The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

Discrimination against tourists from the Gulf? Say it isn’t so!

with 3 comments

An article from the National (which the Majlis also picked up) made me smile:

Egypt’s ministry of tourism has established a telephone hotline to allow foreign tourists to complain about price discrimination at hotels.

The ministry launched the call-in service on July 15 in response to complaints from Gulf Arab visitors, some of whom say they have been quoted higher rates because of their perceived wealth.

I too have been to Cairo and actually faced the double whammy of discrimination, when people found out I was Australian and later when I mistakenly started speaking Khaleeji Arabic to them (I later learned to convert to Egyptian Arabic in key situations).

A hotel that has asked a guest to pay US$200 (Dh735) on a room that would have gone for $100 could wind up paying 10 times the difference, or $1,000, in penalties to both the guest and the hotel association.

In the most severe or repeated cases, the association can strip a hotel of its licence.

That penalty is peanuts compared to the volume of cash handled by Egypt’s large, international-class hotels. The real concern for hoteliers, said Marwa Salem, the assistant public relations manager for Cairo’s Semiramis Intercontinental, is the hotel’s reputation among high-spending Gulf Arabs. [The National]

Indeed, unfortunately for Khaleeji (mostly Saudi) tourists, and of course the rest of those unlucky shmos who either don’t have the wherewithal or the looks to pass of as Masri at least for a few minutes while negotiating the price of a rug, this only applies to hotels. So you shall continue to overpay at Khan el-Khaleeli, at the qahwa, in the taxi and probably pretty much anywhere else you can think. I like to think of it as a form of income redistribution – I clearly have enough money to enjoy such luxuries as international travel, taxi driver Ahmed (of “teksi ya basha?” fame) clearly needs to feed his family of 11 children living in the poor part of Giza (I kid you not, I had many taxi drivers spend the whole trip wailing about how they have another child being born or their mother-in-law needs an operation or the perceived injustice of the system, maintaining my conversation in Arabic at this point proved difficult and I was reduced to replying with “aywa”, “sa7” and “inshallah” only). So why not spend a few extra Egyptian pounds and allow the man to buy that extra pack of Cleopatras today or that delectable fuul sandwich?

“The pyramids don’t change from year to year. We come here for the films. They show the newest movies, and we don’t have movies in Saudi Arabia,” said Bander al Otaibi, 26, a banker from Riyadh, who was enjoying a fruit drink in the lobby of Cairo’s Intercontinental City Stars on Wednesday afternoon. [The National]

Enjoying “a fruit drink” indeed! Let’s not beat around the bush here, perhaps these Saudis should head down to Bahrain like their brothers from Khober, Dammam and Dhahran do every bloody weekend, and fill the streets with their easily recognisable license plates and terrible driving… and perhaps they can get their newest movies, their “fruit drinks” and whatever other “entertainment” they are seeking… all at a fair (or at least equal) price!


Written by alexlobov

August 5, 2009 at 1:56 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Haha! Very interesting Alex. Its funny because the dynamics of the situation are far beyond anything racial. Egyptians have a habit of trying to rip anyone off, even one another, at any chance they get. I was walking through the streets of Cairo with my Aunt, a local, when I recieved first hand experience about the importance of ‘wazn el dahab’: when shop assistants try to suss out how heavy the pendants of gold on your neckchain are, in order to establish a means by which to judge how far their overpricing should go! Talk about creative.
    I guess the racial divide comes in when ‘to what extent’ they try to get away with it.


    August 22, 2009 at 6:20 pm

  2. Certainly, and Egypt wouldn’t be the first country where canny entrepreneurs assess the opportunities for price-fixing, but I think there is also a racial element creeping. You speak to young Egyptians these days, and many are quite resentful of Khaleejis because they are perceived as fat, thobed men who come to Egypt for prostitutes and second wives (this goes for the Maghrib too actually), and they’re also perceived as rich but stingy, which the Egyptians don’t appreciate. This isn’t a strong form of racism, and of course all the Egyptians I know get along fine with Khaleejis on a personal level, but it’s another one of the many many stereotypes one finds in the Arab world that help keep the nails in the coffin of “pan-Arabism”


    August 23, 2009 at 5:15 pm

  3. If you’re reading this, you’re all set, padnrer!


    December 30, 2014 at 10:16 am

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