Prayer time and everything comes to a halt. The open air market is no exception. The shops close their doors. The outdoor vendors mostly follow suit. Not all, but they mostly do. So I headed for a seat. I had sat out the thirty minute hiatus here a few nights ago. The bench was full. But I’m brave. It’s like the Egyptians at the cornice right? Go for it. I sat next to the two old guys. Hey, I’m old too! And they left after a bit.
And across from me was a photo op. Gee, even sitting down and cooling my heels, I get to take pictures. So while checking on what I had, I also shot images too. The last one was the keeper. And I promptly quit. No waves, please.
Well, it was quitting time for me. I was headed to the car and wandering the streets to make my way back. I was going up and down random streets and walking toward lights. There was a late café serving a classic dish. It is like burgers and fries. The dough is pulled into a square. Then, a sheet of dough is added, liquid looking egg batter, and another layered sheet is added. It is folded into a square. Grilled, it is served hot to a waiting group sitting at tables inside.
I got a single shot, it’s not great or even fully understandable till I explain. It’s a barber. His dad is holding the kid down.
And I guess it is not an exactly cooperative kid getting his hair cut. Lastly, I passed one more place. Somehow I was brave, made eye contact, and shot a few images. I heard someone in the café behind me say, “Camera.” That was my cue to beat it. It’s grilled flatbread and quite popular by the looks of it.
The end of my evening was the start for someone else. I chanced to pass this very active social night scene. My first pass was a failure. The camera had reset itself and the exposure was blurred. It was interesting. But I considered it a failure. In a rare moment for me I turned around and made a second pass. I was not quite as invisible but did get a better shot.
No women! The men were talking and drinking coffee and playing dominoes. Night life! No alcohol. No women. Oh boy! Well, a sports bar it ain’t. And the waiters are not dressed like Hooter girls either.
Pearl and marvelous – Arabic names. Cats. I’ve named them. They adopted me. I’m a free meal ticket. I started with rolls. They are not vegetarian and finicky so they ate sparingly. Then I used canned tuna. I wasn’t sure if they would be back. So I did not invest in cat food.
Cats around here are stray and pretty much abandoned to the whim of people. They are painfully thin and pretty much know how to work a trash bin. There’s not much.
Two nights after I fed them from the tuna can – they licked the empty can – I found three bounding up to me when I opened my door. Pet food is located with the kitchen supplies at the grocery. There is even dog food. They are large (relatively), medium, and small. The little guy runs if I look in its direction. The large – now Badi – and medium, Lulu are braver. Badi let me touch him almost at once and Lulu is pretty ok. She will nip and scratch at me. At this point I have fed them about a week. And they now eat from my hand. They came into the villa for a visit.
Badi is dumb and started to meow and whine and climb through my curtain at the window. He doesn’t get the concept of a door or how to use it to get out. Lulu was in and out without a problem. Girls are smarter.
I finally got pictures of them both. The third guy is still missing. There are other cats lurking about. These three have adopted me. So we are getting to be buddies. I’m teaching them sharing. Everyone eats.
I have virtually no inside shots. I’m not willing to set foot inside. This mosque in the old city was renovated in the past several years. Mostly things are in construction forever. To my surprise it was finished and I could peer inside. I do. And on this night I was able to see people. Even better. The crowd in the area made me feel safe enough. But you need to be aware that street lighting was not a priority in the old city. I have never felt unsafe. But one more word to the wise. Beware.
Yes, he’s a friendly guy too. He went out of his way to show me that he works on teeth and makes replacements. False teeth! Gold and other materials. And the tools of the trade over his shoulder. I could not ask about anesthesia. It was a nice encounter that made shudder nonetheless. His own teeth are not the best, and don’t enlarge this image if you are squeamish.
The circuit around the old city gets crowded. So the powers that be cordon off the street into a single path. You walk in one direction. You can bail out but you may not walk against traffic. This is really pretty funny since cars are going the wrong way on one way streets all the time. But here, everyone walks in the same direction. And they enforce it! So the first time around I got a shot. And the second time too, because I was not sure the first worked. You don’t want to be too obvious and check. And you cannot go back unless you go around again. Well, I did.
Then there are encounters in which you are invited to take photos. Do so. Just don’t make a big deal over it. Therefore, no flash please. I was in the old city – Balad – and it was heritage time. The area is lit and has been renovated and people are invited to see old Arabic life before cell phones. This group was having a loud animated conversation. Hey, it’s why I went over. It looked like a fight. But they were just having a friendly loud discussion and the intent was to draw attention to themselves. The guy in the middle has an old iron, you know, the kind they heat – no electricity. It was animated and made for a good photo op. You settle for less than ideal exposure. And no, a movie would not have added anything. The acting wasn’t that good.
What did I just say a day ago? There are concrete benches along the corniche. About six foot in length I do what everyone does, I sit in the middle and basically transmit body language, go away, this is my turf. Three Egyptian guys eyed me. Then they sat on either side with the third guy standing to my left. They proceeded to have a conversation around me talking right to left and left to right passing their phone back and forth. I was virtually engaged unwillingly. Anyone else might have risen but I was in my own phone messaging in a conversation 6000 miles away to home. I was oblivious to the Arabic conversation and they could not read my texts. They bought seeds from a vendor and proceeded to munch. Eventually, one guy offered me some seeds. I declined. And then, they asked where I was from. This led to the guy on my left pulling his phone and asking me to listen to a recorded phone call from Canada. He had been contacted about immigrating to Canada. He spoke no English and wanted me to tell him what it meant. Well, this bordered on the absurd since I speak little Arabic. He showed me an internet ad promising immigration for $70 – scam! I was able to shake my head and warn them. Who, I mean really, who, records their phone conversations. You get a call. It doesn’t say, “We are the Canadian embassy.” But you record it? Anyway the three guys were done siting. They left but not before one asked me to take his picture. Ok. Done. What am I supposed to do with the picture? The other two declined to join. Odd. I realize I don’t understand the culture. But this was odd in almost any way I look at it. I’m sitting in the middle of the bench. I’m from New York. Back off! This is my space. Yeah, it was pretty funny.
I confess I’m too shy to stop and ask to take a picture. There are those who say the spontaneous moment is lost as soon as someone poses. I’m shy. So just point and shoot. Remember, shutter 1/100. Wide angle setting and the autofocus will save you, mostly. You end up with lots of duds. And then there are interesting keepers. Here and there you take a little time to compose. Not much time, remember, I’m shy and I don’t want a confrontation. Interestingly I stand out as a foreigner. And I am ignored. I walk invisibly and observe a foreign culture and am largely ignored. Nighttime is when the market is hopping. Smartphones are pretty much everywhere.
Wallet? I think that my wallets are all from street vendors – under $10 – my price.
As to legality, you are legally an unwilling target whenever you are in public. However, you do not want to be confrontational. The caveat, don’t be noticed, and don’t invite controversy.