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Cairo Blast at Khan al-Khalili

Probably not that many people have even noted this bomb
blast in Cairo, but if anyone has been to Cairo they have
most likely been in the Khan al-khalili. It is a suq, a
warren of tiny shops crammed into a square near the old part
of Cairo. Tourist buses regularly drop their clients off
here for us to do our shopping. You can buy cheap
souvenirs, or fancy embroidered galabaias, or gold jewellery
or even antiques (not from ancient Egypt but from French or
British colonialist days. Of course there are shops that
sell ancient Egyptian things, but most are copies.

The first trip I made to Egypt was in 1995. It was with the
Natural History Museum in New York. We were one of the
first major American tours to return to Egypt after
insurgents had nearly killed the tourist trade in Egypt for
quite a few years. We had armed, plain clothed guards
assigned to us. We were "important" because the Egyptian
government wanted to make sure we were in no danger. In
fact, we weren't even allowed to do part of our tour because
things were too dangerous in the middle of the country. We
were not allowed to go to Abydos at all. At one point we
took a long bus trip to get to Dendera. We had police in
the bus with us, automatic rifles lying on the floor. We
went through three or so road blocks and we were one in a
convoy of traffic, a couple of tourist groups and quite a
few private vehicles being given protection to drive down
the roads that parallel the Nile.

The second trip was in 2001. That time we did get to
Abydos, but even so, at one point we went to Meiduum and
when we got there we were immediately surrounded by armed
police officers who led us off the main road and across the
desert to the sites of the pyramids there.

Both trips we visited the Khan al-Khalili.

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