Khan al-Khalili, Cairo, Egypt
This evening, around 10pm, Mohannad and I went to Khan al-Khalili for a little last-minute souvenir shopping. Ordinarily Khan al-Khalili would be hopping. Six months ago when I was there with my cousin, the place was thronging with tourists. Two years ago when I visited as a tourist, only months after a deadly bombing right there in the market, you had to elbow your way through the crowd.
By 10:30 last night, the sidewalks were mostly rolled up. Virtually the only shops open were the ones with TVs around which Egyptians were crowded to watch Zamalek Football Club get their asses kicked.
This is the way of the world in a volatile region of absolute dictatorships and grinding oppression. Revolutions and other violence happens. Other kinds of major crime – and even most petty crime other than corruption – tend to be much lower in police states like Egypt, Jordan and Syria, but that doesn’t make headlines like revolutions, terrorist attacks and American invasions. When such major events do happen, though, we have long memories.
A few months later, the tourists have begun to trickle back – probably more in the Sinai than in Egypt proper – but in such small numbers that the tourist economy is seriously suffering. Khan al-Khalili should never be so quiet that the empty alleyways fairly echo.