Vendors on either side come out to meet us as we walk down the narrow uneven sidewalks of the Souk (market). They solicit their goods, pleading with us to just enter their stores and take a look.
Their approaches vary drastically. Some spit out English words they must think we want to hear–”Hey spice girls,” “Awww….beautiful! Two-million camels for you.” Others are raunchier–”I like your body,” “I”m free tonight,” Others play on insecurities. “No hassle here.” Others smile and ask where we’re from–”American, English, French?”
Some give up easily. My favorite is when they smile and reply “afwan,” (you’re welcome) or “marhaba” (welcome) to my “la’a shukran” (no thank you). The bolder keep stride pleading with us to visit their shop, telling us they know what we want or yelling after us to smile because we’re in Egypt.
Our last night in Luxor I proposed that we eat at a restaurant, Amoun located a ways into the souk. Three other young women and I ventured off in search of authentic tasty Egyptian classics and vegetables my guidebook promised.
After dinner, at a different place–plans change quickly in Egypt–a shopping detour ensued. Rachel found a cute shop with hair barrettes and I set about replacing my beloved flip flops, which I’ve literally worn through the bottom in the last week.
Haggling done, new shoes in hand, a young girl rushes into the shop and yells something in Arabic. I think she’s upset because the police made the children stop playing kickball in the street, Asha suggests.
Rachel puts down the shirt she’s eyeing. Yella? (let’s go).
In the street it is instantly apparent something more than halting children’s games is underway.
Vendors, who moments earlier watched our every move, now hardly see us in their frantic hurry to dismantle their shops. A second man I haggled with for my shoes is moving scrambling toward us carrying the entire display of shoes which attracted me to his shop. He distracted takes the money I hand him as he rushes toward his shop.
“We have to clear the streets,” he answers my obvious question. A group of tourist police have clustered where the alleys intersect. They are yelling amongst each other and with vendors
We walk past, reluctantly staring backward and reaching for cameras.
Vendors pull down metal doors to hide their wares and brashly use poles to dismantle mannequins in sequined covered dresses. A couple vendors half- heartedly urge us to take a look but most hardly see us in their rush to close shop.
“Why are you closing your shops?” I ask a boy who is pulling a metal door over his entire shop. A nearby man interrupts and tells me because it’s 10:00 p.m.–the time when the markets close. We know this isn’t the case–many shops stay open most of the night. The rush and panic also tell another story.
“How often does this happen?” I continue. He tells me every me not often, “just once every two or three months.”
I took video I will upload when I have a capable internet connection and speed. In the meantime, anyone have any insights into this? There must be some kind of laws police intermittently enforce. The whole thing was bizarre. Since tourism comprises 85 percent of the economy in Luxor, at least according to my Rough Guide, it’s hard to believe the police would be too harsh on vendors earning a living. I’ll be interested to look into the laws and how these people get permits to sell.