As I’m sure you will have noticed I’ve stopped banging on about America now and managed to find myself in Egypt. Not spiritually, just bantering about with my parents. I’m HALF EGYPTIAN don’tcha know.
Throughout this blog you’re going to see some images that are pretty cool (in my humble opinion) but I would never have been able to capture these if not for one thing, money.
Everyone expects a backhander or are we to call that a tip? Here’s just a few things I wouldn’t have been able to do if it weren’t for this ‘tipping culture’:
• Climb on the pyramid next to a sign that says “No climbing”
• Take a picture of hieroglyphs inside a tomb
• Go behind the pyramids for that ‘wonder shot’
• Special access to the Sphinx
• Drive a bell hop’s golf buggy in a hotel
I knew that I wanted to go out into the desert so I could see the pyramids from afar but had no idea my guide would have to ‘tip’ everybody and their brother along the way.
We came out of the hotel and were immediately approached by a tall, rat-like man who offered us a deal — 400 LE (around £18) for a 2 hour camel ride. We took one look at the hill beside us and chose to take the man up on his offer.
He told us he would take us to where we could pick up the camels and our guide. Soon enough rat-man pulled around in his rat-mobile and we got in. In hindsight this probably wasn’t the smartest decision, getting in a random, ratty man’s car.
Nevertheless, the rat-mobile served us well as we were taken down some backstreets to our camels, Michael Jackson and Mickey Mouse. I took one look at the white one and was like nah, absolutely not, that is not a bit of me. It looked so angry so I left my mum to that demise.
After the initial struggle of getting on the camel we plodded along the ‘authentic’ route to the back of the pyramids. I have never seen so many loose animals left to their own devices, think horses, donkeys, camels, goats, dogs. Men flying past in flip flops on horses.
At one point my mum (the native Egyptian can I remind you) tried to warn a tourist not to keep touching the dogs. The woman looked at my mum like she was a stupid bitch and ignored her; she was white with dreadlocks, woven bracelets up and down her arms, patterned trousers, you know the type. Probably a travel blogger or something, typical. Have fun getting rabies ya dickhead.
Anyway, so we’re in the desert and my main man Karam says he will take “AMAZING” pictures for me, all I have to do is wait. And you know what, he was SO right. Karam became my insta boyfriend for the next two hours, whata guy (see below).
We get to a good viewing point and Karam goes over to a man and hands him a note. Next, we go up close to the big boi pyramid and he tells me to climb over the railing. I look at him like are you sure hun and he simply tells me to be quick and hands another note over to two men.
I climbed up a few steps and one man started shouting at me “Enough, enough!” Karam tried to reason with him whilst still taking photos, MY G. Lastly on this tour, the Sphinx. Whilst all the other normies were crowded on the other side Karam took me round to a road alongside the Sphinx where no one was. Got these cracking pics didn’t I?!
We come to the end of our journey and of course, common etiquette is to tip the tour guide, right? My mum hands over a 100 LE note to which Karam questions the amount. “For both of you?” he asks, “it’s for my kids”. She apologises profusely and hands over another 100. Whilst we weren’t actively ‘tipping’ all these officials along the way, I can’t help but think whether the money was handed to them or Karam it was all for the same thing, bribery. There’s no other way to address it, it’s bribery.
Whilst the pyramids is a hot spot for tourists from all over, a lesser known place called Saqqara isn’t, yet still as active in its taking of bribes, SORRY, tips. The site contains pyramids, tombs, ruins etc. There is a man at the entrance of every tomb waiting not for you but for his money.
We picked up a nice man along the way who asked if we wanted to ride his horse, (his actual horse don’t worry) and off we went. He showed us around , gave us some interesting history and of course, again, I’d think it natural to tip this man who had spent the good portion of an hour with us.
However, I would not expect to tip the man who let me pass into the tomb. We had already paid entry into the sites, why would I need to pay again for no extra service? Mahmoud had let us take pictures in the tomb and similarly to Karam had rushed us before anyone saw. He asked us to tip the man who guarded the tomb on the way out; I realise now it was for the privilege of being able to break the rules.
It’s a lax society in some ways and not in others. Do you really think I would have been able to drive a golf buggy around the hotel if we hadn’t been tipping the bell boy well? Actually, this is a bad example, he was A KIND MAN; he probs would have let me ride it around.
My point is at every turn it seems like someone is after what they call in Arabic, “baksheesh”. Ask any Egyptian about the country’s recent history of corruption and they will condemn it. Ask them about the 100 LE they used to get a government document processed a little faster and they will condone it.
The little man forgets an act of bribery is corruption no matter on what scale. Many Egyptians are tired of the regime they’ve succumbed to but perhaps this is part of a culture ingrained so deeply that it can’t change. Who am I to hold judgement? I don’t live here. I don’t fully understand the culture. I don’t understand that maybe this is ‘just the way things work’.
Should I refuse to partake in it? On this kind of scale, is it bribery or is it really just ‘good tips’? Where does the line blur? It happens all over the world.
As always let me know your thoughts in the comments or email me, inbox me, DM me, anything you want fellas.
ALSO, keep updated on the journey by doing me a solid and following me on Instagram. Cheers xoxo
See below for details of where I stayed and who I’d recommend taking tours with :
Hotel: Marriott Mena House, Giza
Tours: Giza pyramids, the man in the picture called Karam. Straight opposite the Mena House entrance.
Saqqara, Mahmoud and his horses (message me for a phone number)