In just about any tourist town the local markets sell trinkets, and one of the great mysteries of the modern world, perhaps even of the ancient world, is how so many shops can survive or hope to survive selling the same merchandise.

“Alabaster” pyramids, “jeweled” boxes, stylized cats, hookahs, sand paintings in vases, papyrus paintings, decorative plates, pharaohs’ busts, cotton head scarves and belly-dancing wraps, the list goes on and on. Almost every shop sells the same merchandise and their only hope for business is to befriend visitors without being pushy.

I must say that the shopkeepers of Sharm el-Sheikh’s Old Market do a very good job of it. My friends and I were engaged in friendly banter, cajoled into entering shops, women in our group were patiently costumed from head to foot in colorful Egyptian scarves, but never in a couple hours of wandering were we ever hassled.

The end result? We bought some things we didn’t need and probably wouldn’t have purchased otherwise. We parted with our funds happily and felt we’d made a personal connection with the merchants. And we put a small amount of money into the local economy that wouldn’t have circulated without us. Sure, we bought only tourist souvenirs, but my daughters will like the two pyramids I got for them and they’ll always remember I brought them home from Egypt.

Filed Under Africa & Middle East, Egypt


One Response to “The Souvenir Sellers of Sharm el-Sheikh”

  1. Darya on February 6th, 2009 4:36 pm

    I cringed when I bought my boys two Eiffel Tower statues in Paris last summer– after saying no to about 50 African Vendors in front of Montmartre, I broke down and they LOVE THEM!

Leave a Reply