Friday, 16 September 2011
For those who believe that shopping in Egypt on holiday is equal to persistent hawking, there are gems such as Davids's Papyrus Shop in Luxor, where you have a much friendlier reception. I found it through a set of unusual circumstances.
Taking part on a Nile cruise (a holiday of a lifetime), we were offered an impromptu trip into Luxor for some window shopping. I was apprehensive because of the past week's experience of the very aggressive selling and hawking tactics at the sites we visited. I therefore tagged along with Myra, Amanda and Jacqui, who had been to Luxor and Egypt many times and had also suggested visiting the gardens at the Old Winter Palace Hotel.
I needed some cash from the ATM next to the hotel, when suddenly a figure dashed out and embraced Myra, it was an Egyptian family friend who they had known as David since he was a child.
I was drawn along, not sure whether to intrude, but David made me welcome too and we sat down in the shop as he prepared a cup of sweet tea for us all.
David's real name is Amin Ahmed Abd El Guoad. Myra and Amanda had met the family in 1999 on their first cruise, through mutual friends who already knew of a friendly quayside shop for purchasing bottled drinking water.
The acquaintance grew into friendship over the coming two years during repeat visits. Myra and Amanda were invited to the family home and onto the boat, for the family were fishermen as well as having a souvenir come tourist shop. They would help with outings and arranging things for their English friends. At this time David/Amin was still just a young 17. When David/Amin surprised them with his welcome embrace, they had not seen each other for ten years.
In that decade, David/Amin and his cousin Ashraf had set up their own shop, realising an ambition to open a small quality enterprise in the courtyard adjoining the Old Winter Palace. This prestigious hotel has catered for famous guests such as Howard Carter, the famous archaeologist who discovered Tutenkamun's tomb nearly a century ago, and Hilary Clinton and Princess Diana in more recent times.
It was this new shop where the reunion tea took place; amongst signed painted papyri, tiers of mother of pearl inlay boxes, with their glittering geometric designs in the Arabic tradition, and wood carvings of animals, bowls and other essential tourist paraphernalia.
In this relaxed environment, catching up with news and new developments, there was a natural interest in what special items David/Amin was now selling. I was not ready to buy anything but was not made to feel uncomfortable once this became clear. Myra took a shine to a delicate silver ankh that matched the sparkle in her eyes as we left an hour later to catch the bus back to our boat.
What a contrast to the pressure selling where you might be duped into one sale of a tacky knick knack and vow never to come back. Here, in David/Amin's shop I was left with the feeling that this was a safe place to return to – and suggest to others.
From a business perspective, the best client is one who wants to buy. Most tourists do want to buy gifts for friends and relatives as well as memorabilia. Yet time and time again I observed on our holiday how aggressive hawking outside shops put off the very clients they were seeking.
So, for a more enjoyable shopping experience for you and your customers, give them time to breathe.
And the next time you are in Luxor, I recommend a visit to David/Amin's “The Papyrus Shop”, in the courtyard by the Old Winter Palace Hotel.
Posted by Chris Thomas at 00:10