How Many Egyptian Men Does It Take To Sell You A Scarf?

Fruit sellers in Cairo streets - 2012

So, how many men DOES it take to sell you a scarf?

Answer? One to actually capture you and overcharge you, and 65 to chase you down the street trying to sell you another and lamenting why you didn’t buy the first from them!

Really, how many scarfs does one person need?

When I’m wearing a scarf around my neck, why do these men try to flog me another one?

Why the hell have I succumbed and bought three so far???



Check out my latest purchase……

Egyptian Pashmina/scarf!

Nice huh?

Only 60 LE (AU$9.60!) Definitely overpriced for here but I paid that princely sum for several reasons:

  1. In Luxor the starting price for this same scarf was 160LE (AU$26). That was of course after they got me to stop by saying it was 10LE ($1.60!) Once you’ve stopped, the price magically goes up because they meant a different scarf was 10LE.
  2. There was zero hassle. The nice man told me 60 Egyptian Pounds and I was so grateful he wasn’t touching me or asking my name, I coughed up straight away!
  3. It was the same one I’d liked from various sellers for a week and hadn’t managed to snag it. It was calling me!!
  4. The seller had change for my stupid 200LE note.

The above might seem like lame reasons but let me show you how the market-dance goes here in Egypt.

Imagine the below scene in bright, hot sunlight. There are little kids everywhere and occasionally it’s smelly. The stalls are jammed up against each other and every one has at least one man sitting on a chair at the entrance. It’s not like any other market I’ve been in as there are no buyers! No anonymous wandering of the stalls until you see something you like. Everyone is focused on you – you are their only chance to make a sale. In most markets there are no women sellers.

The parts in brackets below are what goes through our heads while we are attempting to get through! Here’s what it’s like…

You prepare yourself mentally, put your sunglasses on and take a deep breath………

Three steps in, the first guy leaps up and tries to sell you big bottles of water for 3LE. You tell him you’ll buy some on the way out. He then offers you spices. No? How about some bread? No? Madam, madam, why not? Special price for yooouuuu…….!

The next guy leaps up and begs you to look in his store. He’s selling statues of Nefertiti, Anubis, Tutankhamen and various other dead people! Little pyramids and scarab beetles and all manner of junk! Heavy junk too. You tell him you can’t fit it in your bags. He says “my statues not heavy!” (Did I mention Egyptian men tell the most lies of any nation I’ve ever come across?)

You wander off and leave your husband to the statue man. A new man blocks your path and beseeches you to look at his silver store… wander to the window and ask how much a pair of earrings are. He smiles knowingly and says “ooh, very much.” (How bloody useless is that?) So you walk off and he spends the next minutes following you asking you to come back to the store…..(no bloody chance, I was just being nice anyway!)

Next a man offers you his necklaces….only 5LE each! You show interest and discover 5 of them (the ugly ones) are 5LE. The others are all 20LE (fail). He asks where you’re from. Then he asks your name and introduces himself as Abdul. You wander off and he calls after you “but I am friends with Captain Cooooooooook!” (Captain Cook? Are you shitting me Abdul?)

By this time, only 8 minutes in, you’ve just about had enough of the in-your-face sellers and are now walking down the middle of the market aisle just looking from the relative safety of the aisle way.

That will not save you…..

The guy from the left leaps up to offer you handbags, while he’s talking the guy on the right is trying to sell you tshirts! No hassle, no hassle they both say as they are hassling you!! Their shops even have signs above the door saying “No Hassle”. That doesn’t stop them swooping on you as you pass.

As you extricate yourself from one lot you can see the next sellers swooping in from the upcoming stalls… I do not want spices, I cannot take them to Australia…oh Australia! Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!!!

Madam, look my store, no hassle here! (Let go of my arm you shithead!) Madam, you buy magnet, just 1LE (except the one you want will be 45LE) here madam, where you from? Australia? My friend is Australian, here look in my pocket, here’s a picture of them (yes and I bet they were British friends yesterday!) What’s your name? (By now you’re telling them your name is Sally!) You want spices? You want scarf? You need help in the market? I walk with you if you need help! (No, no, get lost!!)

Suddenly a scarf is draped over your shoulder…only 10LE madam. This exact scarf is 10LE you ask? (Because it IS pretty.) Yes, yes…come my shop….! One toe inside the shop = This scarf actually 160LE but I have nice other scarfs! No, no, no. you tell him you only want this exact scarf. 160LE too much. You take it back Mr seller. (He looks hurt but I can’t remember his name – was he Abdul or Muhammed? Maybe he was Mustafa? Oh my god he’s touching my bum!!) No scarf for that price. No madam, no…..OK 100LE…..NO…..OK just for you 80LE…..NO….as you walk off…OK 60LE!

All this time scarfs are being draped over you and you’re throwing them back at the now (several) men who are trying to sell you something, anything.

The next seller insists he is a Kiwi. (You’re not from New Zealand you dipshit!). Yes, yes…I’m Kiwi……on my mother’s side!

The guy after him shouts “hello, alles ist gratis!” (Does he think we’re German?)

Half way down the next aisle, as a gentleman named Muhammed is trying to sell me a genuine statue from Tutankahmon’s tomb (BULLSHIT!), the scarf man appears again with the scarf which is now 40LE but will not be purchased on principle by this time! He has the nerve to ask “why you Australians not buy from us? Don’t you like us? Why won’t you spend your money with local business men?” (Do I really have to explain their crap sales tactics to them?)

The useful sunglasses kick in now and you just refuse to speak to the scarf man. He eventually drops off, only to be replaced by several others.

The questions are fired from all sides…by now you’re practically running trying to get out….

Do you know what this blue spice is? Do you know Captain Cook? Where are you from? What’s your name? You know Captain Cook? How many camels for your daughter? Do you remember me? Welcome back! (This is our first visit to this market!)

Finally you get through the market. You’ve bought nothing because it’s just too bloody hard!

Spotting the water man from the start of this odyssey you go over and get two bottles of water for 3LE each. He’s nice enough to put them in a bag.

35LE he says, holding out his hand! (WHAAAAAT????? – You said 3LE each before!)





OK…Just for you….20. (oh god I’m going to kill a strange market seller with my bare hands!!)

We settle on 10LE. He grumbles. We are PISSED that we got sucked in!!

So you can see just how many men it takes to not only sell you a scarf, but to touch your bum, lie to you about their prices, accuse you of not liking Egyptians and basically give you the shits all round.

So bravo to the guy who let me buy my nice pink scarf without too much shit and for just a little bit too much money.

Too bad I felt obliged to hide it in my handbag so no other seller would cry that I didn’t buy it off them!!

Have you ever been harrassed like this in a marketplace? Ever played this game in Egypt? Tell us all about your adventures…..

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How Many Egyptian Men Does It Take To Sell You A Scarf? — 8 Comments

  1. I would have never made it! I can’t even stand the people in the middle of the mall asking “Ma’am, can I ask you a question?” and trying to hawk their hand cream or jewelry cleaner… I either say “You just did!” or I pretend I’m on my cell phone. I can’t imagine hoards of Egyptians breathing down my neck! You are brave…or crazy ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Amy S. recently posted..Photo BookMy Profile

    • I’m pretty sure we’ll take the crazy tag thanks! Especially since we were warned ahead of time!! I know what you mean about those sales people in malls. Over the years I have perfected spotting them and making sure I’m looking the other way when I pass them or that I pass with people between us. It really sucked once the kids got bigger and would shout after me “MUUUUM, this man wants to talk to you!!” At least they’ve learned not to do that in Egypt!!

  2. Apologies because all my comments are about Thailand but we discovered fairly early on that if you hide your purchases in your backpack you got a lot less hassled as you strolled around. They used to have a bag colour scheme which indicated how well you bartered for the item. the stall holders would see the white bags (for example) and know you were soft touch and be very agressive with their sales as a result. So we hid our purchases unless we’d gotten a real bargain and it allowed us to walk about without any problems at all. No help to you in Eqypt though. SORRY! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Oooh, we heard about the coloured bags but could never work out the system!! We don’t really buy much anyway so the amount of hassle is completely out of proportion for us! After a few nights here we’ve noticed they tend to stay away from us having given up! But you can’t stay everywhere for a couple of weeks to train the locals!! We just booked 7 more nights here in Aswan so we might have a bit of fun with them from here on in! Can’t wait to get back to Thailand – it will seem like holidaying in heaven after being in Egypt!!

  3. Yes, I’ve played that game in Egypt, I love it, you’ve just got to remember that it IS a game and have fun with it. We loved the Egyptians, very friendly and a good laugh. I remember James asking everyone trying to buy me with camels ” Where are your camels??” “Plastic camels, sir!”
    Alyson recently posted..Do you Have to be Rich to Travel the World?My Profile

    • hehehe…for the first 2 weeks it was funny….for the last 2 weeks I wanted to smash someone’s face in! The whole “women have no place” thing was making me very antsy after a few weeks….I’m dying to hear how different it is from when you guys went years ago. Make sure you keep us posted!

  4. My goodness your upset for paying 30 pounds for a scarf? thats less than 5 us dollars, lol, because he first said 3 pounds and changes it to 30 or haggeled down to 10 looool. Have you seen how the majority of egyptians live?? It would kill you to overpay. Good ridence, Eygpt can do with out tight wads like you.

    • lol – thanks for the giggle Kathleen! I think you’re mistaken – Egypt can not do without the likes of me. Their sellers, who cannot go 30 seconds without telling an outright lie, feeling up women and girls and generally being outrageously rude are destroying what little tourism industry they have left. Did you even read the post?

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