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Just spent 2 weeks in Egypt and happened to have the chance to talk to a couple of businessmen there who had lived in England during the past decade, one of whom started his Egyptian empire by selling the 2 up 2 down he bought in Manchester in 1998 for silly money in 2005, as well as a lot of people in the tourist industry in one form or another.

Egypt's first and second main sources of income are the Suez canal and the tourist industry. Apparently Suez earnings are down a lot over the past 12 months, and tourist industry slowing.

One Luxor alabaster business - very cannily run from what I could see - sales down 60%. The same guy's property business - down 80%. A lot of dive shops in Dahab are struggling more than usual, even though the government closed down over 20-25% of them recently. Second hand information from one source - Arab bankers had a meeting last week and the conclusion was to stop investment/loans in/to the tourist industry.

Clearly trade is still way down and western consumers are not going on holiday as much and are not making as many impulse purchases (cf. alabaster shop). The guy who ran the alabaster shop was very astute and he was hungry for first hand information about the UK situation and he was so happy with the discussion I had with him, I ended up with a nice, large, and totally free hand made alabaster vase...and I can assure you that truly free vases are a rare occurrence in Luxor.

Anyhow, it was very interesting to see the effects of the mess here on an economy that is downstream from the west. Mind you, I suspect life will go on there more or less as it always has, as most people rely entirely on cash and don't use banks...just some Bedouin (who own a lot of Sinai) won't be able to afford the latest Toyota Hilux next year.

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The economy is truly global, here is the proof - Tracey in Essex losed her job at Woolworths (and 1.5 million more like her) followed by the world famous Egyptian Alabaster Vase industry, err, wilting.

[aside - I thought Brits were flooding to de-Nile zone, Turkey etc due to the non-Euro currency not being so hard on their pounds? Perhaps not]

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Guest absolutezero
Just spent 2 weeks in Egypt and happened to have the chance to talk to a couple of businessmen there who had lived in England during the past decade, one of whom started his Egyptian empire by selling the 2 up 2 down he bought in Manchester in 1998 for silly money in 2005, as well as a lot of people in the tourist industry in one form or another.

Egypt's first and second main sources of income are the Suez canal and the tourist industry. Apparently Suez earnings are down a lot over the past 12 months, and tourist industry slowing.

Seems to tie in with the Baltic Dry (Shipping) Index dropping off a cliff. I assume the Suez is a big trading route.

Also, CB, I wondered about the effect of the exchange rates on people's holiday destination. Then I wondered about whether many will actually go on holiday at all this year.

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The economy is truly global, here is the proof - Tracey in Essex losed her job at Woolworths (and 1.5 million more like her) followed by the world famous Egyptian Alabaster Vase industry, err, wilting.

[aside - I thought Brits were flooding to de-Nile zone, Turkey etc. due to the non-Euro currency not being so hard on their pounds? Perhaps not]

It may sound silly, but yes, it really does show how global the economy has become. A sniffle in the west is magnified to such a degree that a lot of rather poor people in "far away" places lose their livelihoods, as you CB are obviously aware from your previous business. (Have you completely divested yourself from tourism?) What was interesting was just how large the effect was. I suppose alabaster really is low down on the list of "must haves" so the market is highly dependent on whether or not holiday makers feel flush.

At least most of the common people in Egypt aren't in debt, though the money and expats flowing from the west have screwed up some parts of the economy and the housing market. One of our guides was struggling to buy a flat (a condition from his wife to be's father for the marriage to go ahead) as prices in his area had gone up from LE40,000 to LE100,000 in only a few years.

The government license to run the cafe' at Carnak in Luxor went up for rebid last year and the fellow who won it is paying LE260,000 per month for it (previously LE60,000). I reckon he is absolutely scr*wed - perfect example of the winner's curse.

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Yes, D'Oh, Alabaster is one of many discretionary spends which is tanking along with BMW M5s (or whatever these new-fangled sales rep cars are called) and Caribbean tourism (still involved but have launched myself into UK home-grown tourism web activities now for obvious reasons).

Countries like Egypt are screwed for various reasons and will be cap in hand to the IMF soon if not already - no trade tax revenues coming in to feed the people, and Al Quaeda knocking at the door to appeal to the poor and dispossessed unemployed "yoofs".

The Caribbean equivalent of Al Quaeda are the drug barons and their gangs.

At least there is a welfare state in the UK, for as long as the government can afford to pay out of course, to keep the unemployed in bread and ciggies/lambrini - in developing countries there is usually no safety net other than the local Mosque/Church. Maybe we will see a global return to medeival values where the state cannot care for the people, but this function gets devolved down to the local religious community (not advocating this before the rabid agnostics flame me to hell)

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I ended up with a nice, large, and totally free hand made alabaster vase...and I can assure you that truly free vases are a rare occurrence in Luxor.

Was it a vase, or a gourd? You made me think of my favorite film and the Haggling Scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian. I dare you to read it and not smile at the very least!

(After Brian has escaped the Centurions, he runs off towards the crowded

market square. At one end of the market there is a speakers' corner, with

many strangely bearded and oddly dressed Prophets attempting to attract an

audience. The noisiest or the most controversial are clearly doing best at

attracting Passers-by. A strange figure with a rasta hairstyle, covered in

mud, and with two severed hands on a pole waves wildly at the audience.)

Blood & Thunder Prophet: ...and shall ride forth on a serpents' back, and the

eyes shall be red with the blood of living creatures,

and the whore of Babylon shall rise over the hill of

excitement and throughout the land there will be a

great rubbing of parts....

(Beside him, another Prophet with red hair, none the less fierce, is trying to

attract some of the Blood & Thunder Prophet's audience.)

False Prophet: And he shall bear a nine-bladed sword. Nine-bladed. Not two.

Or five or seven, but nine, which he shall wield on all

wretched sinners and that includes you sir, and the horns shall

be on the head ...

(In front of each Prophet is a Roman Guard, clearly bored but there to break

up any trouble. Brian races into the market place. A bunch of Romans are

searching the square roughly turning over baskets and shaking down Passers-by.

Brian appears near a rather dull little Prophet, who is standing underneath

the high window that backs out of Matthias' house, the revolutionary HQ.)

Boring Prophet: And there shall in that time be rumours of things going

astray, and there will be a great confusion as to where things

really are, and nobody will really know where lieth those

little things with the sort of raffia work base, that has an

attachment that will not be there.

(Across the square the Romans appear, searching. Brian spots Harry, the beard

seller, and moves towards his stall, an idea forming in his mind.)

(The Boring Prophet drones on and on:)

At this time a friend shall lose his friends's hammer and the

young shall not know where lieth the things possessed by their

fathers that their fathers put there only just the night

before....

(Brian runs up to Harry the beard seller's stall and hurriedly grabs an

artificial beard.)

Brian: How much? Quick!

Harry: What?

Brian: It's for the wife.

Harry: Oh. Twenty shekels.

Brian: Right.

Harry: What?

Brian: (putting down 20 shekels) There you are.

Harry: Wait a moment.

Brian: What?

Harry: We're supposed to haggle.

Brian: No, no, I've got to ...

Harry: What do you mean, no?

Brian: I haven't time, I've got to get ...

Harry: Give it back then.

Brian: No, no, I paid you.

Harry: Burt!

(Burt appears. He is very big.)

Burt: Yeah?

Harry: This bloke won't haggle.

Burt: (looking around) Where are the guards?

Brian: Oh, all right ... I mean do we have to ...

Harry: Now I want twenty for that ...

Brian: I gave you twenty.

Harry: Now are you telling me that's not worth twenty shekels?

Brian: No.

Harry: Feel the quality, that's none of yer goat.

Brian: Oh ... I'll give you nineteen then.

Harry: No, no. Do it properly.

Brian: What?

Harry: Haggle properly. This isn't worth nineteen.

Brian: You just said it was worth twenty.

Harry: Burt!!

Brian: I'll give you ten.

Harry: That's more like it.

(outraged) Ten!? Are you trying to insult me? Me? With a poor dying

grandmother...Ten!?!

Brian: Eleven.

Harry: Now you're getting it. Eleven!?! Did I hear you right? Eleven? This

cost me twelve. You want to ruin me?

Brian: Seventeen.

Harry: Seventeen!

Brian: Eighteen?

Harry: No, no, no. You go to fourteen now.

Brian: Fourteen.

Harry: Fourteen, are you joking?

Brian: That's what you told me to say.

(Harry registers total despair.)

Tell me what to say. Please.

Harry: Offer me fourteen.

Brian: I'll give you fourteen.

Harry: (to onlookers) He's offering me fourteen for this!

Brian: Fifteen.

Harry: Seventeen. My last word. I won't take a penny less, or strike me

dead.

Brian: Sixteen.

Harry: Done. (He grasps Brian's hand and shakes it.) Nice to do business

with you. Tell you what, I'll throw in this as well. (He gives

Brian a gourd.)

Brian: I don't want it, but thanks.

Harry: Burt!

Burt: (reappearing rapidly) Yes?

Brian: All right! All right!! Thank you.

Harry: Where's the sixteen then?

Brian: I already gave you twenty.

Harry: Oh yes ... that's four I owe you then. (starts looking for change)

Brian: It's all right, it doesn't matter.

Harry: Hang on.

(Pause as Harry can't find change. Brian sees a pair of prowling Romans.)

Brian: It's all right, that's four for the gourd -- that's fine!

Harry: Four for the gourd. Four!!!! Look at it, that's worth ten if it's

worth a shekel.

Brian: You just gave it to me for nothing.

Harry: Yes, but it's *worth* ten.

Brian: All right, all right.

Harry: No, no, no. It's not worth ten. You're supposed to argue. "What?

Ten for that, you must be mad!"

(Brian pays ten, runs off with the gourd, and fixes the beard on his face.)

Ah, well there's one born every minute.

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...

Brian: It's all right, that's four for the gourd -- that's fine!

Harry: Four for the gourd. Four!!!! Look at it, that's worth ten if it's

worth a shekel.

Brian: You just gave it to me for nothing.

Harry: Yes, but it's *worth* ten.

Brian: All right, all right.

Harry: No, no, no. It's not worth ten. You're supposed to argue. "What?

Ten for that, you must be mad!"

(Brian pays ten, runs off with the gourd, and fixes the beard on his face.)

Ah, well there's one born every minute.

Yes...well...that is the Middle East for you.

I did actually buy a papyrus and the haggling was very much like the above...the guy even was showing me pictures of his family...especially since bargaining may start at 10x the "Egyptian" price or more. The price started off as slightly expensive for the west, but you have to take into consideration that labour costs are more or less precisely one tenth. People feel that they are getting good value when they bargain down 30%, yet paying 5x what they should. I absolutely hate the whole process. You cannot actually really want something immediately as it puts you in a weak position. You simply MUST be willing to walk away. Everything is dragged out, though with a good salesman you can both end up laughing. Sort of like buying a used car from a dealer in the UK really.

Most of the middle class Egyptians I met hate/get frustrated by the whole process too. One guy I met told me about what had happened to him the previous weekend. He'd agreed to buy a shirt from a seller in the Cairo market for LE50 and handed over a LE100 note. Seller refused to hand back the change, changing the deal, so the buyer just took 4 more shirts and walked off. Seller chased after him with his refund, but his argument was that if the seller could change the deal, then so could he. :lol:

For those visiting Luxor, I can recommend Arkwrights (sic - they even have a bike outside) store on a side road just across from the Sonesta hotel (iirc). Run by an English woman, but the prices are Egyptian (i.e. big bottles of water LE3, cans of softdrink LE2 etc.). Much easier than walking into some of the Egyptian owned stores where the price depends on how much they think they can gouge out of you.

Edited by D'oh

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