Trip to Egypt - 2 - Adventures while shopping
The entire group met up for the evening meal, which was excellent. Afterwards we went to our
rooms for an early night. It turned out that Win had forgotten to pack a nighty - and although I suggested that she might wear a t-shirt - she opted for what I suspect was her usual night attire -
nothing. I wsn't really worried or upset abot this and when she seemed quite happy to walk around the room before getting dressed to go out, and even to go the door inthe nude - even on the occasions when it was the cleaning man rather than women friends - I decided she was a natural nudist.
She also liked to have a bath and use the toilet with the bathroom door wide open. Maybe she
just was ued to not having to think about privacy. But I wasn't willing to change my ways to match her. She has aquit a nice figure - and surprised me when she said she was 60. ( I was 61) I would have guessed her for 50 or less,and told her so. Anyway, she didn't snore and we happily slept through the night in our separate beds.
On Saturday we had a meeting with the tour agent to see what was available in the way of tours. Breakfast was buffet style and with omelets made to order in front of you, it was excellent food.
Win wanted to go sunbathing so skipped the briefing. I met up with Pat Ena and Zaib, and we opted to go to the Valley of the Kings on Sunday, have a balloon ride over the West bank on Monday, to go the Temples on the East bank on Tuesday and go camel riding on Wednesday. It all cost quite a lot of money, but my friends assured me that it well worth the money - a chance in a lifetime.
We decided to start that first day sightseeing and shopping in Luxor and took our hotel-provided bus down to the town about 12. We had been told by our rep that the main forms of tranport into town were taxi and horse carriage - and that is was very important to settle the amount you would pay before you started. The Egyptians always started at at least twice the price they expected to get, and they liked and wanted you to bargain with them. The four of us started wandering and the first thing to catch my attention were some bookmarks in papyrus with pretty hand painted motifs on
them. There was a young man who quickly made himself available to answer my questions and when I asked how much these were he said, £15 in Egyptian money. (£1 now equals E£20, but I can't remember what the exchange rate was then.) But then he offered to take us to the Egyptian market which was only open on Saturdays and we would find things a lot cheaper and he would help us bargain for things. I don't know why we didn't tell him to get lost. I think we were too polite, and part of us were happy with the thought of having an escort in through the narrow streets and confusion of the town. And he was such a nice-looking personable young man. Abdul, his name was. So we agreed that we would let him lead us into his world - no price was mentioned for his service. We knew he would expect a tip.
He was about 25, tall slim, wearing jeans, t-shirt and jacket. He was very eager to do what he could for us. We walked several blocks through the streets and he told us that some of these markets were for Europeans and not good value - and he could get us much better prices. Then he took us down a narrow road to a shop where a man sold papyrus bookmarks. We bargained with Abdul's help, with the owner who was called Akbar, at the price of E£7 for these but then he produced some much nicer ones that we could have our names cartouched (put in a circle like the Pharoes did
on their hieroglyphic decorated tombs) so we decided to opt for that. Both Zaib an I gave him seven names each, and picked out the appropriate pictures on the cards. He told us he would have them done in an hour or so.
So our friend Abdul led us on deeper and deeper. The streets were narrow and made of dirt - with lots of donkeys bearing loads walking by. There was the odd car, but mostly donkeys or horse carts. And there didn't seem to be any other Europeans here - we really felt we were in a special area -
which made us feel excited, frightened and very glad to have a guide.
Then we were taken into a jewellery shop and Pat found something that attracted her. She wanted
a gold scarab to wear on a chain. All the gold was 18K and we were told what a bargain we were making everywhere we went and like the dupes we were, we believed ever word.
On we went getting more remote all the time. Abdul said he was going to take us to a factory but it was more like an outlet shop, with quite ordinary sorts of goods. I expect the prices were controlled in some way. We were to spend the next hours in that shop so got to know it quite well. The man who was serving obviously knew Abdul quite well, and they chatted on in Arabic for awhile. Again it was the jewellery that attracted the others. Zaib bought a gold cartouche with an Egyptian head on the front and a space for her full name in Arabic Zainanesa, to be written on the back. She then got similar ones for her daughter and daughter-in-law.
During the wait Abdul tried to get Ena to sit on his lap. "Will you marry me? he asked her. "Go on, you're like my gandson," she said but was obviously pleased by all his attention. Of the four of us, all were widows but me - having lost their husbands to heart attacks in their early 40's. I mentioned that my husband had just had a heart attack. They talked about how when they bought expensive jewellery they justified it because if their husbands had been alive, they would have bought it for them. Ena said to me, "When exactly did your husband die?" I was somewhat taken aback, as he was well recovered, so I said, "He is still working on it." (He lived another 14 years.)
Finally all the jewellery came back and was approved of and paid for, and we started on our way
back. While we were waiting, we discussed how much of a tip we should give Abdul and decided on E£5 from each of us. We each gave our share to Ena, as she had been the one he had spent most of his time charming. We picked up our bookmarks, and it was now 2 p.m. well past the time of the hotel bus. The Egyptians like all the people in this part of the world take from 1-4 p.m. as a siesta, and the buses and most of the shops close during those hours. As we got back to the main street, Ena proudly presented Abdul with a note as a tip from all of us, and we started walking away.
He looked at it, and then he got very angry. "COME BACK HERE," he shouted, so we did. "I have given you two hours of my day and this is what you give me." He showed us the note. It was a 25 pesseta note - worth about 2 cents. We decided that Ena had got confused and pulled the wrong note out of her bag. She believed she had been right, and refused to give him any more. But Zaib and I each gave him a E£10 note and eventually Ena got out the E£20 she had intended to give,
and tried to grab back from him the money Zaib and I had given him. But I told her I wanted him to have that as well, and Zaib also agreed. What had started out as a lovely day had ended up on his
anger and our embarrassment. Ena felt awful about it, but we were very pleased we didn't encounter him later in the week.
Much later, I thought about it all, and it occurred to me, that the gap between us giving him the note and him shouting, was long enough for him to have changed the note in his hand, in which case, we really and truly were duped.
We decided to get a horse drawn carraige to the hotel. First the man said he would take only two of us, but we insisted that we all four wanted to ride. We finally got him to agree to £E8 - 6 for him and 2 for the horse. But when I saw the poor horse was being beaten to take the four of us faster up the sloping road the several miles to our hotel, I thought how mean we were - how miserly and determined to get a bargain at all costs.