The Egyptian Compliment

Aswan Travel Blog

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Local Nubian woman
“Ah you are a very beautiful Queen … sometimes.” Okay, sure it wasn’t the best compliment I’ve received, but was certainly memorable. It was the ‘sometimes’ that grabbed me. It made me turn and look. This ‘compliment’ had served its purpose and slowed me down.

Egypt has been a tourist destination for centuries. The Greek historian Herodotus even visited in 455BC and wrote about his time here. Therefore it is no wonder that with all these foreigners, there are a lot of vendors eager to sell their wares and one simple way to do this is through flattery.

Compliments are always nice to receive, but when I’m traveling looking a little worn out, a little worse for wear, in grubby clothes and just generally looking like a packhorse, I seem to enjoy receiving them so much more.
Playing football in the Nubian Village (don't be fooled, the game was hard work with the all the rocks and donkey poo you had to dodge, but a real highlight)

When strolling around markets, bazaars or souks compliments are always given freely and nicely but with one objective in mind - money, and more to the point how much money can I make from these travellers by selling my goods to them? I enjoy this game and I see these sellers as part of experiencing the local culture - but this isn’t to say that I don’t play along with them; so far on this trip I have been from New Zealand, Australia, Holland, Spain, Fiji and Guam. Sure some of these places get quizzical looks from the questioners and you can see them trying to rack their brain about some fact they know, or better still a phrase that might lead to further conversation; the haka for the New Zealander, ‘Gidday mate’ for the Australian, ‘Ah, Maastricht is a very beautiful city’ for the Dutch, but the others places seem to have them stumped.

Therefore when a compliment comes around that captures your attention you do stop and talk with the compliment giver, as was the case with the ‘sometimes’ quote. I was hooked - why didn’t he think I was a beautiful Queen all of the time? Sure I might smell like a donkey (because I recently rode one in the Valley of the Kings, not because I have perfume entitled ‘Eau of Donkey’ which I use while I’m travelling) and I might be wearing the same clothes I’ve had on for the week, but didn’t this just make me more exotic? More pleasant on the eye?

As it turned out, the ‘sometimes man’ didn’t have anything to sell. He just thought I was a beautiful Queen …. sometimes. I put this down to the language barrier and I decided I had clearly misheard him as his ‘sometimes’ sounded a lot like s’all times, which obviously meant ‘all the time’. Clearly.

So this is part of the game, it’s been going on for eons and it will continue well into the future and as a traveler you sometimes need to let your guard down and interact with people but one way to do that is through the sharing of different cultures …. I can’t wait to find out more about the Egyptian culture tomorrow and I know they’ll love to learn about my culture … Co ni chi wa, tomorrow I might try and see if I can teach them about Japan.

Sayonara from Aswan
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Local Nubian woman
Local Nubian woman
Playing football in the Nubian Vil…
Playing football in the Nubian Vi…
photo by: Vikram