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.)