Families flocked to Souk El Fustat on Friday night for ‘Mawwal Souk El Fustat,’ an extension of the Mawaweel Festival that concluded this past Thursday. ‘Mawwal Souk El Fustat,’ organised by the Cairo Jazz Club agency and under the patronage of the Egyptian Tourism Authority, invited people of all ages to come enjoy an evening of music, food and entertainment.
Souk El Fustat is centrally located in Old Cairo, a part of the city regularly disregarded despite its significance and wide array of renowned landmarks. “This is a historic place that people are forgetting about,” said Cairo Jazz Club agency Marketing Executive Nariman El Bakry.
The souk itself is an attraction worth visiting. Shops in the small series of halls offer a wide array of goods that appeal to Cairenes and visitors alike. Collectors of Egyptian paraphernalia will find stores selling old religious goods, both Christian and Muslim. A significant number of stores sell locally made handcrafted goods, including notebooks, jewelry and linen goods made by Egypt’s zabaleen, garbage collectors, from recycled material.
As is mandatory at any Ramadan event, food played a big part at ‘Mawwal Souk El Fustat.’ Stands selling everything from sweet potatoes to popcorn, termes to grilled corn lined the spacious halls, providing the taste and smell of a night out on the streets of Cairo during Ramadan. Meanwhile a man carrying a giant tank of karkadeh roamed the crowds, seeking customers looking to quench their thirsts on the humid summer night.
The centre of the action was in the souk’s courtyard. Festival goers sat at tables to enjoy food and drink and musicians performed in the area.
As the evening advanced, the musicians and entertainers also took advantage of the surrounding stone halls. The music of drums, tablas and oriental flutes filled the halls of the souk as a procession of musicians marched around, occasionally stopping for the crowd following to gather around them.
Throughout the evening, mimes and clowns from Meetphool, a professional platform for performing arts, put on shows in different areas of the market and interacted with people walking around and sitting at tables.
Eventually everyone flocked back to the courtyard, the children sitting in the front and the adults standing at the back, to listen to telling of one of Shahrazad’s stories of A Thousand and One Nights, accompanied by flute.
People continued to relish the festival-like atmosphere and music well into the night, enjoying a memorably Egyptian Ramadan for everyone involved. The hot Cairo weather did not discourage those who came to the open air space and found themselves distracted from the lack of air-conditioning by the variety of entertainment and food available.
Although it was on a much smaller scale than the Mawaweel Festival, ‘Mawwal Souk El Fustat’ succeeded in delivering the same goal: providing a unique Ramadan experience for people of all ages in a place surrounded by Cairo’s rich heritage.