Out of all the words I’ve learned in the Arabic language, the one I personally believe is the most valuable is the word la’a, which means no. The streets of Egypt require a lot of street smarts because what feels like around every corner there’s a person trying to swindle someone out of their money, especially white Americans. One tactic used is placing whatever item they want to sell you onto your lap or in your hands, and then refuse to take it back and demand money for what they’ve given you. It’s quite sneaky actually you could be simply resting on a curb and they plop something onto your lap from behind, and once it’s in your possession it’s very hard to give it back and not have to pay for it.
Another tactic is the following technique in which they refuse to listen to your la’a and continue to follow you around, in which they continually pester you until you give in or out last them. Nicholas encountered this while we were at the pyramids. A camel driver started following Nic around only minutes after our arrival there. He followed us everywhere, while we were exploring and even taking pictures. It was only when we told him that we’d find him later if we wanted to ride did he leave, but it took about 20 minutes or so to get rid of him, lol.
One of the most humorous tactics for swindling people out of the money is trapping the tourist in precarious places they can not escape unless they pay a good sum of money. One example of this is getting stuck on a camel. The driver will come up to you and let you pet their camel, then next thing you know he’s wrapping a scarf around your head and trying to get you on the camel for a free 5min ride. What they leave out is yes it’s free to get on the camel, but not free to get off! I was almost entrapped into this one but my protective boyfriend saved me from the sneaking camel driver as he was wrapping a scarf around my head and trying to force me on the camel. Taxi drivers do the same tactic as well, the best way we’ve discovered is pay the driver after everyone is out of the car so he won’t drive off with anyone or refuse to let you out when you pay them.
Yet another technique is playing the game of someone nice willing to take a picture for you with your camera, but to get back your camera a person could end up paying a 100 pounds to get it back. One of my follow classmates had this happen to him at the pyramids and ended up paying 200 pounds (that’s $40)!!! Nic experienced this as well but with his harmonica. He was asking directions looked over to where the security guard pointed and his harmonica was missing from his hand and had to pay the man to get it back.
Out of all my experiences so far here the most skillful attempt to swindling me out of my money happened during orientation week, in which some of my classmates weren’t able to escape having to pay $80 each. My group was walking around trying to find our way back to Agouza from Sadat after exploring the metro system when a young man approached us and said he could guide us to the 5th of Oct bridge. But instead of leading us directing to the bridge he had us stop at a little corner shop to give us his card to contact him if we ever needed him again (a card that we never actually received). Once in the shop the man’s “brother” had us sit down for some welcome tea and look at the painted papyrus “he made himself”, when in actuality it was screen painted not hand painted as he was trying to convince us of that it took him days to weeks to do each on in his shop, lol. The salesman had quite an elaborate story about tomorrow his sister was getting married and that he wanted to give each of us a painting as a gift. We kept saying we had no money to give him, but he kept insisting it was a gift. Next thing we know a papyrus painting was picked out for each of us and had our names painted in hieroglyphs and Arabic on them. When it was time for us to go, the man rolled our “artwork” up, handed us them and then demanded we pay for the supplies it takes to make them, 100 pounds each!!! Thankful one of the guys in my group wouldn’t stand for this trickery, and said were not paying we told you from the beginning we had no money for you. Later on when visiting other tourist places like the Cairo museum we saw the same paintings for only $1 to $5, lol. Needless to say everyday is a new adventure here, whether it is crossing major highways or handling skillful entrepreneurs, one must always be at the top of their game.