In Egypt, There is No Escape from the Touts

Last night we joined our friends Lorna and Mark at a trendy restaurant and sat for a long time talking about places we’ve been. The couple has traveled extensively around the world and they’ve been to some places I haven’t.  I listened intently to their stories about what it is like to visit Egypt. The way they depicted this ancient land made me lose my enthusiasm to ever visiting.

“It’s like a vortex.  You get out of the taxi and they just swarm you, so many people trying to get you to buy things. We went to the pyramids and all we could see were racks of postcards in our faces, or trinkets being foisted on us…we couldn’t even see the damn pyramids with these people in our faces,” Lorna told us.

They went down the Nile in a cruise ship. The touts followed them, approaching the boat and throwing napkin-wrapped trinkets up to the deck, expecting money to be sent back down.  But instead Mark and Lorna threw the trinkets back, enraging the salesmen, who rarely take no for an answer.  There wasn’t  a time when somebody wasn’t trying to cadge them out of money, even after they met a well-dressed man who offered to give them refuge from the touts.  No, of course not. He was planning his own selling spree, taking them into a series of winding hallways where he would try to sell them perfumes and oils.

They took a walk once in Luxor, just wanting to stretch their legs down a backstreet. A man with a donkey cart followed them,  but being told they  didn’t need a ride didn’t stop him. He hung close to them for nearly a mile. “We felt as if everyone in Egypt has a mission, to get us to spend as much money as possible, and it’s relentlless. If begging in Morocco, or Mexico is here, then Egypt is up here,” Mark gestured raising his hand way up.