Travel Tip # 1 – A LAUGHING MATTER

camel talkWhenever the travel bug sends me to a place where I don’t speak the language, I make it a point to learn how to say No – Thank you. In my experience, a nod accompanied by a smile will do for Hello, a wave equals Good-bye, and hands lined up in a prayer position accompanied by a slight nod or lightly patting the place over my heart with one hand will likely be understood as thank you.

It’s the No, thanks that can be tough.

I suppose a simple or vehement shake of the head will get the point across. Adding loud expletives with fist shaking would surely do the trick, too. My only problem with this is  that my grandmother would leave her grave, wag her invisible finger in my face, and keep me up all night droning on about what she might have done wrong that would have created such an impolite human being.

Therefore, to keep my grandmother happy in the great here-after and me well rested in the here-and-now, the first phrase I learned in arabic for a visit to Egypt was la shukran.*

All went well – for a time. I drew these two words from the sheath of my short vocabulary list when asked if I’d like more tea at breakfast or help dismounting a camel after a slog across the desert.


I wielded my politeness like the goody-two-shoes I was brought up to be – especially when the souvenir hawker at the pyramids asked if I’d like to buy his wares.

“Miss. Miss. Look here – ” shouted a man not much taller than I.

“La shukran.” I smiled, wishing Mr. Man would hurry up with those tickets for the Khufu Ship exhibit he went off to buy.

Khufu Ship Great Pyramid

“Ahhhh, you speak our language!” The man stepped closer. A cascading bundle of keffiyeh draped over his thin arm flapped in the warm breeze.

“No, no. Only a word or two.” I smiled again. DANG! Staring past him, I willed Mr. Man to return.

“So, do you have children?” Two more steps and I would have known exactly what he’d eaten for lunch. At this distance it was safe to say that garlic was a main ingredient. Now I wished my grandmother had taught me how to be rude.

“Yes. Four.” Oh why, oh why did I answer him. I thought. At least I didn’t smile this time.

Instead, I remembered how earlier in the day, I had first, smirked as a tourist bus squeaked to a halt, flung open its doors, and a herd of sneakered sightseers tumbled onto the pavement – then chortled when the vendors scattered like mosquitoes drawn to sweet, fresh meat, combing the area for new prey – and finally outright laughed when, faster than a tipped glass slips off the edge of a table and crashes to the floor, one peddler had a young couple peeling colorful bills from their dull fanny packs and sporting headgear only Omar Sharif could proudly wear in an epic movie.

“Madame?” The man inched closer. “May I?”

“La! La! La!” I waved a hand in front of his face. “La shukran!”

“But, Madame”

“La shukran!”

Finally, Mr. Man showed up, fanning himself with a deck of postcards he did not set out to purchase – and faster than a drove of hare might tumble from a magician’s top hat, we were ready for some serious sight-seeing.


Travel Tip # 1 and moral of this story :
NEVER, EVER laugh AT the tourists sucked in by the street salesman.
Laugh WITH them.

Shukran for stopping by today!

*it has since been brought to my attention that the use of la is unnecessary. A simple emphatic SHUKRAN will suffice.

About Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner

I am an adventure seeking ponderer of the mysteries of the universe, writer of children's books (represented by Stephen Fraser of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency), and lover of anything involving armor, archery, or swashbuckling.
This entry was posted in ADVENTURES, HOLIDAYS, HUMOR, ROAD TRIP, TRAVEL/PHOTO Themes, VIGNETTE and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Travel Tip # 1 – A LAUGHING MATTER

  1. When our friend – raised in the Diplomatic Corps, son of the American Ambassador to Egypt no less – yelled, “Emshee (phonetic version)!” at the gaggle of hawkers gaining on our quickening heels, it would have been so nice to have known another term! If ever the Fates tap me with another mind boggling trip to Egypt, I now have a much better phrase to wiggle out of these inevitable circumstances.


  2. Susanne says:

    Excellent advice. Giggled at the description of street sellers swarming like mosquitos and then lol’d at the picture of you in your Omar Sharif headwear!


  3. Lyn says:

    I love your travelogues, Donna – they’re always educational. When my granddaughter was eleven, she and her parents went to Egypt. One hawker tried to sell her a CD for an exorbitant amount so she shook her head and said a lower price. They went back and forth for a bit until she just shook her head and walked away. He ran after her saying, “okay, okay.” LOL her father taught her well.
    One guy offered her father 5 camels for her. I’m happy to say he declined 🙂


  4. A.PROMPTreply says:

    Love this Donna…..most impressive pic on that camel I must say! But….isn’t that just like a man….to disappear the moment he’s needed? Ugh. Most inconvenient, but I see you handled it with your usual aplomb!


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