A Travellerspoint blog

Day 218 -222 – Egyptian Men; Sleazeballs and Thieves

27th April – 1st May 2012

sunny 39 °C

The ensuing five days were spent on and around the Nile. In Aswan the water was clean enough to drink, the views were splendid and the Egyptian men foul. Kamal, a veritable peacock amongst pigeons, had been sure to leave us with a few guideline prices but it did little to stem the wild attempts at overcharging we were faced with.

Over the following five days we waited for Redvers to arrive from Sudan. We hired feluccas to sail us up and down the Nile, we visited the Nubian museum, we spent an afternoon reading on Kitcheners Island, a botanical garden, we even took an overnight felucca ride that was cut short when a sand storm blew in and left us prematurely moored, drinking cold beers and colder gin and tonics, on the banks of the Nile waiting for it blow through.

We visited the Temple of Philae where we paid for our tickets only to walk through the door and be confronted by twenty or so young men who controlled the boats that could take us to the island on which the Temple had been rebuilt. Our entrance ticket price was 60 Egyptian Pounds each and these guys wanted 100 each for a five minute boat ride. (For a local it should cost 20 EGP per person.) The first guy was furiously dismissed by us and angrily went back to sit in his boat. Making friends should never begin with telling a man that he is ‘... a fucking thief who belongs in prison... ‘ and so Somers and I, the latter lightened by the loss of his patience stood in silence on a concrete jetty, now the centre of hushed mocking and derisive looks, whilst the surrounding men looked on at the irate Englishman and his fiancé. Eventually one guy came over to offer a different price. We told him the most we’d pay was 60 there and back and that he would have to wait for us whilst we wandered the island. After five minutes, he reluctantly agreed suggesting that we could give tips at the end. We told him that the possibility of tips was remote since he’d tried to con us on our first interaction. His smile became weighted as his face turned to scorn.

Another ’top destination’ was the Aswan High Dam which had to be the most over-guarded, over-rated and unimpressive water based structure in all of the world. We’ve seen weirs on the Thames that are more impressive. Firstly it’s not particularly high, not by modern standards anyway, and secondly whatever height it does have is completely stolen by the ‘architecture’ that is just a vast amount of rock and sand piled around an underground wall so that although the structure is fifty metres high its top is only forty metres across and its base is almost a kilometre in cross section. That means that in cross section it looks like a very flat triangle. If James Bond tried to abseil down it he’d look like a bloody electrician laying cable as he walked out five hundred metres across a barely declining slope. Built with all the verve and sense of occasion expected from the Communists of the USSR, the dam resembled a demolished high rise with a road built across its rubble piled top; even with plenty of tanks and boy soldiers with crap guns stationed all the way around it we felt cheated. The lake, Nasser, behind it was impressive, as was the energy and water the structure supplies, but the only really exciting thing about such a drab pile of rock was that if it ever bursts, every thieving Egyptian between Aswan and Alexandria will be washed into the Mediterranean. (I lied, the other exciting thing that stems from the first exciting thing is that surrounding the dam are missile installations waiting for Dr No or Mr Blomfeld or anyone else to declare that they are going to test out their new weapon only for Jimmy Bond, sparky, to rock up, probably in a taxi, and walk down the dam wall to save the day. [The last term was an expletive not a description.])

Sadly the most vivid memory of the Egyptians in Aswan would remain as a bunch of overcharging thieves. A thousand percent mark up was not extraordinary and when questioned, a thousand more excuses were on hand in defence. Tourism is back on the up in Egypt but it still remains at less than a third of what it was. The people were desperate to make a living but their desperation came at the cost of decency and morality. Never shy we frequently berated those overcharging and even received apologies from some of the shop owners, but it didn’t stop them.

Aswan was also about to receive another accolade, that of the sleaziest men. Its probably unfair to blame just the men though, since Aswan is the gigolo capital of Egypt. ‘Bored with your man, need something exotic? Then come visit the pyramids and find your very own pharaoh and he can show you how to praise the Gods with his towering obelisk.’ Sex tourism is big business, it’s only slightly weird when it is women that are seeking the fun. Whether its innate or learned, mostly the former I suspect, men were not shy to stare at Laura, salivating like Neanderthals at a piece of meat as they looked her up and down, even dressed conservatively she attracted stares and more over the occasional groping. We could only imagine what it would be like for a single female in Aswan. Con merchants attempted to lighten our pockets and everyone expected baksheesh, a tip for a service. ‘Is the museum this way?’ ‘Yes. Baksheesh?’ ‘No thanks.’

The men of Aswan had done little to endear us. In fact every encounter became a soul drowning affair that normally involved an irate “KHALAS!” (Enough!) being issued from my lips whilst stood square on to these small minded, two dimensional sleazy desperadoes. How about that for stereotyping an entire ‘profession’ of tourism related con-men?

Posted by ibeamish 09:48 Archived in Egypt

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