Pushy souvenir vendors can be a pain around popular tourist attractions, but on the Nile, they take an entertaining tack. As our river cruise ship slowed to approach the locks between Aswan and Luxor, a bundle sailed over the heads of passengers sitting on the sun deck and splashed into the swimming pool. Then a voice from the river, four decks below, shouted, “Hello? Excuse me…”
Peering over the rail, we found two men waiting in a row boat with piles of goods they hoped would tempt us. More row boats made haste to join the first in bombarding us with tablecloths, towels, and garish gallabiyahs. The ladies I sat with insisted that this method of doing business couldn’t actually work: Sellers had no way of retrieving their goods if passengers didn’t take the trouble to fish them out of the pool and lob them back. They were also powerless to collect money due should cruisers decide to simply keep an item. And what about goods damaged or lost when the toss-back missed the rowboat?
Meanwhile other groups collected along the rails to check out the offerings, ask for other colors, sizes, etcetera, and finally bargain a price. Once an agreement was reached the buyer stuck the money in a plastic bag with one of the rejected items and tossed it back to the boat–or at least into the river near the boat. The
men didn’t appreciate having to fish their goods out of the water with a pole, but they were good at it.
So despite the emphatic protestations of my friends, the enterprise would seem to be profitable enough to support a dozen or so boats. Still, I’m grateful that I don’t have to try to make a living that way.