An Egyptian Pound for a Photo

November 20, 2008
Every culture has its traditions and I like many of those we discover in our travels. But I found that asking for money in Egypt for the most minor of acts surprised (and sometimes annoyed) me.

Impressions of Egypt Number 14

In keeping with the blog’s theme of “Enrich Your Life, Enrich Your Relationships,” this is one of several posts about a trip we took in December 2007, to Egypt. It definitely enriched my life and expanded my understanding of that country, and of the many challenges they face as they evolve into a different kind of country than the one I visited. — Note added in 2011 after the spring revolution

This entry could also be filed as one of my “visual viewpoints” you may have seen in earlier posts.

Every culture has its traditions and I like many of those we discover in our travels. But I found that asking for money in Egypt for the most minor of acts surprised (and sometimes annoyed) me. I can see that one might be asked for a contribution if you took their picture, something I’ve noticed elsewhere. So in that regard it didn’t seem extraordinarily strange that this man wanted a pound to have me take this picture of him and his son. However, at first he seemed to simply want to give me a chance to record life in Cairo. Then he held out his hand for an Egyptian pound.

Similarly, we found that policemen guarding a temple or monument would point out the best place to take a picture (without our requesting the information) and expect us to tip them. Everywhere people had their hands out, though not necessarily in an aggressive manner. It was just one of those things that tourists were expected to do.

I imagine this custom comes from both the fact that the great majority of people are very, very poor and because there is a tradition in Islam of giving gifts to the less fortunate.

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