By now on my Egypt trip, Ash (the guide) and I have become family. He adopted me as the little sister he has never had. It probably helps that I carried around almost 10 grand of customized jewelry for him since I was the only one with a backpack. Either way I now have family in Cairo should I ever need them.
Like any trip of this kind we are usually taken to the shops where you can get quality merchandise at a decent price with the kickback going to our guide. I know some people complain about that but you honestly have to take most of it on faith. The guide knows if he takes you to an overpriced store, we as clients will never go back with him again and tell everyone that he was unfair. I watched several people go out on their own to buy things that were quite costly only to find out that gold Nefratiti pendent they got wasn't real gold but was silver painted with gold leaf. I knew from Morocco what to buy with him and what to buy on my own.
So here we are in the Alabaster shop, just outside the Valley of the Queens. While we went through the product demonstration, I eyed a piece back behind the owner's counter. It was an earthy green colour vase that was like a cutout, like how you take a piece of paper, cut out bits and it opens to make a snowflake. I am fascinated with the scarab, yes the dung beetle, but figured that I should look around instead and buy something more "pretty."
I then went and looked at the embalming jars. I think it's rather entertaining that they would take bits of your entrails and place them in the jars. I don't know why they intrigued me, but I guess I figured it would make for a great story down the road when people went looking at our stuff. I couldn't find a complete set of the colour and size I wanted so I gave up on those too.
Almost everyone has finished and I have circled the store at least twenty times, not able to really find anything that kept my attention any longer than that green scarab vase. Finally I pick up a green scarab paperweight and brother whispers in my ear, "No sister those are the cheap gifts look over there." I wander off to another section and find a white, opalescent one instead. I then decide that I don't care that it's a bug and go and pick up the green vase. Lastly I pick up this little blue vase, that was unique in shape and good colour and wander towards my brother.
His lips part into a wide smile and his eyes sparkle, "Ah sister you have good taste, that vase is one of his best creations, not many have even bothered to notice the time and patients it takes to carve such a piece." He turns towards the salesman following me and starts to haggle on a price. I know that I can't haggle for crap solely because I am a woman. Why not let the man, who is now my brother (And who speaks Arabic) argue for me? Something was not right as he repeated the word "La", while crossing his arms in the negative fashion. (Now you know how I learn new languages so quickly, by observing.) He dismisses the man with a wave of his hand and he starts to haggle with the owner, all the while I stand there giving my best "puss in boots" face hoping they think I am cute and adorable. He tells me the price and confirms that I accept it. Once I say yes he then tells me that the salesman wanted to charge me the mandated 3% tax that Egypt charges those that use a credit card. Of course, talking with the owner that fee was waved. I am then carted off to the corner after signing my receipt so they can wrap my goodies.
I nearly died laughing when my salesman demanded baksheesh. I pointed out to him that he wanted to charge me tax why should I give him baksheesh? He wandered off came back with a few small scarabs, a very pretty green scarab, two necklaces (they had to be tossed later they were crumbling as you touched them) and placed them in my package. I counted out about $4 in ones while they were in my pocket and folded them for a thank you later.
While waiting, I noticed I was the last person in the store except for Ash. I now became the centre of attention. One man wanted me to sit on the hassock next to him and drink tea, I politely declined he then moved over a foot and insisted a second time, I declined again. Finally another man asked if I wanted a coke, I declined but knowing that if I didn't accept something I was being rude, I took a seat next to the hassock man. Another man came out of no where and asked me if I was married. When I answered yes, he asked if I had a sister. Making a joke that was completely missed; I said I had a brother but that he would make for an ugly wife. I was promptly told in all seriousness that he didn't like brothers but would love it if I had a sister. "I am sorry," I say, "I only have one brother."
Again out of nowhere another man walks up, smiles at me, takes my hand and gently places a small blue scarab in it. His eyes widen and his smile becomes gigantic as he tells me, "You will have twins soon and they will be girls." I nearly fainted. I hadn't told a soul, but we are actually hoping for twins, boy/girl twins but we want twins. I am now completely creeped out over this, but trying to maintain composure, thank him and then start scanning the store for Ash. I want out of here before they name my kids for me too. Finally my packages are done. I shake the man's hand slipping him his four bucks. I softly hear, "Salaam Ali Com" - May God be with you. I turn and say the return greeting, "Ali Com Salaam" - Also with you. (Sorry the Arabic is phonetic spelling) Ash is now by my side, and I scuttle out of the store still in utter shock at some stranger telling me I will have twins.
If we actually end up having twins I will be freaked out beyond all belief. That is just too strange to have a perfect stranger walk up to you and give you information that is quite personal. I don't think he was expecting a tip, who knows maybe he was, but either way when the twins come out I can tell them that they are the Alabaster Twins foretold in Egypt.