Friday, September 7, 2007


One thing I've been looking for in Cairo is the real deal. The authentic. The sights, sounds, food, music, art, architecture, etc. that reveal what Cairo is all about. Today I found what I'm looking for. If you travel through the Khan al-Khalili market, you'll find everything a tourist needs: stuffed camels, alabaster pyramids, bellydancing costumes, and bottles of perfume. But if you are with a group of friends looking for a certain 19th century home-turned-museum, and if you happen to get lost in Cairo's poorly-marked streets, and if a random curiosity sends you to the farthest end of a dead-end alleyway in the far back corners of Khan al-Khalili, you'll find something few tourists have probably ever seen. You'll find authentic, hand-carved metal and silver work. No machines. No cheap trinkets. No tourist traps. This is what I saw:

Workers use nothing but hammers and simple chisels to engrave their artwork.

To maintain symmetry and accuracy, workers carefully measure the piece and then mark the design with a pencil before making a cut.

The sword in this picture features intricately engraved Quranic verses and 300 grams of silver.

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