Egypt Through The Eyes Of A Tired Traveller

by | Jun 8, 2017 | Egypt, Travel |

I fished around and pulled my phone out of my bra. The current temperature (of Cairo, not my bra) read 40 degrees Celsius.

An unscrupulous taxi driver had dropped me off at yet another Office for Fleecing Tourists which is always a high yield side hustle for everyone involved. I refused the insistent offers of the man behind the counter for a good-deal horse ride to get the real tickets. Tired before I had even seen anything, I opted instead for another fine drubbing down by the desert sun.

For the best part of an hour, I walked towards the great pyramids through horse and camel dung and half a mile of stalls selling identical statues.

bedouin scarf

David pondering becoming a Bedouin for the low low price of only $5

As if they had heard my cursing and grumbling and had taken some pity on me, the pyramids in all their ancient wisdom revealed themselves. Flanked by the great and noseless Sphinx, and decorated with a KFC and Pizza Hut on the periphery, this was a moment I would hold dear to me for the rest of my life.

Ahhhh.

I paused to take in the magnificence. I smiled and raised the phone to capture this still, perfect moment that I had waited 40 years for.

A man’s voice materialised in my ear.

“YES? You want horse ride? Camel? I give you good price? You want to know how much? You want me to tell you how much? My friend? Yes? My friend? MY FRIEND? Hello? You want to know how much? Best price? YES? Camel? Donkey?”

I put on my best radiant smile and no-thank-you, and walked away. The man walked alongside me for the next 5 minutes expounding upon his wonderful, not-to-be-missed, Egyptian beast opportunities.

camel man

Capturing the classic shot while being offered camel trekking services

Now, imagine this is you. Repeat the above situation back to back for the next two hours as you become physically and mentally incapacitated from the heat and the incessant sales pitches. Eventually, you will forget how to speak English and you will develop a funny little run to get away from the wandering desert salesmen.

Egypt can be a difficult place for a weary traveller to thrive in, and most days, especially in Aswan, it was a daily case of gritting teeth before I ventured into the tout fray.

Stumbling into the relative safety of Aswan McDonalds at one point, a fellow traveller asked if I was having a hard day with the touts. I managed a little squeak for an answer, and shed a single tear. He grinned and spoke the words “imshi bas“.

“And say it like you mean it!”, he added.

Grateful and bewildered, I shuffled back outside, clutching my strawberry sundae and my two new words. Against my better judgment of going back to the hotel for a quick nap, I found myself in the frenzy of the markets looking at more identical statues.

taxidermy fox

The Mighty Boosh crack fox in the middle of the Luxor markets

A man appeared at my side and grabbed my arm, pushing me towards his stall. I hate the touchy-touchy approach so I stared straight ahead and incanted my imshi bas.

The hand was gone. Indeed, the entire man was nowhere to be seen when I turned around. It was some kind of miracle.

It was strange though – now that the pharaonic power of imshi coursed through my veins (I thought imshi might mean “f**k off”, but is more akin to “enough! go away!”), I felt uncomfortable about using it. In my three months of travelling through Egypt, I only used this twice more when market sellers got pushy

Right now, you’re questioning my logic. You’re thinking my days might have been less stressful with a few more imshis in the mix, but the fact is that the hordes of taxi drivers, street boys, felucca pushers, Kleenex children and camel wranglers are all part of the experience.

Baksheesh (tips) are expected at many times during your touristic activities, often for things which would not occur to you that you needed to pay for:

Me: (while buying a ticket for three tombs in the Valley of the Kings) Hmm…there are so many tombs open, which ones are your favourites?
Ticket seller: I like very much Ramses IV , Tawsert/Sethnakhte and Merenptah. (A hand appears under the screen of the booth) Now, something for meeeee?

Me: (in silent contemplation of a stone casket)
Guard: (points at the cover) This is called a ‘cover’. Now, something for meeeee?

Another traveller I met, when asked how he was enjoying his trip responded “I f*cking hate this place. It’s so hard to get any useful information from anybody. I can’t even find out how to catch the right f**king bus out of here”.

I thought back over my many weeks’ worth of similar frustrations and nodded at him in understanding. He bid me farewell, picked up his bag and continued on his journey to find a way out of town.

I wondered if he would think more fondly of his travels in retrospect and realise that Egypt would be a drab place without the hustle, the constant bad deals, wrong information, and daily frustration of trying to get the simplest things achieved.

I closed my eyes and waited in the street dust for a taxi that I was assured would arrive in ’30 Egyptian minutes’. After waiting an hour and a half, I gave up and went back to my room to find another way out of town.