What is so fascinating in narghila which could be seen all over northern Africa, wherever more then one man is be sitting? Actually, narghila is a sort of water pipe above which is burning charcoal. One inhale it and the smoke passes through the water cooling it. The cooled smoke pick up the flavours of the shisha and thats it. There are shisha parlors all over Egypt, wherever men get together.
Shisha is small packet of rolled tobacco leaf plus adding molasses and some apple flavour.
Resting place on the road
This is the only resting place on the road in between Hurghada and Luxor, where we stopped for a 15 minutes break. Time to eat a sendwiches prepared in the hotel and take some cold drink. The place was beseted by locals, offering to take a pictures with their camels or donkies who carried small goat on their back. Some of them were agressive in asking money, the others not. Anyway, I took my pics for free.
The village of Quarna
Quarna is small village nearby Hatshepsut complex and obviously a must see site for all tourist guides. My guide was much more enthusiastic telling story about Quarna then the one about Hatshepsut, probably having more $tronger rea$on$. Anyway, arent all guides alike?
The village is pretty small and doesnt look much prosperious, in fact many small alabaster factories and shops are closed. It seems the act of terrorism from 1997 made big damage to the local economy.
The art of Haggling
I was quiet a lot of times in Africa and allowing myself to say that am pretty good in bargaining. So let me share my experience about it.
First and most important is to know, in North Africa bargaining is way of life, trader is expecting from you to bargain and he wants you to bargain, if not it could be taken as serious offense. Haggling is a high art, take your time if seriously buying, a tea to drink could be offered to you, nice conversation, fun and joking. If buying valuable item the process could last thirthy minutes or even more.
Remember, hurried hagglers overpay and may trully offend the merchant.
There are certain rules to be followed in bargaing and huggling:
- never buy soon after arriving, do it in next day or two,
- if not interested to buy just keep walking, same as camels do, looking neither left or right,
- never look all that interested at the item you want to buy,
- wendor must offer the starting price on which one feign disbelief, look kind of shocked after he says the price,
- arguing is bad strategy in bargaining, be polite, relaxed and extremelly patient,
- conteroffer with at least half as much, even less if you find his price outrageous,
- don't be tricked by discounts for multiple purchases, try to figure out what the price at your home would be,
- play good and bad guy role, when you get close to the right price try walking away, but do it slowly trader has time to call you back,
- if you manage to lower the price to half or less of it that's a good bargain.
When you shake the hands the deal is sealed, price and conditions do not change.
Islam in Egypt a way of life!
We found Islam is a way of life in Egypt. We noticed in this shop Cotton Careezma, in Luxor are distributing literature on Islam free to their customers including DVDs, on religious activity. I asked the owner, what is the purpose of this propagation? He said, Islam all over the world is being presumed as a terrorist religion, so he has taken a vow to correct the perception in his own way! He keeps aside a part of income from his business to print and distribute literature on Islam.
Knowledge of Islam & Egyptian People.
A very amusing incident happened during our visit to the Alabaster factory. After about 15 mts inside I came out from the shop and was watching the craftsmen, then the gentleman sitting with me in the picture came out and asked if I am not buying anything. He then asked me if I am a Muslima? I said I am a Hindu, from India. He again said if I am a Christian? I again said I am a Hindu. Perhaps he had no knowledge about Hinduism, by then a few people gathered and one of them introduced himself, that his mother is from India.
Then again they asked who my Prophet is. I said we have several Gods but the supreme God is Lord Krishna or Lord Vishnu or Lord Rama all the same person as he took several incarnations. Then they said, Isha ( Jesus Christ), Musa ( Moses) , Mohammad. I corrected them; it was Musa, Isha then Mohammad. I also said, I have read the Holy Quran and The Holy Bible apart from our Sri Madbhagwad Gita.
By this time they started taking interest in me and one of them introduced himself that his mother is from India and he has seen the movies of Amitabh Bacchan and Shahrukh Khan. By this time a few people gathered there and invited me to have Tea and Sheesha with them. Again a few people asked me if I was a Muslim after introducing me to a few people that I am from India. I again replied that I am a Hindu but I believe in all religion and have read the Holy Book Quran.
Then the veiled Lady of the house came with two kids and Tea followed by Sheesha, I told her “ Assalam E Aleikum” , and Shukran for the tea. She replied “ Waleikum As Salam”. Also joined an elderly religious man, who came out of the house after, afternoon Prayer. I told them that I remember a few lines of their Prayer and said “ Bismillah hi rahman e rahim”, they all said with me together. Then again I said “ La Ilaha Ill llaha Mohammad Ei Rasul Alllah”, by this time about 15 people all jointly said the prayer including the ladies and were convinced that I am a Muslim. They all shouted together Muslima, Muslima!!! The elderly religious man completed the prayer and we all recited with him. They were very happy and felt like I am part of them. People started embracing me. Then the elderly gentleman after embracing me offered to see my palm to read. He predicted that I shall become a rich man and shall come again to see them within two years. I wanted to know if I am going to get a bigger increment or promotion this year, he said I don’t need to work anymore as I am going to become a millionaire! He also said a few good things about me and my family. ( I deliberately did not take the picture of the ladies and the crowd as it would be rude to them besides I was engaged in getting my palm read)
After a while, our guide Dipti, noticed this and rushed to Rakhi and others in the bus and informed the incident.
Whether, I become a millionaire or not but I would surely like to visit the beautiful people once again. They were so nice people. My little knowledge of Islam, helped me to make new friends.
- Family Travel
Its good to be a woman walking around in Egypt, especially Luxor or Aswan. I see men all came out to tell foreign women how beautiful they are.
Ha ha suddenly I was so popular in that place I could not believe it.
I think I got a few proposals while haggling with the merchants.
Most of the time I asked for marriage gifts like 20 camels or all the goodies from their shop plus a few more camels.
They always offer me discount instead & not marry me.
I think they do that as a hobby which I had seen them asking other single women traveling too.
The Children of Luxor
On our second morning in Luxor, while waiting for our car and driver to accompany us to the necropolis of Thebes, we stepped out of Hotel al-Moudira in the warm rays of the sun. To our surprise, we were happily greeted by a group of five beautiful Egyptian children playing together on the edge of the farm; one girl and four boys, seen in the attached photograph. Shoeless and possessing very little, they seemed the happiest children on Earth. They were keen to practise the few English words in their nascent vocabulary: "hello mister," they shouted, and were most delighted to be photographed. Ahmed, the little smiling one in the middle, was accompanied by his brother to his right and three cousins, whose names I forget. After showing them their picture on the display screen of the digital camera, we gave them a small bag of nuts we had purchased a day earlier. The gift clearly made their day, but our brief interaction with them was the highlight of our trip to Luxor.
La Shukron--No Thank You
Vendors can be pests at times, so a polite way to turn them away is to say "no thankyou" in Arabic. La="no" and "Shukron="thank you", so say, La Shukron. If someone says this to you for some favor, say at the close of a meal, say "Afawan", which basically means "your welcome". Incidentally, "nam" = "yes". The Arabic language is traditionally classified as a semitic, not an indo-european language, so many of the common words can be amusingly contrary to American/European sensibilities. La=no and nam=yes, are two such examples. A recent Arabic friend argues that Arabic is rooted in the same language family as ancient Egyptian.
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The flag of Egypt represents a panel with three equal horizontal strips of red, white and black color. In the middle of the white strip there is a State Emblem of gold color - the eagle with the head turned to the left and the straightened wings.
We saw Egyptian flags on check points of the militarized guard.
Entrance and departure in Luxor are decorated with the picturesque arch. Nearby there is a small park with fountains. There is a check point of the militarized guard. The channel is well visible along the highway leading to the bridge across the Nile.
- Road Trip
The head of the state of Egypt is the president elected for 6 years by direct general election. The head of the state is nominated by large powers. He appoints and displaces the government. From 1981 after Anvar Sadat's killing the president of Egypt is Hosni Mubarak. I was interested in Hosni Mubarak's deals with the USSR.
Mubarak visited the USSR in 1950th many times where he was trained in flights on modern types of planes which the Soviet Union was delivering to Egypt. In 1959 he has been appointed by the commander of a squadron of bombers ÒU-16. I know this plane well and was trained in its maintenance in 1970th. In several years he became the commander of the brigade. He has received the high military education in the USSR, in the Academy of Frunze in which he studied in 1964-1965. He speaks Russian not bad, he high appreciates planes of the Soviet manufacture.
Portraits of Mubarak on streets have reminded me Soviet times when we often saw portraits of our states heads in the diversified places as well.
- Road Trip
~ The Arabic Language...Some Useful Phrases ~
Although English, French, Spanish and German is widely spoken in Egypt it is still beneficial to learn some of the language. The language in Egypt is Arabic. I have got a couple of books on Egypt which have helped me with the pronunciation of the words... as they can be abit of a mouthful. I have got the Lonely Planet guide to Egypt & also the Eyewitness guide to Egypt. Both books have been fantastic.
Hello= As-salama alaykum
Hello (to respond)= Wa alaykum salam
Goodbye (person leaving)= Ma' al salama
Goodbye (person responding)= Alla salkmak (to a man), Alla ysalmich (to a lady), Alla ysalimkum (to a group of people)
Good morning= Sabah al-kheir
Good afternoon/evening= Masa' al-kheir
Good afternoon/evening (to respond)= Masa' an-nur
Goodnight= Tisbah ala'kheir (to a man), Tisbihin ala-kheir (to a lady)
Pleased to meet you= Fursa sa' ida
Please= Min fadlik (to a man) Min fadlich (to a lady)
How are you?= Kef Halak?
And one of my favourite Arabic words is "No Problem" which is "Mish Mushkila"
Everything in Egypt is Mish Mushkila even the language.... Its very easy to learn once you've learnt a few basic words.
Luxor is More Conservative than Cairo
95% of Egyptian women wear the hijab (hair and shoulder covered) or burka (full body covered except the eyes... some have the eyes covered as well). Some of the younger women wear tight jeans and tops with color-coordinating hijabs, which actually looks pretty darn fashionable. But don't be fooled - Egypt is a strongly conversative Islamic country.
My guidebook said that, in Egypt, western women are basically viewed as being on the same level as prostitutes. And sure enough, at the tourist sites throughout Egypt there are women wearing revealing clothing, showing their legs and cleavage. While this is the sexy standard in the western world, it gives us a bad name in the Arabic countries.
Your best bet is to wear any sort of clothing that covers your arms, legs, shoulders and cleavage area. I heard advice not to wear tight clothing, but I could have definitely gotten away with tighter jeans.
Your hair is fine however you want to wear it. However, I tied mine in a bun and wore a scarf over it, knotted at the back. There are plenty of vendors selling beautiful scarves in Cairo and Luxor - don't pay anything over 20LE for one.
It is definitely possible to be stylish but still modest in Egypt. Do us westerners proud.
As Muslims do not drink, traditionally men smoke shisha. Shisha is a tall glass water pipe with a long smoking tube. Often the shisha 'tobacco' is flavoured with such flavours as apple and strawberry. Often you will go by cafes and bars and there will be many people (almost always men) enjoying their shisha.
Although, I know that shisha is just another form of smoking and I don't smoke I had to give it a try anyhow.
Don’t get bored of a million hand shake
It is very common that you will find Egyptians giving fives (your hand clapping on a friend's hand). They do this when you or them says something that sounds funny or looks funny.
So expect that through out your conversation with an Egyptian he will give you five and another five and another five.
So dont think he is crazy. and ladies, dont think he is trying to hit on you and hold your hand but rather he is showing appreciation to a funny thing you said.
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