Yes, I was conned in Egypt because I was not smart enough!
As they say, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and for me Egypt is a beautiful country! I loved almost everything about the exquisiteness of the country; be it the time spent in Cairo, the splendor of the colossal pyramids, our charming Nile cruise, the exotic long weekend in Hurghada, the ideal town of Alexandria – to name just a few. The locals were kind, the food was good and being a vegetarian didn’t make me feel like I was missing anything at all.
However, just like any other busy place in the world, this place too had its share of conning the tourists. I would like to stress that these things are one off cases in most touristy locations and shouldn’t be a reason for you to not visit any place. On the other hand, the purpose of my post is to just remind you to be alert during your next visit to Egypt. Well, technically, not just Egypt but be alert whenever you travel to a foreign place!
What happened to me was just one form of being conned and there could be many more conning mechanisms – but my experience will ensure you to be alert at most times when dealing with small businesses and the locals.
During our time in side streets of Luxor, we saw some teens selling beautiful papyrus bookmarks. We didn’t really want them then, but the kids started insisting us to buy them. They fixed a good deal at about 5 Egyptian Pounds for a little stack of bookmarks. I gave them 10 Egyptian Pounds and was waiting for the change of 5. Soon, I saw one of the kids come back with a 50 Egyptian Pounds Note–
Boy – “Here is the 50 you gave! We don’t have change for 50!
(Firstly, I was feeling stupid to have given a 50 Pound note thinking it was 10! Secondly, I was so confused because I never knew I had a note of 50 pounds with me!)
Me – “I gave you 10 Pounds, you need to return 5 back to me!”
(I was blank and I was searching for the 10 pounds note in my purse but I could find none!)
Boy – “No, this is what you gave me – 50! I don’t have change! Here, give me a smaller currency!
(As he said that, he was handing me the 50 Pound note.)
I took the 50 he pressed into my hands and gathered 5 pounds in small denominations and gave it to him. I was still muddled and blank! My husband asked me not to think too much about it as I might have overseen the currency. I knew that was a rare possibility because I couldn’t remember having 50 pounds note in my purse.
For a moment, I thought it was a fake note! That was when I asked a local who was around.
Me – “Could you tell me if this note is real 50 Pounds?”
Man – (in just a glance) “Yes, it is real. But, it is not 50 Pounds – It is 50 Egyptian Pence!”
Wow! Now, that was neat!
What Happened Then?
I tried finding the teen who got me talking into this but I could see no kids at all. I managed to find one and requested the local man to talk to him. The man spoke something to him in Arabic and the kid defended for a while but eventually gave in. He came and returned me back my 10 Pounds (Yes, I had actually given him ONLY 10 pounds); the change of 5 and then the other 5 which I had given him later! I gave the 50 pence back to them.
I thanked the local for his help. When I asked him what he spoke to them, he said “I just told them that I had already called the cops and they would be there any moment”!
Tip – Please do pay attention to how the currency notes look like in the country you travel. It is hard to know sometimes when stuff isn’t in the language we understand! My story concerned very small money, but if we are not careful, it can drain us off our big trip budgets!
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