Selling Bread in the Khan el Khailili Bazaar


Fahdi winds through the narrow alleys of the bazaar toward us. We’re haggling over the price of saffron with a spice merchant. I stop to take his picture.

The men in Fahdi’s family have been selling bread for generations. Balancing bristling trays, they walk or ride bicycles, through and around the bazaar, hawking their wares.

Fahdi stopped going to school when he was ten. Not that he minds. He’s proud to have a job, to help out, especially since his father, who once rode a bicycle while balancing trays of bread on his head, was badly injured when sideswiped in the Cairo traffic.  It’s not a hard job, but it requires resilience and flexibility and balance.

“She want to buy?” he asks Mohammed, our driver, in Arabic who asks us in English.

I nod and Fahdi reaches a long graceful arm up and then hands me the pretzel-shaped loaf.

I break it open and expect it to taste salty. Instead, it’s warm and doughy and smoky. As if it had been baked in a wood-burning stove, which I suspect it has.

“Good,” I say, holding up two thumbs.

He smiles and glides off, through the bazaar, the bread balanced on his head, graceful like a flame.

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