Finding a Treasure in Alexandria
When people find out that I’ve been to Egypt, the question I get asked most is “Are the pyramids really that impressive?” In a word…yes. The pyramids are HUGE, as are the stones from which they are constructed. However, when I think about our visits to Egypt, I find myself remembering the people we met more than the impressive structures we visited.
Here are two of my favourite encounters.
1. Listening to the nice man with the machine gun
The pyramids are surrounded by armed guards. Their main purpose is to stop people from climbing the pyramids and doing damage. Generally speaking, I find armed guards intimidating, especially when they’re pointing at me and speaking in foreign language. Fortunately, my husband seemed to grasp what the nice man with the machine gun was trying to tell us. 'This is how to pose for pictures with the pyramids.'
Thank you Mr. Armed Guard!
2. Street vendors
Encountering street vendors is an inevitability. Near all major attractions there are always a large number vying for your attention. For the most part, we saw carved wooden cats, small figurines that looked like mummies, and of course, jewelry.
I think it’s in my nature to not fully trust people when I’m buying things on the street. It's not that the items aren't beautiful, but I’m not so naïve as to believe the people I meet are always going to be honest with me.
In Alexandria, we encountered one street vendor who was selling beautiful necklaces off of a rather old looking tv tray. His appearance did not inspire much confidence in what he was selling, but we stopped to have a look at his wares anyway. He offered us a beautiful, “pure silver” necklace, but at this point in our travels, we didn’t have much money left. When we told him we didn’t want to make an offer on it, his initial price dropped by 75%, however it was still more money than we had with us. Eventually we told him we had less than $20, to which he responded “Sold”. I really liked the necklace and my philosophy was that for this price, even if it was only stainless steel, it was still very pretty.
As a materials scientist I was honestly very curious about his claims, so once I got home I tested the necklace. It was essentially pure silver.
It’s nice when people surprise you like that.