Journal: Tuesday 19 November 1996
The cruise was over, I had said my farewells to new friends and the excellent crew and I was now staying in the Isis Hotel – I’m a creature of habit, but at that time it was one of the best hotels. I had a couple of days on my own before my two friends arrived from England, the friends I’d made on the boat having all gone home or off to Cairo. After the storms we’d been having, the weather was murky. The sky was overcast and dark – it didn’t feel at all like Egypt. Spending my time wandering around Luxor, I eventually came to hear about the Tuesday Market, so I got up very early on Tuesday morning to go and take a look. It took some finding but after about an hour wandering around the back streets and alleys and asking for directions I arrived at the right street and the market was already in full flow. I could have simply followed the crowds of black-clad ladies with huge packages balanced on their heads had I known this was where they were headed. The street was packed, mostly with women, who seem to be in charge here. It was a noisy and dizzying scene, everyone yelling at the same time, calling out the prices of their wares and gossiping with each other. Huge pyramids of colourful fruit and vegetables were stacked on rugs on the ground, the traders sitting cross-legged behind their old-fashioned cast iron scales. Trays of eggs and mountains of butter or goat’s cheese were laid out on paper on the ground or in small bowls, brought in from the villages as each householder sells small quantities of their homemade produce. It was all very colourful and fascinating. It is mostly food which is sold at the Tuesday Market, but there were a few barrows selling popcorn, various household goods, flip-flops (known in Luxor as ship-ships) and gaudy hair bands or nail polish – these stalls surrounded by young girls. Radios blasted Egyptian pop music, competing with the general hubbub of voices and it was all very vibrant and lively. I had some strange looks as I walked along the street – tourists were rare here, and a foreign woman on her own was unusual. In Egypt, especially the country areas, it is often the men who do the food shopping. I attracted a string of little children who were keen to practice their English and who constantly asked for sweets and pens. Halfway along the street I became more aware of the palm-leaf crates containing animals of all kinds, from kittens to turkeys. Pigeons and chickens were stacked up in baskets, sometimes with no room to move, and all flapping and squalking frantically. I was just watching these baskets when the stallholder reached into one and pulled out a fat brown hen and quickly rung its neck. I know that this is where fresh poultry is bought, but being a vegetarian I decided that I had seen enough of the market and decided to head back to the hotel for a breakfast of coffee and rolls – if I had the stomach for it.