I read your recent item regarding the currency scam in Aswan with a wry smile. Back in the 1980s, on a week's Nile Cruise, my husband and I experienced a scam of an altogether more unpleasant nature in Aswan.
We were strolling around the shops cafés in the souk (as you do) when we were approached by a genially smiling local who persuasively ushered us into a café to try out a "hubbly-bubbly"; my husband readily agreed, and we were both given a mint tea whilst my husband had a go at smoking the hookah.
At the end of this seemingly pleasant example of local hospitality, the still smiling chappie refused any payment for the drinks and smoke, but said if we would like to buy some of the tea, his brother ran a shop where we could get it at a bargain price.
Feeling that we ought to show willing after his seeming kindness, we stupidly agreed, and followed him ever deeper into the back streets of Aswan. After a walk of some 5 or 10 minutes (by which time I at least was feeling increasingly perturbed about what was happening) he indeed led us to a small shop. Here, he produced a meagre packet of tea and demanded payment of the equivalent of £5 for it (this was mid-1980s, remember). My husband started to protest, and the guy's demeanour changed in a flash; he menacingly asked why we, as "wealthy tourists", thought we could have tea and a smoke "for nothing", and said that if we didn't pay his asking price for the packet of tea, he would fetch his four brothers from the inside of the shop.
We didn't hang around to hear what the consequences were likely to be – we tossed him the money and made a dash for it back to the main thoroughfare of the souk. Extremely shaken by the experience, we chucked the packet of tea into the bin as we did not want it as a souvenir of a very unpleasant encounter.
Luckily it didn't sour the whole trip to Egypt, but the old lady with the 21st-century currency scam sounds quite mild by comparison.
The 50 Egyptian pound note/50 piastre note trick is the standard scam in Egypt, not just in Aswan and not just with souq sellers. In Aswan and Luxor it is rife. With years of Egyptology experience, even I was trumped at a shop in a luxury hotel in Cairo. Well aware that the 50 pound note was red and the 50 piastre green, I put my purchases on the counter.
I knew the cost, around 40 Egyptian pounds. I took a 50 pound note, and double checked it for value (and that it was red) . The seasoned witch at the till promptly drew my attention to further goods, which I did not want.
When I looked back, my 50 pound note was gone and the cashier was now standing and screaming and flailing a 50 piastre at me and accusing me of cheating her, of theft, of taking advantage. Oh, such a professional performance, such a practised spiel. I stood my ground, but to no avail. Somehow the screaming and the performance is so frightening and demoralising that you hand over another 50 pound note, whilst hating yourself for doing so.
Pity about the flights
Thomson leave Gatwick at 10am for Aswan. Which means 6am for 7am check-in = no sleep = no thank you! Time for flights at more sensible times, and from regional airports too.
Awry in Egypt?
Is Simon Calder geographically challenged? Did he actually go on the Thomson holiday to Aswan that he writes so glowingly about? If he had done, he must surely have noticed that the Tombs of the Nobles are not on the west bank of the Nile at Aswan. They are at Luxor, 140 miles north.
Simon Calder replies: as far as I know, Egypt has at least three sites known as the Tombs of the NoblesReuse content