May 122008

Dahab Egypt is absolutely full of cats. To me, they’re not at all a nuisance; they just lounge around on the sand or take naps on the pillows of the beachfront eateries. Quite cute, actually. But for those who aren’t so feline-friendly, there’s a waiter who comes around to offer some “Egyptian technology for get rid of cats.”

A spray bottle.

It’s unbelievable how much hookah there is in the Middle East – a lot like beer in Brazil. Literally EVERYWHERE you go – beaches, cafes, residential neighborhoods – you’ll see people hanging out and smoking hookah. Even in the nightclubs people are gathered around tables smoking. Last night Mike and I were invited to smoke with a supermarket clerk here in Dahab.

Lovin’ it.

Tipping in Egypt is absolutely out of control. The amounts are of course small – $1 at most, even for a big meal – but it just seems like people want tips for everything. When I purchased our bus tickets from the Israeli border to Dahab, the salesman demanded “Five more pounds – for tip! Tip!” I looked at him like he was crazy. But this was the first experience of many. Even if a local just points out how to get to the restroom, apparently you’re supposed to give him a small tip.

In the US, tipping is one of my biggest pet peeves. People actually get angry if you don’t leave 20 percent at a restaurant, regardless of whether or not the service was good. Twenty percent! Buddy, you’re missing the point of the tip entirely. The concept is that it’s a reward for good service – a token of thanks. If you want me to hand you cash out of my pocket, earn it, don’t expect it.

I wasn’t all that frustrated by this until I experienced living in Japan for a year. Over there, most people won’t even accept a tip. Yet the service anywhere you go rivals that in the nicest restaurants in the states. The politeness and willingness to help is just mindboggling. Never did I encounter someone with a bad attitude because they may’ve had a rough weekend.

In Egypt it’s a bit different. It’s a relatively poor country, so I can understand why someone would want an extra dollar from a tourist to whom such an amount clearly means very little.

Still, it does seem a bit rude to ask for one.

Speaking of money, I haven’t seen a single coin since arriving in Egypt. Paper money goes right down to half an Egyptian pound. I guess paper is cheaper to manufacture than coin?

A camel just walked by. Apparently the driver didn’t notice the sign up the road. “No bikes. No camels.”

One of the things that makes all these Middle Eastern resort towns so interesting is the fact that you’ve got completely arid desert leading right up to gorgeous blue water. Somehow it just feels strange. Usually in places like this you’ve got green palm trees, grassy fields, rainforest, or even city. But here, it’s just sand and rock. Step off the sand and rock and you’re in turquoise water so clear that you can see every coral reef for a hundred yards.

The Sinai desert looks noticeably different from both Israel and Jordan. In Jordan it was lots of loose, red sand with massive rock cliffs jutting out. In Israel it was more yellowish, rocky in certain places but not overwhelmingly so. The Egyptian desert is dark and full of small stones with massive, craggy cliffs – not the smooth, melted-looking rock of Jordan.

Who knew there was so much diversity out here.

The Red Sea isn’t red. It’s blue. It’s also the second saltiest sea in the world, after the Dead Sea.

It’s kind of crazy how close I am to Saudi Arabia. I could probably swim to it in a few hours if I really wanted.

Don’t worry. I won’t πŸ˜‰

Whenever I travel, I carry doubles of all essential items: headphones, sunglasses, earplugs; things I absolutely can’t live without. But on this trip, even two pairs of sunglasses weren’t enough. I’m now on my fourth.

Man, this desert sun is bright.

  8 Responses to “Egyptian Cats & Other Observations”

  1. Do you remember me?
    This is Takuo.
    I have a question.
    Where do you get enough money to travel??

  2. Hey man! Of course I remember you πŸ™‚

    If you save well and plan your trips carefully, traveling isn’t really as expensive as many people think. Depending on where you go it’s totally feasible to work for a year and travel for a half year (or longer).

    Also, it helps if you don’t work in a Japanese company – their pay tends to suck πŸ˜‰

  3. I am the same way with tipping. It is sooooo nice to live in a country where you don’t have to tip for anything. I even sometimes round down in taxi cabs- IE if the meter says 10.20, the cab drivers only really want 10 πŸ™‚

  4. Yeah. Like…if you want to get paid $10 PLUS 15 percent for the meal, just write 11.50 on the freakin’ menu. Done. Simple.

  5. The easiest way to avoid paying for those “your hotel is over there, now give me money” things you encounter (a lot) in Egypt, is to not put yourself in that position in the first place. I remember it very clearly, and did warn you about this. It might seem rude when people walk up to you and want to “do you a favour”, but just decline. Tell them you don’t want their service and walk away. They will often insist harder, but just smile and turn your back on them and leave. It worked for me πŸ™‚

  6. Yep…that’s exactly what we do. Same deal when they start shoving crap souvenirs in your face and insisting that “Yes, you do want to buy it!”

    Just walk away πŸ˜›

  7. i heard that in USA there are many places to need tip like restaurant except buffet dinner……..which is right??why since Egypt is a relatively poor country?

  8. United States tipping culture is one of the things that drives me the most crazy about living there – I think it’s ridiculously stupid (as do most people who I’ve met from non-tipping cultures). Still, it’s quite different from how it works in Egypt: there are specific and defined situations in which you’re socially required to tip (i.e. at restaurants, to taxi drivers, or to bellhops at hotels).

    In Egypt on the other hand, everybody wants baksheesh for everything. If someone notices that you’re lost and comes up to offer help – their hand will soon be out in expectation of baksheesh. Sometimes people will just sit on the street and ask for baksheesh if you park your car on their corner – which has nothing to do with the official parking laws at all.

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