Egypt: a country steeped in bribery or just good tips?

Throughout this blog you’re going to see some images that are pretty cool (in my humble opinion) but I would never have been able to capture these if not for one thing, money.

As I’m sure you will have noticed I’ve stopped banging on about America now and managed to find myself in Egypt. Not spiritually, just bantering about with my parents. I’m HALF EGYPTIAN don’tcha know.

Throughout this blog you’re going to see some images that are pretty cool (in my humble opinion) but I would never have been able to capture these if not for one thing, money.

Everyone expects a backhander or are we to call that a tip? Here’s just a few things I wouldn’t have been able to do if it weren’t for this ‘tipping culture’:

• Climb on the pyramid next to a sign that says “No climbing”

• Take a picture of hieroglyphs inside a tomb

• Go behind the pyramids for that ‘wonder shot’

• Special access to the Sphinx

• Drive a bell hop’s golf buggy in a hotel

Mena House Cairo
Breakfast with a view

I knew that I wanted to go out into the desert so I could see the pyramids from afar but had no idea my guide would have to ‘tip’ everybody and their brother along the way.

We came out of the hotel and were immediately approached by a tall, rat-like man who offered us a deal — 400 LE (around £18) for a 2 hour camel ride. We took one look at the hill beside us and chose to take the man up on his offer.

He told us he would take us to where we could pick up the camels and our guide. Soon enough rat-man pulled around in his rat-mobile and we got in. In hindsight this probably wasn’t the smartest decision, getting in a random, ratty man’s car.

Nevertheless, the rat-mobile served us well as we were taken down some backstreets to our camels, Michael Jackson and Mickey Mouse. I took one look at the white one and was like nah, absolutely not, that is not a bit of me. It looked so angry so I left my mum to that demise.

After the initial struggle of getting on the camel we plodded along the ‘authentic’ route to the back of the pyramids. I have never seen so many loose animals left to their own devices, think horses, donkeys, camels, goats, dogs. Men flying past in flip flops on horses.

At one point my mum (the native Egyptian can I remind you) tried to warn a tourist not to keep touching the dogs. The woman looked at my mum like she was a stupid bitch and ignored her; she was white with dreadlocks, woven bracelets up and down her arms, patterned trousers, you know the type. Probably a travel blogger or something, typical. Have fun getting rabies ya dickhead.

Anyway, so we’re in the desert and my main man Karam says he will take “AMAZING” pictures for me, all I have to do is wait. And you know what, he was SO right. Karam became my insta boyfriend for the next two hours, whata guy (see below).

My main man Karam

We get to a good viewing point and Karam goes over to a man and hands him a note. Next, we go up close to the big boi pyramid and he tells me to climb over the railing. I look at him like are you sure hun and he simply tells me to be quick and hands another note over to two men.

I climbed up a few steps and one man started shouting at me “Enough, enough!” Karam tried to reason with him whilst still taking photos, MY G. Lastly on this tour, the Sphinx. Whilst all the other normies were crowded on the other side Karam took me round to a road alongside the Sphinx where no one was. Got these cracking pics didn’t I?!

Sphinx

Just kiss me bitch

We come to the end of our journey and of course, common etiquette is to tip the tour guide, right? My mum hands over a 100 LE note to which Karam questions the amount. “For both of you?” he asks, “it’s for my kids”. She apologises profusely and hands over another 100. Whilst we weren’t actively ‘tipping’ all these officials along the way, I can’t help but think whether the money was handed to them or Karam it was all for the same thing, bribery. There’s no other way to address it, it’s bribery.

Whilst the pyramids is a hot spot for tourists from all over, a lesser known place called Saqqara isn’t, yet still as active in its taking of bribes, SORRY, tips. The site contains pyramids, tombs, ruins etc. There is a man at the entrance of every tomb waiting not for you but for his money.

We picked up a nice man along the way who asked if we wanted to ride his horse, (his actual horse don’t worry) and off we went. He showed us around , gave us some interesting history and of course, again, I’d think it natural to tip this man who had spent the good portion of an hour with us.

However, I would not expect to tip the man who let me pass into the tomb. We had already paid entry into the sites, why would I need to pay again for no extra service? Mahmoud had let us take pictures in the tomb and similarly to Karam had rushed us before anyone saw. He asked us to tip the man who guarded the tomb on the way out; I realise now it was for the privilege of being able to break the rules.

It’s a lax society in some ways and not in others. Do you really think I would have been able to drive a golf buggy around the hotel if we hadn’t been tipping the bell boy well? Actually, this is a bad example, he was A KIND MAN; he probs would have let me ride it around.

My point is at every turn it seems like someone is after what they call in Arabic, “baksheesh”. Ask any Egyptian about the country’s recent history of corruption and they will condemn it. Ask them about the 100 LE they used to get a government document processed a little faster and they will condone it.

The little man forgets an act of bribery is corruption no matter on what scale. Many Egyptians are tired of the regime they’ve succumbed to but perhaps this is part of a culture ingrained so deeply that it can’t change. Who am I to hold judgement? I don’t live here. I don’t fully understand the culture. I don’t understand that maybe this is ‘just the way things work’.

Should I refuse to partake in it? On this kind of scale, is it bribery or is it really just ‘good tips’? Where does the line blur? It happens all over the world.

As always let me know your thoughts in the comments or email me, inbox me, DM me, anything you want fellas.

ALSO, keep updated on the journey by doing me a solid and following me on Instagram. Cheers xoxo

See below for details of where I stayed and who I’d recommend taking tours with :

Hotel: Marriott Mena House, Giza

Tours: Giza pyramids, the man in the picture called Karam. Straight opposite the Mena House entrance.

Saqqara, Mahmoud and his horses (message me for a phone number)

Look how ripped I look
Does it look like I’m flying?
Hahaha
Saqqara

New York: a haven for the confident, not the shy

Even in the bouji-est of yaaassss queen bouji places it was happening…

Hello friends, here we are again, your ol’ pal Jen has re-started this blog after HUGE demand for the international blogging sensation —cheers to all you sarcastic pricks.

For those of you who don’t know I’ve gone on a jaunt round America for the next month, where I will be aiming to provide you with a run down of the enigma that is the USA.

First stop: New York

I’m sure many of you reading this will have been to New York and yeah, I could just reaffirm that all the touristy things you did were worth it but cba. Go to the Met, see the Statue of Liberty, get in a yellow cab etc. but get out into the boroughs and listen to a guy tell you about how he lived in a cult for almost a year or how some guy got scammed into going on a tinder date with 200 other guys.

I stayed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, edgy and try hard I know but ya gal needed some free accommodation so stayed with a friend. Think of Williamsburg as the Shoreditch of New York, loads of artisan coffee shops, overpriced craft beers and unfairly good looking people. If you find yourself there, go down to Smorgasburg, a food market next to the water. Think of Camden market but less shitty and with people taking insta pics with watermelons and drinks served in pineapples, that kinda thing. Good food though and you get a fab view of the skyline.

Venetian Sandwich
Venetian Sandwich
Smorgasburg
View from Smorgasburg

If you’re looking for something to do in the evening, get yourself down to Barcade (yeah, it’s an arcade in a bar). If you hate people, like me, then you’ve found a place where you can appear to be social without actually socialising with anyone. All the games are individual player except maybe one or two so, grab a beer and indulge the inner child with retro arcade games.

After that, we headed to a bar called Union Pool, which I was told was notoriously known as a ‘hook up bar’ (sorry mum and dad). I’M JOKING, relax. Just having some good time fun with friends. It was here in a relatively sober state that I realised how non-subtle New Yorkers are. People are definitely on the prowl. The two girls next to us immediately started flirting and talking to the two guys I was with. Girls!

And yeah, sure this place was kinda sleezy but it was happening in the nice places too. People just accept that they’re at a bar for one reason only, to “hook up” and they’re so blatant about it. Even in the bouji-est of yaaassss queen bouji places it was happening— rooftop bar, Mr Purple in Lower East Side. Imagine your typical wealthy guy in a shirt and chinos combo, drink in hand, surrounded by 5 women; he had his eye on the blonde but she was playing it coy. Next thing we know she’s gone and he’s onto the next one. Literally on… as soon as the blonde left his hand wormed it’s way down to the arse of the brunette next to him. No subtlety, just went for it. If you want this classy experience visit Mr Purple. Nah but seriously, if you love the high life vibe, do check out Mr Purple, totally instagrammable with a pool, good view and everyone pretending they have the money to spend on $16 cocktails.

Mr Purple Lower East Side
Pretending to enjoy myself drinking the cheapest thing on the menu

If you’re looking for something more chill and less alcohol focused then head on down or rather up, to the High Line. It’s a 1.45 mile walk along greenery on an old New York railroad. You’ll get a nice walk, see some contemporary art along the way and feel healthy. Or, get away from the crowds and go to Union Square. Not much to do but it’s a nice small green space and there are plenty of shops about. When we went, we arrived just after the aftermath of something ridiculous.

A half torn down stage was lying on the ground with the remnants of DJ equipment next to it. Alongside the equipment were a bunch of big cue cards. One of them said ‘Trump supporter’ with another saying ‘If you’ve ever been in a long term relationship’. A girl had matched with over 200 boys on tinder and asked them to meet her at Union Square at a specific time. When they showed up, she held up cue cards with conditions to eliminate them so she could find the right suitor. Who does that? To be fair, I think it was some publicity stunt to gain followers but still, WHAT?

Americans are so ballsey, New Yorkers especially. So, if you want in yer face experiences, definitely hit up New York.

Next city ——> Nashville, Tennessee

NYC High Line
Mural along the high line