Those entrepreneurial Egyptians!

I have to admit, of all the countries I’ve ever visited, Egyptians are the most entrepreneurial of all people on Earth.  It must be ingrained in the DNA. I’ve had the opportunity many times to haggle and buy things:  out of cruise ship windows, out of bus and car windows, off of street carts, off a cart pulled by a donkey on an interstate highway, and while idling at the red light in rush hour traffic.  I have even had chocolate ice cream cones delivered to my car window!

If there is a way to take something and transform it for sale, an Egyptian will find a way to do it. I have personally seen women dig through the trash bins outside restaurants, collect all the green garnishes and leftover raw vegetables, and sell it for horse fodder to the cowboys offering rides at the pyramids.  There is also a man on a motorized cart (it’s really half motorcycle, half mini-truck) who cruises up and down the side streets yelling into a bullhorn, “Do you have anything you want to get rid of?  I’ll take it off your hands!” There is also a man who collects plastic water bottles, another who collects paper and cardboard, and at any stoplight in Cairo you can buy packages of tissue or kitchen towels.

This spirit is part of a larger element of the Egyptian psyche which includes their ideas about work and preserving the dignity of each person; thus, the 50 EGP tip to the intrepid salesman I dubbed “John Elway.” (Read the “John Elway” blog post here, and read more about tipping here.) 

“Thank you, Canada!”

As always, we enjoyed our recent Nile cruise, including an intrepid salesman who braved the fast currents of the Nile River at Esna (because of the High Dam, the river now has a series of locks and dams at Esna).  The oarsman pulled up parallel with the boat and the hawker began yelling at the side of the ship:  “Hello!  Ola!  Salaam!  Bonjour!” Of course, the sundeck was full of tourists watching the ship go through the lock, so everyone looked over the side and I stuck my head out the window of my stateroom.  From there, he began tossing merchandise up to the various prospective buyers.  This guy should play American professional football – he had the aim and the arm of <insert any famous quarterback here>!

He catches my eye in between haggling with a group of Chinese tourists on the sundeck and a Russian man two floors down and to my left.  “Hey, lady, where you from?”

I lie and say I’m from Canada.  “Ah, Canada Dry!”  I smile and nod.

The first thing I get is a plastic sack containing a truly hideous black and orange beach towel with a print of the pyramids embossed on it.  I don’t want it, but he insists I keep it.  He then tosses up a bag with a lovely printed scarf, and I yell down, “Yes to the scarf. More!” 

“What color you want?  You want red?  Yellow?  You want blue?  I make good price for you!” 

“Yes, blue – throw some blue scarves!”  Up come some more scarves in assorted colors.  I choose what I want and tie them to the railing so he can see what I’ve kept. 

“Hey, lady… you want tablecloth?”  A tablecloth and 12 napkins came sailing into my room.  (I swear, this guy is an Egyptian John Elway… actually, better than Elway, since this guy is throwing accurately from a standing position on the prow of a moving rowboat tied to the side of a cruise ship sailing down the raging Nile River.)

“No, I already have a tablecloth.” (As I had just bought a similar tablecloth at Philae Temple, I send the package zipping back down to the rowboat.  My aim and my arm are not nearly as good as his, but I somehow manage – probably with divine intervention – to hit the rowboat and not the river.)

So now I have indicated I intend to keep some merchandise, and he’s ready to haggle.  I look surreptitiously at Adel and ask what’s a good price for 4 scarves.  He answers, “200 Egyptian pounds.”  I yell down to the man, “How much for 4 scarves?” as I gesture to the scarves I have tied to my balcony railing. 

“900 pounds!  I make good price for you!”

“900 pounds?  No!  200 pounds!”  “John Elway” affects a look of sheer horror.  He is scandalized that I would sully the reputation of his merchandise by offering this pittance, when his scarves are clearly worth four times this amount.  But he’s no fool… he’s got me on a hook, and he’s willing to deal.

“OK, 500 pounds!  You believe me… This is good price!”

I look over at Adel.  He shakes his head.  “Too much.”

I yell down again.  “200 pounds.  No more!”

Now “John Elway” is beating his chest and looking like he will have a heart attack.  “I make lower price.  Now you must make higher price!  I say ‘500’ and you say again ‘200’.  You believe me.  I make you a good price.  400 pounds!”

(Remember… all this is happening in passable English and he is simultaneously dealing with other buyers in at least two other languages.  I swear, I think he’s even conversant in Chinese.)

“200!”  (I am wavering under the constant pressure of haggling but when I look over, Adel is still shaking his head.)

“OK, 250!”  I look at Adel.  He’s nodding.  250 Egyptian pounds is apparently an acceptable price for 4 scarves, and he whispers, “Put 50 more.  This will make him happy.  We want him to be happy.”

So I put 300 Egyptian pounds into the cellophane bag with the hideous beach towel and drop it out the window, where “John Elway” neatly catches it one-handed.  He swiftly counts the money, finds the extra 50 pounds (remember, in 2017, 50 EGP = $3.50), smiles a beatific smile, and bows to me. We have successfully haggled, I am happy, and he is happy.  He is most grateful for the “tip” which wouldn’t even buy a small Starbucks back home.  His shouts out his parting words to me as our ship heads through the lock and his oarsman is forced to release the lines holding it to the rowboat:  “Thank you, Canada!”

Our new partner in Cairo: Pyramids Overlook Inn

Treasures of Egypt Tours is pleased to announce a new partnership with Pyramids Overlook Inn, a tiny three-room inn with a big view!

Located at the edge of the Pyramids and Great Sphinx complex on the Giza Plateau, the Inn is a new rooftop property and the lifetime dream of TOET co-founder (and main tour guide) Adel Taha: “Having my own hotel has been a dream of mine since I began as a tour guide nearly 25 years ago. Pyramids Overlook Inn is a small property, but it is filled with all the love and excitement I feel when showing tourists my wonderful country. And the view is spectacular!”

Aside from the astounding location and views, the most impressive feature of the Inn is the large Bedouin-inspired rooftop terrace, where visitors will be enchanted to soak in the views, play a game of Backgammon or Chess, enjoy a meal or a cup of tea, and watch the evening Sound and Light Show.

The Inn is open and ready to receive up to 8 guests in three rooms:  two triple rooms (each with three single beds), and a double room with a Queen bed. Of course, breakfast and evening hot drinks are included with every stay, and the gorgeous view is sure to please!

Visit the hotel’s website to book rooms:  www.pyramidsoverlookinn.com

Memory Lane: Scrapbooking Your Trip to Egypt

This article is the final chapter of a multi-part series to help you get ready for, enjoy, and remember your amazing trip to Egypt.

There are many websites if you want to purchase ready-made scrapbook materials with an international theme, including Scrap Your Trip, Vacation Scrapbook Supply, and The Fabulous Scrapbook Store.  You may also enjoy making your own paper using a photograph from Egypt printed as a watermark (10-15% resolution) onto scrapbook-sized sheets of white paper.  Another neat idea is to use a piece of authentic papyrus as your background.

Readers, share your scrapbooking tips with us!

Memory Lane: Journals and Diaries

This article is the second installment of a multi-part series to help you get ready for, enjoy, and remember your amazing trip to Egypt.

Many famous people in history have kept a daily journal.  US President George Washington, author Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), Leonardo da Vinci, author Virginia Wolff, and heroine Anne Frank all took the time to write down their thoughts each day.  Without these glimpses into their lives, their histories, triumphs, and human tragedies would not be part of the human condition.

Experts claim multiple benefits to writing, too.  Writing daily for 10-15 minutes can increase your discipline, reduce stress, provide an outlet for your thoughts and feelings (one source says journaling is the poor-man’s psychiatrist), and make you a better writer.

Perhaps the most important reason to keep a journal or a diary, even if it’s just while on vacation, is that it can help keep alive the memories of your trip. If you intend to make a scrapbook, a photo album, or a web gallery of your photos, having the thoughts, feelings, and places anchored firmly to the page can make your job much easier.  You can also share your travel diary (or excerpts from it!) with friends and family when they ask, “So how was your trip?”

How to you remember your trips?  Share your ideas, tips, and tricks with our readers!

Memory Lane: Photographing Your Trip to Egypt

This article is the third installment of a multi-part series to help you get ready for, enjoy, and remember your amazing trip to Egypt.

Egypt is full of beautiful people, scenic desert vistas, dramatic monuments, and of course, priceless treasures.  You’ll want photos of everything! Allow me to share some hard-earned tips to taking good photos in Egypt:

  • The bright Egyptian sun can be your friend or your foe.  Either you’re looking into it (which your camera doesn’t like) or your subject is (and probably squinting).  Turn at a 90 degree angle to the sun (i.e. the sun is to your left or right) so both of you get the light without the glare.  Also try taking pictures with the photographer in the shade of an umbrella.
  • Try to find interesting angles.  Get down low to take a picture up one edge of the Great Pyramid, or stand on one of its massive blocks and take a photo of your group below.
  • Take multiple photos of the same thing, so you’ll have lots of shots to choose from (digital cameras make this much easier).
  • Take a closeup photo of your admission ticket into each venue, so you’ll know where you are.  Bonus: you may have the date/time stamp on your ticket so you can arrange photos chronologically.
  • Really learn your camera and its settings, so you can take wonderful mix of action, night, closeup, and landscape shots.
  • Pre-plan shots you really want.  If, for example, you are an avid scrapbook artist, you may know before your trip that you want to do a layout on the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx. Take photographs accordingly.
  • Ask your tour guide if there are locations that make for interesting photos.  For example, there is an overlook near the Giza Plateau where you can be photographed holding out your hand for the archtypical “See, the pyramid is this tall” photos.

You’re bound to see many amazing things in Egypt.  The best advice I can give you is keep your camera out at all times, lens cap off, finger on the button, poised and ready to take that perfect photo.  Now that you know my secrets, please share your photography tips!

Grand Egyptian Museum Opening Projected for 2018

GEM_2016

The Grand Egyptian Museum is by all means a reason to be hopeful about the future of tourism in Egypt; it’s everything every Egyptian hoped to see in their country. It’s the largest archaeological museum in the world, build on 117 acres, or about 480,000 square meters, and hosts approximately 100,000 artifacts, 3,500 of which belong to King Tutankhamen and will be displayed together for the first time in history. These artifacts are being conserved now at the Conservation Center nearby to get them ready for the inauguration of the GEM in 2018.

This museum is expected to change the concept of tourism in Egypt, said Dr. Omar in an enthusiastic energetic presentation to a group of journalists and representatives of the Japanese Embassy in Cairo during a press tour to development sites Japan is assisting with. He said he expects that this artistic masterpiece will attract from 4 million to 8 million visitors a year, four times more than those who now visit the Egyptian Museum. The GEM will ensure that every object is creatively presented, with the Great Pyramid being the main artifact of the museum, as visitors will have the chance to see it from a window designed specifically for it. Not only this, it will have restaurants, museum for children, souvenir shops, etc. to make it easier for a tourist to stay all day in the Pyramids area.

“The GEM would compete with the most prestigious museums of the world, even if a tourist visits Egypt for a day, they have to visit it,” said Wagih Hanna,  the head of technical oversight of the Executive Committee for Project Implementation with a warm smile, and expressed his thanks to the government of Japan.  …If this project is implemented as planned, it will help tourism get back on its feet and it will have a huge impact on the cultural, economic and even the political spheres in Egypt and the region.

“Yalla, yalla, Habibi” (“Let’s go, darling ones”)

There is a Czech proverb:  You live a new life for every new language you speak.

Locals always appreciate when a tourist takes time to learn a few words in the mother tongue of their country.  In Egypt, this means Arabic — specifically, Modern Standard Arabic (roughly equivalent to “the King’s English”).  It’s not a romance language, so there are no words in common with English, except of course those borrowed from English!  Although Arabic is an ancient language, many of the sounds are familiar to western ears.  According to Wikipedia Arabic script is the second most commonly used alphabet after the Latin alphabet (used in English, French, German, Spanish…). Take a look at the phrases below in preparation for your Egypt trip.

hello — Salaam (or Asalaam wa Alaykum)
yes — Aiwa (or na’an)
no — Laa
Good morning. — Sabah al kayir.
Good evening. — Masah al kayir.
How are you? — Keef haluk?
Praise be to Allah (idiomatic for “I am fine”) — Al hamdu lillah
I am fine, thanks  — Ana bikhayr, shokran
Let’s go!  — Yalla
Dear one/beloved/friends — Habibi
today — il-yoom
tomorrow — bookra
thank you — Shokran (or Shokrun)
you’re welcome  — Ahf-wahn
What’s your name?  — Aysh ismuk?
My name is <John>  — Ismee <John>
Do you speak <English>? —  Titakellem <ingleezi>?
I don’t speak Arabic. — Ana laa atakellem al arabi.
Where are you from? — Inta min weyn?
I am from <America>.  — Ana min <Umreeka>.
Goodbye — Maa-salamah

What other useful phrases should we share with readers?