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After spending the day touring the West Bank of Luxor on Uniworld’s Classic Egypt & the Nile itinerary, I was unwinding with a book in my spacious stateroom onboard the River Tosca when I heard a commotion outside.
“Hello! Hello! Hello! Hey Lady, open your window!” shouted voices that seemed to be coming from the side of the ship.
I glanced out of the window and noticed several tiny boats tied to the side of our river cruise ship with rope. Our tour guide mentioned that this might happen. Merchants from nearby cities knew that Uniworld would be throwing a typical Egyptian galabia party — in which cruisers are asked to don traditional Egyptian clothing — in the Tosca’s bar and lounge that night.
To get a better vantage point, I walked up to the sundeck where the negotiating was in full swing. From either side of the ship, merchants would hurl scarves, galabias, turbans and embroidered shirts onto the deck, whether or not we had asked to see them. If we didn’t want to purchase the item, we were asked to toss it back over the side of the ship, aiming for one of their boats. Most guests didn’t have an accurate aim, which was admittedly amusing to witness, and many clothing items ended up landing in the Nile, however the vendors were deft in recovering the merchandise so that nothing was lost.
“Oh, I like this scarf. How much?” yelled one of the cruisers aboard our ship.
“For you, my final price is 100 Egyptian pounds [about $17.50],” answered the vendor below. “Put the money inside one of the plastic bags and throw it down to me.”
The cruiser put her money in a bag holding an unwanted galabia robe, but was having trouble tying the knot. Time was ticking. We were approaching the Esna Locks, and the vendors were rapidly untying their boats from the side of our ship, unable to head farther southward.
“Hurry, hurry!” the merchant called as the buyer continued to fumble with the plastic bag.
We started to enter the lock, and the vendor looked panicked. He docked his boat against the lock and climbed up its concrete ledge. At the very last minute, the cruiser pitched her payment right into his hands. Thank goodness she didn’t need change.