Funny Thing About Egypt

Funny Things About Egypt

March 11 – Amsterdam Airport

After writing some funny things I found in Europe that tickled my writing bones… I had 2 write some notes about Egypt… Many are worth noting, (there are way too many for a short blog post like this one) but here’s just two that come to mind:

1- Egyptian SPELLING:

For some odd reason, Egyptians have a tendency to ask their illiterate neighbours for English spelling advice and then go with it to make, print or paint official signs for the public to see, even government bodies have the same problem!… I’m just astonished since if I was writing in a language that I was not comfortable with, and I had to make a store sign or mass produce a traffic sign, I would maybe ask someone other than Ahmed my neighbour who wears a galabeya and thinks that “I sbeak London very best” means “I speak English well”…

2- Egyptian PRICING:

Unlike in North America, they are purely based on the specific location you happen to be in AND what you look like and/or the language you speak…

Here’s a cute (quick) way to sum up this interesting phenomenon:

Here is the scene: You walk up to a store to buy an item, let’s say, a water bottle, or maybe you wave down a taxi cab… First of all, note that Egyptians very often don’t slap price tags on their store items… (and they don’t use the taxi’s price meters either!)…

Scenario 1 – you are a local, you don’t ask the price, you take the item (or the taxi ride) and as you walk away you give them the right amount that you know already from your last purchase there, i.e. 1.00 Egyptian Pound (EGP) for the bottle of water. (by the way 90% of Egyptians don’t really buy bottled water but anyway)

Scenario 2 – you’re a local, but maybe from out of town, so you ask the price (mistake #1): 1.50 EGP… Yup, asking the price means you don’t know it, which means you deserve to pay more for it!

Scenario 3 – you’re a local, but you are “white” and thus look like a “khawaga”, a foreigner (mistake #2), and you ask the price (refer to mistake #1): 2 EGP (if your accent is good and you look like you are in a bad mood)… so you don’t the price AND you look like white…that means you’re family has more money than the average…

Scenario 4 – you’re a foreigner, and you don’t speak much Arabic, but at least you’re not wearing your digital camera around your neck (that would be mistake #3): 3.50 EGP… Hey listen if you don’t even speak Arabic, that means you are from another country, therefore have much more money than scenarios 1, 2 and 3!

Scenario 5 – you’re a tourist and everyone can tell from a mile away (this means if I look at you I can not only tell you are on vacation but I can make a good guess as to where you come from)…
-5 EGP (if you look Canadian, “You are from Canada? Canada Dry Never Die”… I have no idea why but this line still stands strong and I’ve been hearing it for 20 years…)
– 7 EGP (if you look German or English or Russian) – (which in itself is mistake #4)
-10 EGP (if you look Japanese, definitely overshadows mistake #4, and obviously any Asian looks Japanese in Egypt, so good luck!)…

Now you take scenarios 1 to 5, and you change the location from a small oasis that is not used to being visited by tourists and you’ll get the local price…no matter what you look like…(that’s a relief), if however, you happen to be in a store located let’s say, just outside the Valley of the Kings in Luxor… well then you can be sure you’re gonna pay that water’s weight in gold!

When you think about it, 10 EGP is still just under $2 USD, but I can’t wrap my brain around paying 10 times the price for something that I KNOW is a rip off… like paying 10 EGP for a tea at the airport… it’s water and a Lipton tea bag… I can buy 3 sandwiches, a juice and pack of cigarettes for that much, and still have enough for my cab ride home!

Side note on Egyptian prices, I recently saw a restaurant menu with the prices doubled on the English version as compared to the Arabic one… incredible!

Of course, you will also find that a vast majority of Egyptians will offer you many services for free, since they ARE considered to be some of the best hosts on this planet… so don’t be fooled by the pricing scheme, this is just a cultural way for them to get tourists’ money in a “fair” way…


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