Random Street Markets- Alexandria, Egypt

Sometimes the most memorable experiences from a trip can happen when you least expect them. While I usually like being prepared with the best way to a destination, sometimes it pays to just take your time and wander around as you might come across something great.

After getting off the train from Cairo to Alexandria, my wife and I weren’t sure which direction to go to get to the ancient site Pompey’s Pillar, a Roman triumphal column.

Pompey’s Pillar
Once we crossed the street from the train station, we saw some signs showing which way to go for Pompey’s Pillar but they were not so clearly marked. We decided to wander a bit and see where the road would take us. Our decision was to walk for a bit and if we did not find what we were looking for we could always ask for directions later on.
After walking about 10 minutes or so from the train station we started seeing people walking by with crude looking wooden cages. Some were empty but others had pigeons inside.
That got us wondering- Were these pigeons going to be pets or food? In Luxor, a few days earlier I had eaten a pigeon for dinner. It wasn’t the meatiest bird but it was a decent meal!

A few minutes later, we came across huge crowds shopping at various markets. Each block or so had different items for sale. Some sold pigeon cages, others sold pigeons, kittens, puppies, fish or other animals. These markets were clearly for locals; there was not another tourist in sight.

We soon realized that we had become an attraction for the local vendors and shoppers as much as the pet markets were an attraction to us. Soon we were surrounded by shoppers and vendors- they wanted us to take pictures of them and be in pictures with us! The vendors were taking animals out of the cages (or fish tanks) for us to photograph and to hold. It was definitely an amazing experience.

We were treated so warmly by the locals and they seemed really happy & excited to hear that we were American, which was a bit surprising to us.
This was a welcome change from how we were treated in other cities we visited in Egypt- Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and a couple of others. In all of these places, pretty much everybody we encountered was trying to either sell us something or get baksheesh (a tip) from us.

It was a really incredible, unplanned experience probably more memorable than the site we had set out to see.

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