20150117-EGYPT-0145
comments 26

The Souvenir Shop at Mena House Hotel, Cairo

20150117-EGYPT-0145

As soon as we checked in to the Mena House Hotel, and saw our room, we were impressed. Yes, it was only a standard room in the outer wing of the hotel, but as promised by our tour agency we got a Pyramid view room, ‘a room with a view’.   Well, almost all of the rooms had a pyramid view. This hotel had good reviews, not only for its location, but also its facilities, the restaurants, the spa as well as the golf course. However, as we all know the political situation in Egypt is not good news for tourism, which made the hotel loose business and the international hotel operator who used to operate this hotel did not renew their contract and left the Egyptian government to run the hotel with limited guests.

Those affected by this situation was not only the hotel organization but also those who rented spaces in the hotel; not all restaurants were in operation, the retailers selling souvenirs or other odds and sods looked dusty and shabby with old stock, and with limited hotel guests its hard for the shops to stay in business.

But business must go on, as life goes on as well.

“Come inside…. there is more inside…” lured the man who looked after the shop when I window shopped down the hotel corridor.

Egyptian god with cat head

Egyptian god with a cats head

I decided to go inside all 3 shops one by one, just to be fair to all of them; however, not all shops responded to me well, some of them just sat there and ignored me. Usually whenever I travel, I don’t buy a proper souvenirs from the place. What I normally look for is either a local map or a good coffee table book about the country. As expected, they didn’t have those kind of books, so I carried on looking for anything and everything.   However, not to offend the shopkeeper, I tried to look interested on the artifacts and other objects they were trying to sell.

“If you find something really interesting just say it and ask the man.” My husband whispered on my ear, “…any precious stone or anything for our house, just name it.”  I am not a big shopper, but my husband is.  It takes me a long time to decide before I finally buy something.  Besides, as we are soon packing up our life as an expat to move to somewhere between a nomad’s life or normal life (which up to now I still don’t know what next), it’s not a good idea to add more clutter inside our already excess baggage.

Unfortunately the shop keeper happened to overhear (eavesdropping to be exact) what my husband said, and he said: “I have a bigger shop nearby…. just 5 minutes from here, if you’d like to have a look, I have a bigger collection there…”

“I’ll take you there in my car myself…. just 3 to 5 minutes away….” he tried to convinced me when I hesitated, “there will be no commission for me to take you there, compared to if you go to the shop with a tour guide…”. To me, its not about commission, but, yeah…. why not, as we had nothing scheduled that afternoon. So off we go to his much bigger shop on his vintage American car down the road from Mena House Hotel.

Anubis, the dog looking Egyptian god

Anubis, the dog looking Egyptian god

His ‘shop’ was much bigger with more variety of anything and everything about Egyptian Antiquity replicas that you can find in a pharaoh’s tomb along with the mummies; from jewelry, statues to rubbish; I could spend the whole afternoon there not knowing what to choose. The bad news was, I did not learn, read or do my homework before traveling to Egypt to at least trying to understand about Egyptian history, so I didn’t know anything about different material/stone used for the carvings, or even the shapes of the statues they made as souvenirs, and why people choose one Egyptian god to another…. I guess this was a good excuse for me not to buy anything.

“Take your time to look and if you need anything, Ahmed here (another shop assistant in this bigger shop) will be glad to assist you….”, and the truth was, we were trapped there, he won’t take us back to the hotel until we have bought something from his shop. What made it worse, they wanted me to buy something big and expensive. He kept on saying not to buy the small shape objects as it will not represent the antiquity period, as the artifacts they found in the pyramids were mostly big, and if I am interested in something cheap, then he said that it’s not authentic from Egypt, it’s a fake from China….

***

Because I love dogs, I decided to buy a medium size statue of Anubis head made of treated copper, which ended up looking really old  and a genuine artifact, except for the stand, which is a modern concept. They also made me buy Bestet, or Shekhmet or Tefnut (I am not sure which one is which, as they all look the same, the statue with cats head), “…because they goes together!” was their answer when I asked them why should I buy the second statue. But I don’t think it matters anymore in the modern world.

Do I need the second Anubis?

Do I need the second Anubis?

In the end, because I am a softie, I had to pay for both, and they were not cheap, their excuse was those little souvenirs were made by a famous Egyptologist professor (or rather a sculptor) who just died. Before we left the place, they gave me another Anubis statue, and it made me feel I was being ripped off, and payed more money for the 2nd statue that I needed to… and ended up having 3 little Egyptian souvenirs for my small little home that I haven’t yet lived in.

I have no regret of buying the beautiful Anubis I chose, but as I left the souvenir shop with 3 items, do I want so many Egyptian mementos in my future home out of so many other souvenirs from different countries we have visited???

Epilog:

We stayed in a 5 star hotel, which was supposed to protect its guests from the nasty reality, of pushy vendors and yet we went to the official retail shop in the hotel who managed to lure us out of the hotel precinct and tricked us. Why did the hotel allow this to happened? Did they rent the space to a bona fide retailer? or should I accept this, as this is Egypt?

I ended up having trouble at Cairo Airport as I had to prove that my special little Anubis souvenir which looked very genuine and the police officers at the airport required me to show them the purchasing receipt to prove that it was a souvenir and not a stolen artifact, which delayed us for 30 minutes at the airport when we left.

As you can see, there are three Egyptian ‘artifacts’, which one you like most?

Filed under: eJournal, Travel Notes

About the Author

Posted by

I used to live as an expat and travel around the Middle East. After 10 years working in the Arabian Gulf I am now retired and living in the UK with my British husband but still retain my interests of further travels and exploring new horizons in Europe.

26 Comments

  1. I like the Anubis head the most. The coppery patina really does make it look old. I’m sure getting ripped off in Egypt is nothing new. You now have an interesting warning story for other travellers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the treated copper Anubis head was the original that I want to buy, and the one that I’ve got in trouble in the airport…. the rest, they weren’t interested…

      Like

  2. I love the Anubis head. I saw the similar in Neues Museum in Berlin. And, have you chosen which route to do after your retirement? I am genuinely interested in which route out of theee you’d travel Nin.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Anubis head is beautiful, even its only a lesser god.
      My route still very liquid…. and even it got postpone for another 2 months… so in theory, now is the 4 months waiting period instead of from January to April…. Thanks for asking anyway…

      Like

  3. Pingback: Egypt Early 2015 | Nins' Travelog

  4. Nin, you have a big heart! The Anubis head is my favorite. I’m afraid I’ll be like your husband wanting a memento from every country we visit, however it will have to fit in my backpack – I can already imagine how heavy it will become:) – Ginette

    Like

  5. Karen Harmon

    Nin, I had to shake my head in sympathy, hearing about your adventures in the artifact game, carried on right out of the heart of our posh hotel. I thought I must be the biggest softie of anyone who ever visited Egypt since the Romans. But the upside is that the Anubis head is beautiful (in fact, I like all three). I was taken by my guide in Cairo to a papyrus workshop, a carpet academy and a perfume emporium and bought something every time–in fact, after a lot of attention and lovely tea and a tour watching young people working, it would have seemed churlish to do otherwise. And of course I treasure them all–but then I’m not moving lock stock and barrel to another country in a few month’s time. I guess at this point I don’t begrudge people trying to make a living out of (comparatively) rich foreigners–but I do think the business at the airport was ridiculous. They’re having genuine problems with lawlessness and theft at various sites and to harry tourists–and no matter how authentic your Anubis looked there could never have been any question of what it was–seems outrageous.

    Like

    • Hello Karen,
      Yes, but it is always good to have memories and a few ‘arti facts’ of such a trip. We just have to erase the dodgy memories of suspect Egyptian salesmen and street vendors. Did you see on the news recently that Egypt is proposing to build a new Capitol City to the East of Cairo. They didn’t say what they intended to do with Cairo – possibly Nuke the whole City. Much love, Nina.

      Like

      • Karen Harmon

        I have seen the incredible news of this new folly, way to the east of Cairo. I find it hard to believe. Billions will be spent on this vanity project, apparently, billions that could be spent on reviving the real Cairo and giving it back to its millions, so that they could live in some kind of dignity and security. This is probably too inflammable on a travel blog but if they really want to antagonize and embitter people who just want to have a living wage and a decent life, they couldn’t do better. Watch out for what enters in the vacuum… we’ve all heard about it. We heard about it in Tunis today.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Harmon

      If you have ever seen a thin jackal type dog with big ears patrolling the necropolises on the West Bank (which I’m almost sure I did last trip), you can imagine this royal canine as the guardian of the dead. Why not, when a vulture can be one of the two protective goddesses of Egypt, and a dung beetle can symbolize the regeneration of the sun? Don’t you love it–? I must admit I do.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is why I love Anubis, as I have that similar dog, black and big standing ears at home in Jakarta…🙂

        Like

    • Yes, that one was my first choice when I got frustrated of which one to choose, but they said, this is made in China….

      I end up buying the second head that look old, and the full shape of Anubis was the freebie.

      Like

  6. Gara

    I think I love all of them, because each of which has different story :)).
    But if I must choose… I’ll choose the second one, as I think that the Anubis’ head is really like the one from a Pharaoh’s tomb… it does look old!

    Like

  7. I like all of them. I can imagine they will be good addition to you future home, where ever it will be🙂 My favorite though is the last Anubis, but I am biased, I love dogs.
    Wow, airport security in Egypt is quite strict in monitoring the artifacts – I assume there must be a lot of previous cases of stolen artifacts by tourists..

    Like

    • Too true, their antiquity artifacts are all over the world, some are on loan, some are “officially” stolen by the Western countries. Obviously they don’t want that to happen again.
      I agree, with you Indah, as in the end, the last one was the one that more look like dog, just like Curt said.

      Like

  8. Hi Nin,
    Although you weren’t sure if you were ripped off or not, I enjoyed this story. Also, one can learn from it never to get persuaded by pushy shop keepers. I will keep your story in mind when or if I ever make it to Egypt! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Looking back to 2015 | Nins' Travelog

  10. Margaret J Stewart

    Oh Dear,
    It seems as if I was a follow up more than a year later with the same Gentleman.
    Not Sure if I can post a photo here, & Nope I can’t.
    My trip took me to his Papyrus Factory & Gallery and it was supposed to have been shipped to me in Australia. I understand that it is on the other side of the world, but 25 days after purchase & 10 days after I arrived home I still have not received my Papyrus.
    Chalk it up to experience I guess, but I will be trying to recover either my Papyrus or my money.
    Margo

    Like

    • Oh no…. sorry to hear that. I guess when we travel we need to allow for this kind of thins, a bit of mishap here and there… but lets hope that it won’t happen too often.

      Like

I love to hear from you...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s