Venturing the Souq


A small section of the Cairo market

I was amazed to find that the in-your-face vendors of the Egyptian souq calmed down and become hospitable when I stopped and told them what I wanted.  “Sit down.  Would you like something to drink?  Coke, tea, anything you like.”

The first shop tender didn’t have a necklace Mom wanted, so he took us across the street to his brother.  The brother sat us down and brought choice after choice, much  appreciated since our tour’s pace was taking it’s toll.  Mom finally settled on two pendants and chains.  I bargained as best I could, and Mom helped by saying, “maybe we should go” a couple times which brought the price down about half.  I can only hope that was good.

The original shop owner who’d led us to the jeweler now led us to another brother for a tablecloth.  I commented that he had a lot of brothers.  He smiled and said, “We are all brothers.”

A purse seller down the street (chosen without a reference from a brother) hurried off to find me a fanny pack, and not wanting to upset the man who was tending us, I left Mom hostage while I checked a nearby shop for camels.

Camel seller in Luxor

They had just what I wanted!

How many did I want, he asked, one, two?

“I want 30.” He checked three times to make sure he’d heard me right then said he could do that.

Except his price was way more than I’d hoped.

He asked how much I would pay.

I said I didn’t want to insult him.

He said I should “go ahead and say it, even if it’s only a dollar”.

I said, “a dollar.”

He had a stroke.

I said, “you said I could say that.”  The sparing continued, but I was so anxious to get back to Mom and the purse man, I insisted on leaving–which got me my insulting price as I reached the door.  Then I had to promise, cross my heart, that I would really come back.

As promised, Mom and I returned to the camel shop, accepted some hibiscus tea and worked at a price for another item until the camels arrived.  The delivery man pulled them out one by one, and I thrilled at seeing the darling trimmings on each: pink, yellow, green, purple, spangles, braid, saddles, and reins.  They filled the shop with whimsy!  I couldn’t wait to get them home to my friends.

Thank goodness Mom had lots of room in her suitcase.

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.