Watching the river Nile while sitting on the deck of our cruise ship is relaxing but the peace and calmness that you feel is definitely not what you expect when you think of Egypt and Africa. Words like Nile and Egypt always bought memories of my childhood reading of books by Enid Blyton where she portrayed India, Egypt and many other 3rd world countries with snake charmers, scantily clad
boys begging on the streets and always up to some mischief.
So when our cruise ship docked at Luxor, I could not wait to walk down the streets that I had so often imagined through the books. Looking forward to the dirt and chaos, I was mentally prepared to be hustled and be one of the targets of the begging community. Being a tourist I somehow do not have the ability to blend with the localsbut end up standing out like a sore thumb!Armed with confidence and awareness, I stepped off the ship ready for my adventure.
After a couple of steps towards the city center, I was bombarded by a little boy half starved with sparkly eyes and dirty face. His white pyjama had stopped being white and his body had not seen plenty of food. He approached me holding a bunch of papyrus painting. After being in Egypt for 4 days I was anyway dying to get my hands on a few of them to decorate the walls of my house back in India. I tell myself I am helping this child get a meal while I am able to get a few paintings in the bargain, I start haggling.
His small collection of 7 paintings were of good quality with the imagery being clear and papyrus being real. Out of the 7, the one with the profile of Cleopatra was stunning and beautiful. Therefore, in a short while, we had the price was fixed 50 EGP (Egyptian Pounds) for 5 paintings which was seriously reasonable!!
I paid the note and was in the process of transferring the painting to my hands when he held on the Cleopatra and said “No this!” he was passing off the other painting instead of my Cleo. So then began the No.. Yes.. No.. Yes.. with all kinds of gestures and words, during which I noticed we were gathering a huge group of locals around us. 2 women in the streets of Luxor, I started getting uncomfortable and shoved all the paintings back to him while holding out my left palm to give my money back. There were people all over and I was worried about my bag, being pick-pocketed, and various other dangers that a women feel.. so when I put the 50 EGP note in my palm, I clutched it by making a fist, smiled at the kid and started walking back to the safety of the ship.
I did not give it another thought until towards the end of the trip I pulled out this note in Cairo and my guide started laughing saying you got cheated.. I was apparently holding a colour printout of the 50 EGP!