Walking down the street in Luxor, Egypt is, to say the least, an interesting experience. It is hard to pass much more than 15 seconds without being offered at least one taxi and one carriage ride. Usually there are many, many more. What was particularly interesting about our walk yesterday was that every cabbie who passed us – often in 70s era station wagons that were much less comfortable than they looked – had already set their price. Only 5 Egyptian Pounds. And that was before they knew where we were headed. I was tempted to hop in and say, “OK, 5 Pounds to Cairo,” and see just how quickly they threw me out on the curb. I restrained myself.
During this particular walk, however, my splendiferous wife and I were were laughing about the fares as we passed another couple walking the same general direction. Our conversation caught their attention and soon we were chatting with Christine and Mohammed. After a stint working for the mouse in Florida she up and moved from her home in the UK to Luxor in search of work. Apparently her customer service training spills over from the day job into random conversations on the street.
Next thing we knew we were in a cab with her – Mohammed had to run a quick errand – on our way to a market. Better than the typical bazaars, the market was low stress and no haggling. That was quite pleasant. And the product quality was rather better, too. Or at least it seemed to be. So we did some shopping and chatted with new friends and learning about Luxor the way I prefer to discover new places: from locals.
On the way out there was a discussion between Mohammed and one of the cabbies hanging out on the stoop of the store. He had a collection of Euro coins that he couldn’t really do anything with. Some visitors had paid with them but the bank wouldn’t convert them. We’re on our way to Spain next so a deal was struck. But I was out of Egyptian Pounds (a recurring theme throughout the trip). So Mohammed fronted the money to the cabbie and gave me the Euros. He then took me to an ATM. The whole thing was rather surreal, and also at a very reasonable exchange rate.
And then we were back on our own, hunting down dinner and trying to figure out what had just happened. Fun, entertaining and completely random, all at the same time. Just one more awesome travel experience to add to the long list.
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