The Magic of Khan El Khalili – “Brothers”
I took my first trip to Africa and I immediately fell in love with the country, but more
importantly, the people. The more I traveled, the more all my research on various
cultures took a backseat and my heart took over. I could read novels, textbooks, and
blogs on a particular area of travel, however, what I discovered is the people were often overlooked, if not completely disregarded.
Most often, in the areas of more traditional peoples, they are simply exploited for their adherence to cultural roots, turned into a theme park ride, (buy your tickets for a free showing of tribes and the “Old Ways”). I looked at this, observed the lack of regard for their true state of being. They perform, dance, make jewelry, all to appease the tourists. To me, I wanted to know who these people were beyond what they were selling, I wanted to know the truth behind the facade. And so I took out my cards. I took to magic as a way to open up their hearts, the way mine had opened to the conditions they endured.
I remember my first visit to the famous Khan El Khalili Bazaar in Egypt. At first glance, the merchants treated me as a typical “tourist” who could be finagled into a purchase by the quick and calculated words of a seasoned salesman. And, to their credit, they had succeeded, twice, maybe three times. I recall a very feeble old man, missing a row of his top front teeth. He didn’t try to sell me, he simply smiled and showed me his wares and tugged at my shirt gently and innocently.
I looked down at a handful of Scarab beetles, trinkets of protection. Sensing he could
use a smile on top of the sale I was about to give him, I took one scarab in my hand and said “watch”. I proceeded to turn it into a larger scarab, then made it disappear and reappear on his shoulder. He lite up with such joy it radiated throughout the Bazaar.
Within seconds, other merchants gathered around and I found myself performing for the whole street. Afterwards, I was taken into shop owners houses for tea, escorted around and paraded as an equal. I was, in one mans words, a “brother”. I realized, in that moment, that magic had a power beyond its simple use to instill an emotion of joy and disbelief, It had the ability to bring people together on an unworldly level.