Falling for the oldest trick in the book

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Africa » Egypt » Upper Egypt » Luxor
May 31st 2011
Published: July 9th 2011
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Luxor is billed tongue and cheek as the hassle capital of Egypt… and the city apparently takes the title pretty seriously and works actively to live up to the hype… enter Luxor.

The economy of the city of Luxor is heavily dependent upon tourism… or was anyway prior to this little revolution that happened in the country back in January. As far as revolutions go it actually wasn’t that bad… no civil war, no genocide, minimal casualties and a still functioning government… sounds pretty good for the political future of Egypt… but the revolution was disastrous for tourism as westerners universally watched and gasped in unison as Anderson Coopers’ silvery mane was unceremoniously and publicly frumpled on the streets of Cairo… things just haven’t been the same since.

In the face of a shrinking tourist dollar locals have to work the local tourists on hand over a little harder to make ends meet… as a tourist I am sympathetic to the cause but I already bought a plane ticket, hotel reservation, train ticket, ate at some restaurants, hired a taxi and a guide… what else do you want? But I guess we were the “face” of tourist dollars past and a readily available source of potential income and we were pursued throughout the streets of Luxor. The hunt actually began at the train station on arrival… as an obvious tourist you are approached by taxi drivers on the train platform as they try to catch you before you make it to the street, after we choose a taxi driver… this guy (not our cab driver) gives us a sales pitch for the next few days in town on the walk over to the taxi… and then once inside the taxi the taxi driver makes a bid to be our driver for the next few days… no thanks all around, we just wanted to make it to a room and sit down.

The oldest trick in the book
Touts have various tricks of the trade they employ in pursuit of your tourist dollar, some of the crowd favorites include (but are not limited to) quoting you a cab fare… then upon arrival they say the fare was per person… telling you that the hotel you booked is full and/or terrible and trying to redirect you to one that pays them commission… etc. etc. As a “seasoned” traveler one might think that you are above and beyond such tactics but on our 1st day in Luxor we fell for the oldest trick in the book… the old “your attraction is closed today gag.” (however for a small fee they will bring you someplace else).

You may ask, what kind of simpleton nave would listen to a street tout who told you that Luxor temple was closed for the day… let me explain… well what had happened was… we left the hotel focused on making it to Luxor temple which was about a half mile away. From our room we could see the street we would need to take and watched touts pitching their wares to every tourist in sight so we knew what was coming and headed out. Immediately outside the hotel door were some tourist shops and each has an employee outside trying to coax you into their respective shop… their ploy is fairly simple, they ask you a question (where are you from?), ignoring the person outright is against your social programming (& kinda feels rude) and you sometimes get sucked into these pointless conversations… but oh well, Luxor temple awaited us and we didn’t come to Egypt to talk to shop keepers… a round of no thank you’s for all.

We cross the street and its almost a straight shot to Luxor temple when our next suitor starts his approach… opting for the “I’ll meander beside you” approach rather than the approach from behind, “my friend where are you from?” “America… Obama good (almost universal response in Egypt)”, how many days are you in Luxor, what hotel are you staying at (very odd questions if you were in America but here everyone asks it… they all want to be your personal travel agent). This guy was selling Felucca rides and gave us the hard sell but was cool about it… about 5 no thank you’s later he kept following us and talking and insisted on pointing his boat out to us… ok, nice boat… no thank you… maybe later?… remember me, my name is Mohammed… and with a grin he was gone (would see him like 5 more times during our stay and every time he came over and reintroduced himself… always polite and if we did do a felucca ride… we probably would have used him… but I guess that’s the point of the sales pitch now isn’t it).

We had about 30 seconds of peace before a guy came up selling horse carriage rides… for 5 pounds (about 75 cents) these guys will bring you wherever you want to go around town… but our destination was within sight and we were set on walking so I told him no thanks… which means nothing to him and he proceeds to follow us and just keeps going on and on about this horse ride and how he can bring us to this great local market that is going on right now. No thanks for the 5th time and I just decide to ignore him like he doesn’t exist… and he still keeps following and talking. He keeps following us and when it became apparent we are going to Luxor temple (we made it to South part of complex) he says… Luxor temple is closed today and I almost laughed… the oldest trick in the book. The only problem was, I turned to look at the temple and there was literally nobody visible in the complex… absolutely nobody. I turned to Venny and we discussed for a minute that it was plausible that it is closed one day a week (Taj is anyway)… that plus in my defense… there was literally nobody there. We turned away and went to plan B which was stopping by some offices and sorting out tours to Abydos & Dendarra *sp*. While in the office we asked if Luxor temple was closed for the day and we were of course told that it was open and we had a good laugh about it… the oldest trick in the book.

That day we visited Luxor temple and Karnak… both awesome… also in Luxor we visited the Valley of the Kings, Abydos and Dendarra. Luxor has a wealth of archeological sites (thus the heavy tourism) and I think most tourists visiting Egypt find their way here… worth the stop but bring some patience and a sense of humor as you will undoubtedly find yourself tempted to resort to physical violence by some of the local touts (or is that just me).

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10th July 2011

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