No change: The most annoying part about Egypt

The touts try to quote high prices, sometimes 50x what they should be. Others just hassle you by walking along side you as you try to make your way down the road. Add to this that it’s probably hot, because Egypt is in a desert after all, and living conditions aren’t quite up to first-world standards, and you can begin to imagine why Egypt can get annoying at times.

But none of that really bothers me.

Everyone’s just trying to make money. That’s to be expected. And they’ve had thousands of years to practice. Also, the annoyance isn’t so much that they’re so good or tough or whatever you want to call it – they were like this in Cambodia too. The annoyance is that they’re everywhere. No rest for the weary. But that’s not the real bother for me.

The sun is hot, but it could be worse. It’s the desert, like I said – man up!

Even the living conditions, sure, they might not be great, but on the flip side, that’s why most things cost so little compared to in America, like bottled water for $.50 or a camel ride for $4 right in front of the oldest pyramid in the world. No, the living conditions don’t bother me, other than that I feel bad for Egyptians when I’m throwing around their money like it’s nothing.

No, what bothers me the most is a little thing, a little thing that’s as pervasive as the sun here: no one has change.

I understand maybe the camel guy wouldn’t have correct change, maybe not even a cab driver. But when I want to buy drinks from a local shop on the road for eight Egyptian pounds, I feel like I should be able to hand them a 20-pound bill without any hassle.

But it gets worse than that. If I want to pay to get into a temple, even an “expensive” one that costs like 65 Egyptian pounds, and only have a 100-pound bill, they probably won’t have change (or at least say that don’t). They’ll run around looking for someone to make change or try to get someone else in our group to do it for them.

Now, normally, I’d probably get over this inconvenience faster than I have. Normally, I’d figure out a way to work it out, get change, or just get over it and know that I’m going to have to hassle with it each time I pay for something.

But this time, my first time in Egypt, I’m traveling with between two and four other guys, my co-workers. So there’s this constant tension between trying to get correct change, trying to borrow or lend money when one of us doesn’t have correct change, or trying to be patient with the other guys who need time to sort it out before they can pay.

I’m usually the guy who doesn’t have correct change and wants to get it somehow. I don’t like borrowing or lending money. I’d rather just pay what I owe when I owe it. To make matters worse, though, I don’t spend a lot of money either, which means less opportunities to break large bills, which means more opportunities for me not to have correct change.

Do they not have enough money to keep some around to make change? Do they just not even understand the concept of making change? What’s the deal? Doesn’t anyone else realize how annoying this is? And why’s it my fault?

Yeah, that’s the most annoying part about Egypt for me.

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