8. Street Vendors
Street vendors are everywhere you go – in markets and at all the historical sites. If you don’t wish to buy, do not make eye contact and do not engage in any way, keep walking. It’s a shame really as sometimes you would like to browse especially if there is a little shop too, but these vendors can be very persistent if you do stop to look. Most items they are selling as souvenirs are not made in Egypt but in China. This situation of course is not unique to Egypt. Plus you realize they are not out to do any harm, just in most cases feeding their family.
If you are cruising, in some places vendors will come alongside in boats and toss items up to you. You are expected to keep the item, place payment in the bag, and toss back. Again do not engage if not interested – we had our balcony door open on the scene and a galabya which is a traditional garment was tossed directly into our room. (Unwanted at the time, it was tossed back. We should have bought it – great price!)
But if you like a bargain, and want to purchase multiple souvenirs to take home for family and friends, street vendor items often can be a money saver. Your guide can tell you, if asked, approximately how much the popular items for sale are worth. This way you can bargain with an end purchase price in mind. (Sometimes a guide will also bargain for you.) You are warned not to use a credit card in street shops; your guide (again invaluable) will advise where credit cards can be safely used.
The same warning will be given to be wary of “helpful” locals. Once you are “helped” as the result of what you thought as a friendly gesture, a hand comes out and asks for money. For example, watch for those wanting to take your photo next to a camel at the Giza pyramids. One minute you could be standing beside a camel, next it is suggested the photo would be better if you were on the camel. The kicker comes when it is time to dismount which will cost you upwards of US$20 or so. And a camel is not something you can dismount on your own – at least not without injury.
If you are a woman, bring tissues or toilet paper with you on tours. In some washrooms on sites you may visit, there are local women who set up shop in the toilets holding the toilet paper “hostage”. They have no official job to be there. If you are brazen or desperate enough, you can ignore them but these women can be very aggressive to the point where they will follow you to the stall. Once on a site tour, our guide discovered one of our tour group had paid for toilet paper, so she verbally accosted the so-called attendant, and got the lady her money back. Now some washroom attendants are legitimate and they do require a tip for service – but you can easily tell the difference between toilet paper ransom and a true employee there to help you!