8:49 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope your cold is better now. Dorothy in Canberra.

8:52 am  
Anonymous The other Dorothy in NZ. said...

Jenny, I am envious! Sounds like some wonderful experiences, and heaps more to come! Love the bit about the beads. That place would be close to bead heaven! Just love your blog. I check in every day... just in case! lol Keep well!

10:56 am  
Anonymous Fiona Hammond said...

Dear Jenny,
I am drooling at your descriptions of the bead shops you have just visited... I love wearing gorgeous things like you've described, but I am also getting back into making my own beaded etc. creations (I used to make jewellery to sell at Paddington Markets in Sydney back in the '80s) so I think I'd probably go slightly potty in the shops you visited. I'd also be flexing my credit card muscles rather dangerously I suspect... Perhaps it's better that I am not there - it always takes me ages to pay off the dreaded credit card after a visit to places which sell wonderful things for quilting or beading...
Thanks for letting me enjoy the thought of the lovely jewellery and beads without spending any money!
Cheers, Fiona in Lake Bathurst

11:39 am  
Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Hi Jenny, I'm not just envious of those bead shops I am absolutely green with jealousy. My friend and I spent nearly a day looking at bead shops in Canberra and environs a few weeks ago imagine the time (and money) we'd spend over there.
Regards Helen

2:45 pm  

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