As in any Cairo market, it is difficult to focus on a single object or person; being in al-Sayyida Zainab is an attack on the senses with its plethora of sights, sounds and smells. But even more interesting than the multitude of commodities sold are the people who sell them. To the keen observer and listener, frequenting the Friday market guarantees a rich cultural experience during which the vendors’ stories animate the space. Given the opportunity of someone who will lend them an ear, it’s the women of the market who’ll have the most to tell about their lives and their businesses.
On Fridays, the narrow streets and alleyways of the al-Sayyida Zainab market host a multitude of vendors—a bird’s-eye view would show flimsy stands divided into pseudo-districts of groceries, furniture, electronics, clothes and food stalls. Navigating the streets of sellers who stand in front of their booths or walk by with balanced merchandise on their heads is a dizzying experience that will reveal who the heart of the market is.