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Souvenir Sellers in Giza

by Tatsuru Kimura


Egypt was such an impressive country for me because of some experience concerning buying souvenirs.  The souvenir venders around the Giza Phyramid are especially unforgettable.

In Researching “Modern” Cairo, Farha Ghannam explains about relocations of the urban population and functions of the city in Cairo under Sadat’s leadership.  Giza is also a city that changed dramatically and it is highly specialized for sightseeing.   Around the Giza Pyramids, there are so many souvenir sellers starting in the early morning, and I made a big mistake when I was talking with one of them.  He is a young man and he said that he is a college student.  He half forcibly handed me a turban saying, “this is a present for you” after which he asked me to give him some “small money”.    The mistake I made was that I gave him 200 Egyptian Pound (EYP), which roughly equals 40 USD, because I misunderstood the exchange rate.  It is far beyond the value of the turban.  However, the merchant demanded more money and lied that the amount of money I gave to him is only worth only 4 USD.  After the merchant left, I realized my terrible mistake.  I compared this experience with an experience I had in Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam.  When I bought a can of Coke, I mistakenly gave a particular amount of money, which equals 10 USD in local currency to an old woman and I walked away.  The woman caught me and gave me the change.  I am not going to say that it is cultural difference because there must be people who take advantage of tourists in Vietnam and honest merchants in Egypt.  However, I am still wondering why the behaviors of these two merchants were so different. 

Also in Giza, I encountered an interesting souvenir selling technique that several souvenir vendors use.  A souvenir vendor talks to me and asks where I come from.  If I say Japan, he will give me his merchandise as a present for the friendship between Egypt and Japan.  In many cases, the merchandise is a turban.  Even he may break open a new package of turbans for me.  What is interesting is that he then pretends to walk away.  Then, after a while, he will come back and ask for a “small amount of money”.  If I say no, he will get the commodity back.  One of the souvenir vendors insisted that I had to buy it because he broke a package for me. When I said no again, he damned me.  Honestly, I was disgusted at his behavior.  However, I was interested in this walking-away technique and wondered whether this technique is effective.  I tailed some souvenir vendors and observed whether they would earn some money.   As a result, they succeeded only once out of more than ten tries.  Thus, I do not think this is an effective method to sell souvenirs.  

In terms of business, Giza is so different from any other cities that I have visited before.   I did not see their original techniques that souvenir sellers in Giza employ in any other countries I visited or even in other cities in Egypt.

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