Cairo Book Fair

Travelmax states in their website that:

The Cairo International Book Fair at Cairo Fair Grounds is one of the leading cultural activities in the Middle East and, with over 3000 exhibitors and three million international visitors per year, the biggest in the world after Frankfurt.

I went there with a  few friends just to check it out to see what all of the talk was about. It took about half an hour to get there given the traffic, and 15 pounds. We had to buy tickets to get in and even there we were about to get ripped off as they tried to charge us 2 pounds instead of 1 pound. While that may be a few cents in American money, it is still unfair. We got out of that one, with the gys laughing at us behind the counter. Not funny.

My observations were that it was one place where I saw many women, maybe slightly more than men. And many fully covered women too, whcih was interesting since in Zamalek I am used to seeing very fashionable girls, hijab or not. There were a lot of stores selling the Qur’an and other religious writings in all shapes and sizes, and quite beautiful. The fair was also full of students as many stores sold used text books.

We were hungry when we got there so we headed for the food section of the fair where it was packed in one stall, with tables and chairs set on the outside, all full. But a waitor came by and led us to a table, where two women were standing by trying to hold it for the family. The waitor dismissed them and sat us there. ANd then he proceeded to get chairs for us, and took one from another table where a little boy yelled because he was supposed to be holding it for someone. I guess we screamed money given we were foreigners but still, it was a bit uncomfortable how accomadating they were.

We ordered the best shwarmas I have had in Cairo yet- lamb, tomatoes, and parsley wrapped in fresh bread right out of the oven. The waitor, Ahmed, was kind and tried to make us talk in Arabic. They all found us incredibly funny. I ended up promising two of the waitors that we would come back, and Ahmed’s number who said I should call if I ever needed anything at all.

As we were heading back towards the enteresnce after roaming around for a while, there were several boys between the ages of 13 and 18 (I think) following us. We realized that they were trying to take a photo with their phones, trying but failing to be discreet. I finally stopped and asked them if they wanted a photo, to which they were embarrassed but excited and nodded a ‘yes’. So there we are, four American girls posing for the guys, and taking photos with them. They looked elated, embarrassed, thanked us many times, and ran away.

There was a definite religious tone in the fair, a culture that I have yet to see in Cairo. There were stalls selling Western magazines, many of which were over turned because they had half naked models on the front. I saw both fully abbaya-clad women whose eyes are the only things you can see, to tight-jeans and boots wearing teenage girls with their boyfriends holding hands.

Pretty interesting experience, and I think I spent most of the time staring at people. Which everyone does here anyway.

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