We were well aware of traveler woes in Egypt. We heard stories of one traveler who after agreeing upon a rate for camel ride into the desert was then told that rate was one-way and they would have to pay again to get back. Story after story boiled down to people getting “had” or “took” for more money.
It was our turn. We perused the eateries and found a good looking dine-in shack. No menus were posted, but the types of food options were pretty clear: shawarma, falafel, chicken, and some lettuce. What is the price of a meal for both of us? Check. Does that include a beverage? Check. Does that include utensils and plates? Check. Does that include sauce for the shawarma? Check. We sat and ate, talking about our day. When it came time to pay, they wanted double. We argued, and they claimed the price they gave us was for a single person and not both of us. We argued for a bit, and then just paid the few extra bucks and left angry — the fight wasn’t worth it.
People in this part of the world have been negotiating and bargaining since the beginning of time. They have eons of experience. They are also forceful. In shops they’d follow our eyes, and would not let us go. At times they’d hold our arms insisting we buy something. Whatever excuse we came up with not to buy, they would circumvent. At any rate our trip was coming to a close and we moved on.
The next night, still feeling a bit burned, we looked around in a different part of town. We happened upon a small place that looked more like someone’s house. We decided to gamble again. This time, we hit pay dirt. A multi-course meal, at a very reasonable price, and great service. We didn’t even know what to order, we got dinner for two. The people in the restaurant would ask us questions to practice their English, and did everything to make us feel welcome. On top of this the food was excellent. It was simple, but clearly well prepared, extremely tasty, and most important plentiful. It was a veritable smorgasbord. It was a great way to leave Luxor before our bus trip to Sharm El-Sheikh.
This meal affirmed that in any given city there are not only hucksters, but also honest people trying to make a living. I couldn’t read any of the signs, as they were in Arabic, otherwise I’d give them a big plug!