Wherever I travel, scammers, touts and annoyances are unavoidable, especially in touristy areas. Or maybe, I’m a tout/scammer magnet. 😀 They are part of the challenges of travelling. And believe it or not, I’ve fallen victim to some of these people because I’m too trusty, always believing on the positive side of the experience. Call me a fool, if you want. 😀
In Egypt, these annoyances are in a different level. I can understand the desperation of the people but being aggressive is a totally different story. There are times when my smile and polite “No, thanks” work but in many cases, they don’t. I had to say “No, thank you,” a gazillion times before the guy would leave me alone—and in most times, they’re cursing me (judging from their facial expressions). And oh boy, they’re good in guilt-tripping, too!
I’ve been to three restaurants where they offered me the Arabic menu (cheap, cheap price) first. But, when they realized I don’t speak and read Arabic, they handed me out the English menu with shocking prices.
Scams and annoyances in Cairo
It’s very stressful to stay around the Pyramids area. I stayed at the Sphinx Guest House and every time I go outside, 5 touts would come up to me every twenty steps. It’s very frustrating to be very nice here.
Watch out for these common sentences from touts:
Hello! Welcome to Egypt! Is this your first time here? (super common)
Where are you from? (very common)
Oh, you’re from Canada? I have a friend living in Montreal! You speak French?
Oh, you’re from Canada? I love Canada people. They’re very, very nice!
Do you want a camel / horse / buggy? Very cheap!
Where are you going? I can help you.
Taxi? Very cheap. Anywhere you go.
I invite you for a tea in my shop. Free.
You speak English? I want to practice my English with you.
These conversations are very common in every country I’ve been to — but just like I said — the touts around the pyramids have their way to test your kindness and patience. They’re going to piss you off! 😀
(Advise: Smile and answer their questions but go on walking. Let them follow you until they realize that you’re not really interested in what they’re gonna sell.)
Inside the Pyramids:
Some sellers would insist to accept their gifts for FREE because they love Canadians (insert other nationalities here). But when you start walking with their “free gift”, they’ll begin to follow and explain to you that the gift means good luck in Egypt. Then blah blah blah…. and bingo, they’ll ask for “whatever you think the price of this good luck gift” is. Yes, I’m a victim of this scam from the first guy who fooled me and I gave him EGP5 and he complained because it wasn’t enough. Three more people doing the same “acting” approached me later and I never acted like a fool. 😀
Beware of those camel handlers. They’ll pose for you by kissing their camels. They are interested to see the photos in your camera and then offer themselves to take you a picture with the camel. Nope, I never fell for the camel’s charisma. 😉
There are so many teenage boys and girls here who would just stop you and ask if they could take a picture with you. I’ve never felt like a celebrity in my whole life anywhere in the world but here. Of course, I obliged—with my tongue sticking out and a peace sign. 😀
At Tahrir Square in Cairo
Someone offered to show me where the subway is. And I let him — even if I already knew where I was going. I was very curious where he would take me. And my hunch was right—to his souvenir shop! 😀
A shop owner came by while I was waiting for the traffic light to turn pedestrian green. He asked me if I could write a few sentences recommending his shop even if I didn’t buy anything. I wrote, “This shop is cheap and has quality products!” After I wrote my “recommendation”, he offered me a tea but I declined politely and had to say “sorry” a million times before he finally “released” me. 😀
At the Citadel in Cairo
Before I exited the Mosque An-Nasir Mohammed inside the Citadel, the guard pointed and showed me columns made from Italy, Spain, Greece, etc…. He then asked money without shame, up front. He said it’s for the mosque. Of course, I’m not a fool to believe him. Why would he ask me behind those columns (like he’s hiding) and away from the main entrance he was guarding at? I told him that my friend who was waiting outside had my wallet. He’s not a fool to believe me, of course, but I slowly walked my way back to the entrance / exit door while he was guilt-tripping me. 😀
At Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple
Some of the guards would show you the “best spot” to take photos. This is actually to bring you away from the crowd and other fellow guards. If you follow them, they’ll just point this and that and ask for my money for “guiding you”. A fellow traveler I met at the hostel was a victim of this scam and she said that the guard won’t accept the EGP5 she offered. So, she walked out and the guard grabbed her shoulders and she shouted, “Don’t touch me.” He left ran away quickly from the scene. That girl was ready to be scandalous! 😀
At the Valley of the Kings
Photos are not allowed inside the tombs of the Kings. But, when we were inside the Tomb of Rameses IV, we paid the guard secretly for EGP20 for 10 photos we secretly took. 😀 I’ll post the photos later here. 🙂
Hostel with a View of the Pyramids in Giza
Well, if you are on a budget, there are two guest houses / accommodation I’d recommend: Sphinx Guest House Giza and Guardian Guest House Giza. These two are right in front of the Three Great Pyramids and few steps from the gate where you can buy your ticket.