DON’T WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN – THROW LIKE ONE
By CHANTAL COOKE
If you want to enjoy a Nile cruise you don’t need to walk to like an Egyptian, you need to learn to throw like one.
Like other Arabic countries there is a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to make a few pounds. Tourists have money in their pockets so they are the preferred target – even when they are on a moving ship that can’t be boarded!
On a recent Nile cruise, about half an hour out from the huge Esna lock our stately cruiser was surrounded by tiny boats – about six on each side. The two young occupants of each had carefully defined roles; as one operates the oars the other grabs a rope from the side of the ship and ties it to their skiff thereby ensuring they are pulled along by the power of the larger vessel.
And that’s when the throwing skills come in … one steadies the boat and ensures a ready supply of goods, the other starts to hurl decorated galabias, scarves and tunic tops up on to the top deck of the boat where bemused tourists are sunbathing.
The combination of shouted sales patter and flying parcels is enough to make you want to join in – even if you have no intention of buying.
Choose a parcel, try on the item, if you don’t want it – throw it back down. Just be sure to aim for the correct skiff and pray the unwanted item lands in the boat – not in the Nile. If you want the item – then the haggling starts. There are lots of mock throws; arms raised high and ready to arch the item back down to the murky river as the buyer attempts to the convince the salesman that the price is too high. This is followed by lots of shrugging and shouting from below until finally a price is agreed.
If the buyer doesn’t have the correct money and change is required, the salesman throws the change up, in a plastic bag containing another item (for weight and balance) before the purchaser throws down their cash. It seems locals are more willing to trust tourists than the other way around.
These young entrepreneurs are persistent with a “he who dares wins” approach. During the proceedings that appeared to be aimed at the upper sun deck I headed down a deck to my cabin, and took a look out of the window to better enjoy the impromptu entertainment. No sooner had my head peeped out than a galabia and a scarf were flying towards me deftly aimed through the open window. Unfortunately I don’t throw like an Egyptian – I throw like a girl. So the prospect of returning the items was quite stressful. The black decorated galabia made it back ok, the scarf wasn’t quite so lucky and an edge caught the water and was quickly retrieved.
In this whole process the young salesmen are at a slight disadvantage because once the cruiser reaches the lock the sale has to be completed as they can’t follow you into the lock. However it seems to work – that night at dinner half a dozen people arrived wearing their new galabias.
Although the constant attempts to sell to you can be wearing during a trip to Egypt – somehow this innovative and ingenious way to connect with hard to reach tourists left me wanting to join the fun, even if I wasn’t that bothered about the goods on offer.
About the Author:
Chantal Cooke is an award winning journalist and broadcaster with a passion for the planet. In 2002 she co-founded the award winning radio station PASSION for the PLANET and in 2009 Chantal was awarded London Leader in Sustainability status. Chantal also runs a successful communications agency – Panpathic Communications.