Egyptian Market Mania

Prices are enticing in Egypt, especially since their pound devalued, doubling the power of the U.S. dollar to nearly 18 pounds per dollar.  I looked forward to scoring bunches of bargain Christmas gifts when we visited the souq.  My chance came at last in Luxor, and I ventured out from under our guide’s protective wing for an hour.

It was seriously intimidating.  Vendors swarm the path and shout “shirts, scarves, camels, no hassle, just browsing, have a look, everything free, where you from?”  I can not shop with all that going on.  I walked several blocks to the end of the street without daring to stop to look at anything.  On the way back I saw a dress that was worth asking a price for.  A polite man with icky teeth carried on about the quality of the cotton:  “Touch this, now touch this, I have another I want to show you inside, I am Nubian, we aren’t pushy…”

The electricity was out in all the shops and I wasn’t up for going into a dark shop with him to touch dresses.  “I want to talk about this dress.  How much?”

He finally came out with the price.  I took our guide’s advice and low-balled.  The Nubian smiled and said he liked me, but he had to make a little profit.  It went on and on.  I turned to leave two or three times and finally paid half his original price because it was his “first sale of the day.”

Negotiating was stressful.  I didn’t know the rules of the game, and it’s an edgy game in our culture.  Also converting pounds to dollars in the heat of battle muddled my brain.  I worried that I’d played the fool because, from what our guide had told us, I didn’t really get a good price.  And yet, when I got back to the group, told my story, and had my dress admired, I felt like I’d had a good time.

Given another couple weeks of heavy haggling, I might have wrapped up Christmas for a song…



About breathtakebyways

Ann Williams’ travel articles have appeared in publications all over the country including The Washington Post, Roads to Adventure, and Jack and Jill. Between researching and writing books, she specializes in creative lectures.