Hawkers and hassle, Cairo
At the observation point are a number of salesmen with all the usual heads of Nefertiti, arab head-dresses, shisha pipes, metal pyramids , papyrus, etc.
Most people in Egypt are paid a pittance compared to the rest of the western world, so they are only trying to make a living.
Unique Suggestions: Bargain. Inevitably you will get the price down considerably, and take it as all part of the holiday fun.
Today [27 May 2005] I got 3 large metal model pyramids for 25 E Pounds,; he originally began at 40E pounds. I don't think I was ripped off, because last year I was with someone at Khan el Khalili who was happy to pay 19 E pounds for the smaller models. The little boy I bought them for was over the moon, and that compensates for any extra profit the salesman made.
Fun Alternatives: Try somewhere else away from the tourist sites. Many smaller shops will have similar things, and as the economy is not very good these days may be prepared to sell at a lower price just to make a sale.
We stopped at a locally known lookout point to take some spectacular pics of the Pyramids when a very old and innocent-looking Egyptian man wandered up to my Mum. He gestured to ask if she wanted him in a pic with her and, in her innocent delight, she said yes and he posed beside her.
Next thing, before she had a chance to object, he unwound some dirty bangades and wrapped them around my Mum's head.
"Hey!" I thought "This guy is trying to make a Mummy of my Mammy. She was a bit upset and nervous at this point and I could see that she was bothered by the dirty headdress.
The trick from the old guys point of view was that he would not take the bandages off her unless she gave him money, and he would not leave without his bandages.
I handed him some money, he demanded more, but our guide intervened and he took his bandages away.
It was a really unpleasant experience though - if I were Mum I'd still be scratching my head.
Unique Suggestions: Watch out for the locals wandering the Pyramids - most of them are up to some scam.
When going to most touristic sites you will be followed and surrounded by lots of men offering you to buy their original papyrus papers. It is not an original papyrus they are liers.
Unique Suggestions: If he is offering you a papyrus as an original one tell him No this is not Original and that you are the brother of picaso or leonardo Da vinchi and that you cant be decieved by this.
Fun Alternatives: If you are stuck by his hassle then give him a 3-5 egyptian pounds (less than 1 dollar). and ask him to give you the papyrus.
Dont buy papyrus from the streets cause they are not for real but a sketchy.
There are special places to buy them from. ask you tour operator.
I can honestly say that my experience at the Pyramids of Giza was the only time I felt truly uncomfortable and harrassed as a tourist while in Egypt. From the moment we entered the approach to the pyramids, we were followed, intercepted, offered goods and even touched - with headscarves placed on our heads despite our refusal.
If only I'd learnt the word 'baksheesh' means 'gift', which does not appear to mean something given freely, rather something to be offered in exchange for something else. So when a headscarf is placed on your head and offered as a 'baksheesh', you will be expected to offer something back in return. Attempting to give back the headscarf proved a challenge. Persistance is key, I personally found this all too overwhelming because I had not expected it at all.
We actually escaped by way of a camel ride... which was a great experience though only then led to further disputes about the cost of the ride. We agreed a journey time and price before setting out but it was still a matter of dispute when we were right out in the desert and not able to get off and walk. We ultimately bartered for a reasonable price - above our original - but I still ended up giving them camel riders my pens hung around my neck through their persistance. It was no big deal, but a little frustrating to feel so obliged to give them.
Unique Suggestions: Be prepared to be hassled, and try to remain calm and firm in your response. Remember to say 'la shukran' for 'no thank you', with a smile.
I felt that my experience distorted by view of the site, and with the firey heat I found it a little exhausting. However, when we were out in the desert on the camels we were able to gain an amaZing view of this wonder of the world.
Fun Alternatives: Despite the pyramids of Giza, there are many other pyramids you can visit in Egypt - over 100 in total - so why not visit some of them instead?
We took a day out with a driver hired for the day - thanks to our hotel reception. We visited the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid in Sakkur... with an early start enough to avoid any tourists at all for the first half an hour, and were able to enter the [Red] pyramid itself to get a feel for what life could have been like some 4000 years ago when they were first built........
The Egyptians both make and break Cairo for the visitor. On the one hand, the majority of Cairenes are a wonderful and fascinating group of people, cheerful, helpful in everyway and make great conversation…but that is when they’re not angling for baksheesh or trying to sell you something!!!
I swear the concept of sales and marketing had to originate in Cairo, because the locals can get even the shrewdest and most well traveled foreigner’s attention long enough to get the opening lines of their sales pitch out. Naturally the most annoying scam artists work the tourist sites….Gizeh, Saqqara, the Egyptian Museum all the places you want to go and simply gaze in bewilderment, the silence (and your attention) broken by “Where you from, my fren…England, España, français, United States???” “How ‘bout a camel ride…my fren…Egyptian price today for my fren…only twenty-five LE… I take you to see tomb of Akhethotep…my fren…nice camel ride.” Be wary, the camel ride “into” the desert will probably cost you less than the camel ride “back” to civilization…
Unique Suggestions: So, how do you discern the difference between the good Cairenes and those that are annoy….perhaps the best way is to listen carefully to their opening salutation…If they say “Salaam” with a smile, then your probably alright, but if their opening line is “Hello, my fren” followed with an even bigger smile, then you’d better quicken your pace before you are ushered into a store for tea….because that’s where the heavy sales pitches are made and the next thing you know you’ve bought fake papyrus or one of those stupid toy camels stuffed with sawdust…
Oh, one last thing, don’t even try to throw the hawkers off your trail by speaking a “foreign” language…it’s futile….these dudes know their opening sales lines in a variety of languages and will only come back with a response in the same “foreign” language. I tried to habla the espanol out of a situation in the Khan one day only to find that my Egyptian counterpart spoke better Spanish, much better Spanish…
Although 99% of Cairenes are probably kind, open people, be aware that people that approach foreigners on the street do not really want to be your friend (would you do that?). No matter how friendly, how many things in common ... "you are from ___? My sister is studying at university there!", these people can spot an 'off the plane' tourist and make a beeline accordingly. Just be aware when you hear 'Where are you from?', people are not really trying to reach out to you from the goodness of their heart.
From there, you are invariably brought into their shop and then you're mildly trapped until going through 'the pitch', for perfume oil, papyrus, whatever, which will invariably have inflated prices.
Also, if someone attaches themselves to you and walks with you into any shop (or to any taxi, or any hotel), it is understood that they will receive a cut of whatever you spend, and the price goes up accordingly.
Unique Suggestions: There are so many of these types around, and they do at least approach you in a somewhat polite way, we found the best way to deal with them is a polite but firm, "No, thank-you" with the hand sign for "Stop", and don't even slow down.
Well "yes" the hawkers do hassle you but our guide gave us such dire warnings that we nearly missed out on photos of a lifetime. Our guide wanted us to save all for "her shop". If you know what you are doing there are some interesting buys "out there". So don't discount the hawkers all together.
One hawker brought us change and as he was passing the change to us another grabbed the money and tried to give us goods. We jumped around and complained till we got the money. David is a strong looking guy.
Unique Suggestions: Try not to let hawkers hassle you. If they want to use your camera to take your photo be prepared to pay..cost us 5 euro .
Remember not to feel sorry for them. It is business. And they will drop the price if you seem reluctant.
Fun Alternatives: Just be aware of how it all works and you will be OK.
The attitude pf most guides or fake guides of asking for tips was really odd. They are annoying and not just stress you to get some money(often for not required information), but they’ll also complain and argue because you did not give enough.I had not this problems with taxidrivers or hotel or restaurant staff, only with people on touristic sites which follow you and trying to give(sell) information even if you clearly say you do not want and then will insist to get some money.
Fun Alternatives: Once a guide refused the few money I gave t him and so I found the solution, offered one coin and most of them sent me to hell but at least went away.
Oh boy, how the hawkers around the pyramids disenchanted me. The second I got out of my tour bus and got my camera out, some guys came over offering to take "special" pictures for me. Their special picture is to make you stretch your arm up so that it looks as if you are touching the top of the pyramid. Magical, who needs photoshop? They then somehow manage to lure you over towards their camels... wrap a headscarf around you, offer to take a picture of you on a camel, and wahey! Before you know it, you're heading off into the desert.
I turned around and my boyfriend is still on a camel about 20m behind me, being hassled for money. I very sternly told the guy leading my camel to stop and go back, but he didn't listen. If you're seeing your loved one being led away into the desert and they have your expensive camera, it might be a bit of a blur, and before you know it they've taken something scandalous like £25...
It was meant to be a pleasant camel ride up onto a small hill, where I could see all 3 main pyramids. However, it was ruined by my rising panic that they were going to leave us there or charge us to take us back, or refuse to return my camera. I managed to say that I just wanted to take one picture from up on my camel, and then kept my camera very close, despite the guy trying to get it back for more "special pictures". Oh yes, by this point the other two guys had disappeared, attaching both camels to each other and leaving one guy leading us. He would occasionally "jokingly" walk away and leave us on the camels.
When we got off, he tried to get more money from my boyfriend, saying that as he had taken us, he deserved money too!!! I had had enough by then, I just went "no more!!" and dragged the bf away. I could not believe the cheek of it. To be honest, it was terrifying, I didn't know what they were going to do or what they'd do if we didn't give them money. Our tour guide just let this happen, by the way...
After this, the tour bus drove us up onto a plateau, where we had a view of all 3 pyramids....
Another thing. Just outside the main pyramid, there was a guy giving "presents"... so I said thanks and tried to walk away quickly. He then shoved some postcards into our hands and asked for a "small coin". He didn't accept that we had no money, so I eventually shoved the pictures back into his hands, and he angrily demanded his presents back, before going "can I kiss you?" I ended up saying "emshi" (get lost) and walking away, leaving him muttering about "bloody English"... children also walk around Cairo, pointing at their mouths (does this mean they want food?) and trying to sell you fake papyrus.
We went on a day trip from Hurghada. If you think Hurghada is bad... well, Cairo completely ruined most of my fascination with ancient Egypt. Hawkers should be banned from the pyramids area - for most people this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and they will just pounce on your and ruin your day.
Oh, yes, you don't see much at all inside the pyramids, and it costs £5-10 to go inside one. But at least you can say you've been, if you're into that kinda thing.
Be very careful when someone offers you help in Egypt (unfortunately) - they ALWAYS want money om you. This includes the tourist police and guards at the pyramids, valley of kings.
When in Egypt always be suspicious of people's intentions (unfortunately).
Also, my lonely planet stated that the price (per gram) for perfumes was actuall 1/10th the price I was being asked to pay. Egypt is a supplier of essential oils to the big perfume houses so I did want to buy some but decided against it ...
A fellow traveller was sold a genuine papyrus but later on we found out that it was machine made. Another traveller bought a basalt statue (really heavy) but it was fake - basalt does not chip/break when thrown onto the ground
Unique Suggestions: I dunno know - tell them u want fake stuff and if they say they don't have fake stuff ??
When you are walking through Cairo you alsmost inevitably come across people who want you to show the way, show you something special, etc. etc. You will end up in a place you don't want to be. It might be a shop or, like here, an old mosque. The guy in the picture wanted NO money from us, he said. He wanted just to talk English and learn a bit from us. Well there are people in Cairo who want that, but this young man just wanted a big baksheesh!
Unique Suggestions: Be firm and say NO, Thank you! (LA, shukran!), don't make eyecontact and walk on as if he isn't there.
Fun Alternatives: There is no alternative to a tourist trap like this.
They are all around the Giza plateau, outside and inside the pyramids area. A simple "no thank-you" doesn't seem to cut it now a days. If you must get a camel ride, agree on a price BEFORE you begin. Don't let the camel "jocky" get on the camel with you as he may ask for more money for you to get down.
Unique Suggestions: If you really want to do this which is not a bad idea, just make sure you are going and seeing what YOU want to see. There are a few individuals who will claim a camel ride but won't take you but around in circles. There are a few that will take you to a spot away from the pyramids so you can turn around and see the entire goup of them. It is great and well worth the price. If you don't get tired of the haggling before you get out there.
Fun Alternatives: The alternative is to go to one of the cafe's just outside the park or the cafe that is connected to it for some refreshments and watch the sunset from there. You can see all three pyramids and the sphynx, so it is still a good option.
Most travellers admit that at one point or another in Egypt they are usually taken in by some local businessmen or friendly locals and led to a shop. I am rarely duped by con men but in Egypt they are professionals and know exactly what to say at the appropiate time. In Egypt be cautious when following people (although most people are nice) the worst case scenario involves being led to a shop to buy some over priced souvenirs of the mans friend.
Particularly around Maidan Tahrir and Talaat Harb.......
What does that mean. I mean sure. I use both my legs. Always have.
This is one of the verbal hooks used to initiate a conversation, and this particular one always sets off alarm lights. Should the conversation show the slightest sign of papyrii, perfumes or uncle's shops of any description, I just walk away. Like an Egyptian.
The problem of course is distinguishing between the touts and the people who are simply being friendly. Generally the Egyptians are welcoming, friendly and eager to help and maybe.practise their english or help with your Arabic.
What I am trying to do is learn to cross the road like an Egyptian.
Fun Alternatives: Hop like an Assyrian
First of all - i didnt enjoyed Egypt so much i expected.
Second - when we went to the Giza pyramids, we hired an english spoking driver - he brought us to his preferate papyrus&perfumes shops, but at least he gave us the right advices for the pyramids area.
Third - the advices:
- never let your ticket out of your hand - if asked about it, just show it without letting it
- never stop to a vendor: "No, thanks" and the local "La, shukran" makes wonders; dont bother trying some fancy languages, the locals knows almost everyone of them.
- dont be fooled by anyone - i am from Romania; every time i said this, i get: "Oh, Hagi, the best soccer player" line. I promised myself that the first one that will say "Dorinel Munteanu" (another romanian soccer player) will get a tip from me - it never happened :p
- dont go on a camel, a horse, dont follow anyone, dont let anyone photo you, dont photo anyone - me & my friend escaped with only one tip, but we only stayed for 1 hour at Giza.
Fun Alternatives: A real alternative for Giza are Sakkara and Dashur - these are the things I liked the most in the Cairo area. Both Sakkara and Dashur are around 30 kilometers outside Cairo, they have more spectacular&even older pyramids then Giza and it is way much quiter - in fact, on Dashur we were almost all alone with the desert (and the guards). Above than, Dashur has a pyramid only a little bit smaller then Giza biggest (with a visitable interior as well) and also here there are the Bent Pyramid and the spectacular almost destroyed Black Pyramid. It worth the trip till there.