Net Further: Store Like an Egyptian

On a two-week Egypt journey with Abroad Journey Journey (OAT; see our characteristic within the April challenge of Boca journal), you’ll have loads of alternatives to peruse Cairo and Luxor for souvenirs. However warning is required. Procuring in Egypt is difficult, and it’s rife with paradoxes. It’s simply as straightforward to be scammed out of a whole bunch of {dollars} as it’s to seek out the deal of the lifetime. Strategy each transaction with skepticism, and by all means haggle: The primary worth a vendor provides you is rarely the ultimate worth.

Distributors will discover you virtually actually all over the place, whether or not you’re purchasing or not. The second you arrive at one of many high-tourist locations—or typically the second you step exterior your lodge—they’ll swarm round you with tchotchkes or T-shirts or shawls in hand, and it’s usually tough to shake them.

One of the vital surreal spectacles throughout our seven-night journey on the Nefertiti riverboat was the gradual passage via a lock, throughout which era a cluster of distributors in kayaks roped themselves to the facet of the boat and displayed their wares to us. Some even threw objects from their tiny vessels onto the highest deck of the Nefertiti, unsolicited, for our consideration. To my shock, this up-front gross sales pitch labored on one in every of my fellow-passengers: She threw down $5 for an identical, camel-themed tablecloth and serviette set, the seller lunging for the cash earlier than it landed within the Nile.

We skilled the unfavourable facet of the Egyptian retail expertise our first night time in Cairo, after we wandered exterior our lodge, trying just like the misplaced, naïve and hopelessly Caucasian vacationers we have been. A neighborhood shortly observed our gullibility and took us apart, promising a shortcut to Tahrir Sq.—simply comply with him! All of the whereas, he spun us a fantastic story: He was a customer himself, on the town for his sister’s marriage ceremony, and he’s an expert artist. Inside moments, we had turned a nook right into a much less hospitable road and have been spirited into his store, the place he bought papyrus artwork depicting acquainted Egyptian icons. He instructed us he made every bit by hand, when it turned fairly clear that these have been mass-manufactured items that have been greater than doubtless imported. By the point he had us sit down, over scorching tea, to debate cost for the “free items” he “made” for us, we realized it was time to get out of there.

OAT journeys embrace stops at two authentic bazaars, that are the very best markets for snagging moderately priced objects.

“Large Mo” Khalil, our Journey Expertise Chief, refers to Khan El Khalidi because the “Chinese language market,” due to the inflow of imported items. It’s a spot of relentless bustle—a hive of exercise the place purchasing is usually a contact sport. Mass-produced trinkets shared house with occasional vintage sellers. Elaborate hookahs, inlaid Backgammon units, flow-y attire, rotary telephones and typewriters have been on show, as store homeowners waited exterior their shops amid the aroma of incense, beckoning buyers inside. Stray cats, as in a lot of Egypt, scurried from each nook and cranny.

The Luxor Market is even higher, as a result of it boasts a number of the most genuine spice distributors in Egypt. We sat with Moses, one such vendor, whose retailer was a cornucopia of fragrant delights in jars, bins and tins. He handed samples of peppermint, vanilla, “meat spice” and different herbs round our group, from one nostril to the following, and he earned a small fortune from us that day.

And I left with a cute shirt depicting a camel holding a digicam, supplemented with the textual content “Smile! You’re in Egypt.” I dutifully haggled, with the shop proprietor feigning what a burden it was to promote me the shirt for $12, however we in the end settled. I quickly discovered the shirt, a Chinese language import, ought to have been $5. You reside, you be taught!

This Net Further is from the April 2023 challenge of Boca journal. For extra like this, click on right here to subscribe to the journal.