The ship cruised slowly up the Nile, the waters calm, the scenery a blend of lush green palm trees framed by the golden sand cliffs, and as we approached an aqueduct, suddenly I noticed two rowboats directly in the path of the ship. The captain blew the horn, they were rowing frantically but instead of veering out of danger they appeared to be getting even closer. It looked like it would be a disaster but as the boat squeezed past them suddenly they scrambled, throwing a rope onto the ship. The next rowboat attached itself to the first and we started pulling them through the water… and that’s when the excitement really started.
Men and boys started yelling to the ship passengers to buy their souvenirs! It was unbelievable, they were pulling out towels, tablecloths, Galabayas (clothing) and suddenly one flew past me and landed on my balcony. I was shocked… what was I supposed to do now… so I threw it back. Unfortunately my aim wasn’t as good as theirs was and it landed in the water. But that didn’t stop them, more boats arrived and they continued their frantic pitch, and if you so much as glanced at one of their souvenirs they would throw it at you… giving new meaning to the term ‘pitchmen’. I had towels, tablecloths and cotton rugs all being thrown at me and as the ship squeezed through the opening in the aqueduct even more touts were lined up waiting for us, joining in the fray. My guide Hend told me they are very poor and this is how they make their living so I bought a tablecloth, towel and a rug… all totalled 200 Egyptian pounds (about $30). I can’t pass up a bargain or a sob story, and it was well worth it because it was so much fun. At one point one of the touts started yelling at one of the passengers, ‘lady my two towels, throw them back, throw them back, my god’. Apparently she assumed they were free or she was going to teach them a lesson. That’s very bad karma and sad that someone would rip-off one of these people simply trying to eke out a living. I don’t know if she ever did give back the towels I went back inside my room to avoid getting pelted with more product… his voice trailing off ‘lady throw back my towels.’ Egypt is an amazing country with so much history and so many beautiful things to see but this was the most excitement I have had during my visit. I have experienced (and fended off) a lot of touts but have never had them so aggressive, resourceful and willing to face the danger of putting themselves in the path of an oncoming ship simply to make a buck.