Shopping in Africa 


On a trip to Egypt, I met a Czech friend who had married there and had been living there for some time. She was keen to show me a side of the country that tends to remain hidden from tourists. And so I got to experience for myself what it is like for an Egyptian woman to go shopping.

This happened during a day trip we took by car with her Egyptian husband and one of his friends. On the way back, we passed through a densely populated area where much of the population works predominantly in agriculture. The produce grown here can often be purchased right by the roadside. As can pottery.

Looking out of the window, my friend spotted the baking dishes she'd been wanting for ages and asked her husband to stop. I was instantly smitten with the idea of bringing home a vase or bowl fired from Egyptian clay as a souvenir.

Just as we were jostling to get out of the car so that we could go and admire the wonders on offer, her husband halted us, resolutely gesturing that the two of us were to stay where we were. He and his friend made their way among the wares on display and, after a bit of haggling, returned with full bags. He stowed them in the boot and reassured me that he had picked out a present for me, too.

Well, all right, then. I would have preferred to pick out something myself, but I would respect local tradition and allow myself to be surprised by his choice 😊

Offering no further explanation, he got behind the wheel and we continued on our way.

My friend told me that, judging by her previous experience, there could be two reasons for this. In Egypt, it is not common for goods to be price-tagged. Prices are haggled and end up much higher for foreigners. Place two European women in a vendor's presence and the price of his wares would rocket in the blink of an eye. The second reason is local traditions dictating that women obey their husbands.

And so, while I didn't get to choose my vase, I was able to experience first-hand how things are done in foreign lands. And that's what travel is all about.

What experiences have you brought back with you from your adventures?