A Letter to Egyptians
I would have to be very straight-forward and say that in general, my experience visiting your country hasn’t been the best, and I have no plans on making a second trip back.
The reason being, for that six days which we were in Cairo, it felt that at every step way, from taking taxis, to charging us double for a camel ride, and even using the toilet at a national attraction, the Egyptian Museum, people were going all out to extract as much money from me. I’d go as far as to say that people were dishonest.
Essentially, each step of the way was stressful and a big annoyance. After a while, we got very frustrated. Why do these people seem to think that they were entitled to cheat to tourists? We felt that was tourists, the locals simply inferred that we had fat wallets, and went all out to fleece us. The feeling is unpleasant, and after six of such experiences in one day, you just want to return to the hotel and hide. It’s like each time you step out, a band of thieves (scammers) will be there to waylay you, and scam you into parting with the Egyptian pound notes in your wallet.
Hey, I know that from an economic perspective, Egypt isn’t doing that well. The crowd of tourists which once used to throng the gates of the Pyramids have dried up, and that has impacted the tourism industry, which contributes 11.3% of GDP (2014) and hires around 12% of the workforce (at its peak in 2010). Therefore, I’m aware that with the shrinking pool of tourists, this has made people aggressive as their livelihoods are affected.
But that doesn’t mean that you should scam to survive. I cannot emphasize this, but it is important stand by a culture of excellence. One has to do one’s job, and do it well. I certainly do not mind paying more for good service. But to scheme and try to get as much money from a foreigner at the first instance is just illogical.
Let people tip you, for good service, or a job well done. Let them not treat you as beneficiary of a charity, but as a skilled professional, deserving of a tip, as appreciation of good service, good food, and a good experience.
No logical person, no matter how wealthy he is or how generous he is, would choose to bestow money on someone who does not deserve it. Or to someone who has displayed significant flaws in character, such as being dishonest. That person will hold that money even closer to him.
Most people start out believing that others are intrinsically good. But when you have been lied to, misled, and scammed for the third consecutive time on your first day in a foreign country, chances are, your trust for that country and the people who live in it are at its lowest.
That being said, I acknowledge like in all societies, there are black sheep and also good sheep. I was glad to meet the Star of Alexandria. It was simply heart-warming to be a passenger in his taxi, despite the torn fabric seats and paint peeling from the corroded car door.
To me, Egyptians are simply not living up to their potential. Having ancient wonders and treasures in your backyard is not enough. You’ve got to back it up with that spirit of excellence, which was the reason why Ancient Egyptian civilisation was so affluent and successful, some many years ago.
The Travelling Squid