From world heritage sites, to some of the region’s most insistent tourist touts…welcome to Cairo.
January 16, 2010 10:21 by Austyn Allison
Two minutes later – I will never know how I got there – I am sitting on a camel with Ahmed taking my picture. Then it gets a little awkward. I keep up my refrain of, “I’m not going to pay you,” and Ahmed keeps agreeing. But when I ask to get down, he suggests that although he, of course, doesn’t want money, perhaps a little baksheesh for the animal might be appropriate. I argue that it might not be. But I am on a camel and he is on dry land. And he has my camera. But I have his camel. Neither of us knows how to work the controls of the other’s property, but we are in a stand-off.
I manage to persuade Ahmed to fold his camel to the ground by agreeing to pay my baksheesh when I am down. “Very little,” I say. He is OK with that.
Until I give it to him. Apparently my idea of very little (pocket change) is different from his (“Just EGP30″ or AED20) and there is a tug-of-war with the camera, before I stomp off feeling foolish, righteous, mean and guilty all at once, and Ahmed stomps off in the other direction, probably feeling much the same.
After the trip is over, I still have the photos Ahmed took, despite his parting demands that I delete them. I’d told him I wouldn’t pay when he was taking them, so I kept them on principle. I don’t like to look at them, though. Being conned on a camel in a filthy headdress is not how I’d like to remember the only remaining wonder of the ancient world.