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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Winding Our Way Through the Backstreets of Mansoura

EGYPT | Wednesday, 8 August 2007 | Views [3517]

Exploring the local back streets of Mansoura, Egypt, is a fascinating experience. Our friends Kim and Dennis are living in this northern Nile delta town that is rich with life and culture. This is the first predominately Muslim country we've traveled in, so sights and customs are all very new to us. We are so fortunate to have a local tour guide - Raja, who has joined the Manion family as caretaker for their daughter, has eagerly offered to take us around the local back streets of her residential neighborhood with her sister.
Today Raja is a magical cultural guide for us, it doesn't get any better than this! It feels a bit like our first day out on the streets of India... overwhelming to the senses. Sounds of horns honking fill the air, as wedding processions frequently flow down the streets all days of the week. Loud speakers throughout the town cry out call to prayer five times a day at sunrise, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and night. Men and women dressed in flowing gowns fill the streets. Men wear long flowy cotton gowns called a galabiyya, often made of light colors, keeping them cool in the hot summer sun. Women wear abeyyas, a long black dress covering themselves from head to toe, and hands are sealed up in black gloves... some women only revealing the color of their eyes through tiny slits in their headscarves, others with dark sunglasses on reveal no piece of their body to anyone. White Toyota mini-vans and VW busses crowd the streets and serve as micro-bus transportation for the locals. The traditional donkey carts also cruise the streets, competing for space with all the more modern vehicles. Younger, more liberal-familied teens can be seen wearing jeans and western styled shirts for the boys, and some girls wear jeans with long flowing tops, covering their bodily form to their knees and top off their outfits with colorful, hip scarves covering their heads, yet revealing their beautiful faces.
The markets are fascinating; full of friendly, enterprising locals. As we saunter our way through the market streets, we are greeted with huge smiles and "hello, welcome!" Everyone wants their picture taken, and while we're always conscious to ask permission, these guys come right up, and request to have their photos taken. The tomato man waves us over to be sure we capture him positing with handfuls of the plumb juicy veggies he's worked so hard to produce. His eyes are as big and bright as the tomatoes, and his smiles invite us to take more pictures. He gets pushed aside by the fish-man, who are eager to have us snap pictures of them holding up their fresh catch of the day. The fresh chicken men beckon me to hold their raw, slimy dead chicken - I politely decline such a generous offer, but agree to pose in the photo with them. Women huddle together, whispering amongst themselves, following us closely throughout the market, and some pose with their other women friends, while others egg on their shy veggie-selling friends to pose for a picture on their own. They are all curious about where we come from, and why we are staying in a non-tourist town that is their home. When we say we're from America, their eyes light up, and they give us the "thumbs up!" They happily and warmly welcome us to Egypt and wish us a good trip. Everywhere we hear voices ringing out, "Welcome to Egypt!"
We wind our way through narrow streets where locally made clothing dangles 20M high, proudly displaying beautiful local wear made with brilliant colors, and detailed embroidery. Another shop neatly displays sheesha pipes, and other metal and glass objects. Tables and stalls full of spices fill the air with delicious scents, and the one shop in town that sells alcohol - the beer-mahal as the locals call it, is just a tiny closet-sized shop bull well stocked. With few drinkers in this local muslim community, the selection is not that vast, but the ability to purchase anything with alcohol content is very welcomed by the few western expats living here. Especially when Egypt has such strict regulations about brining alcohol into the country - we were only allowed to bring in 1 Liter per person, so Darrin and I were able to only bring in a total of two bottles, en route from Europe for our friends. At least the security restrictions for carrying liquids in hand luggage aren't as restrictive as they are for flights entering into the US and Europe, so we were easily able to bring in bottles from duty free. Funny, our tour ends at the beer-mahal, after a long fine afternoon of cultural immersion, and meeting some of the warmest, friendliest people. It's only a couple days in, and we have already fallen in love with our Egypt experience.

Tags: Markets


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