Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Wanna buy a stone? (And other Bedouin Ploys)

On our second day in Petra, we walk through the Siq and into the main treasury area where there are a ton of Bedouins selling post cards, jewelry, and camel/donkey rides. We evaded most of them (I pretended that I didn't speak English and really confused a group of little kids. They were like, "She doesn't speak English? Okay, let's go!") except for one fellow who was adamant that I needed a necklace. "Only 1 JD!" he calls. So, we look at his necklaces. I choose one that I think is fairly pretty and he says, "That one is not 1 JD. That one is 7 JD. See all the different colored stones? That takes so long to make. This one [he pulls out a little necklace with plastic beads] is 1 JD." We walked away. He followed us for about five minutes calling out, "Fine...this one only 3 JD!" but after ignoring him for a long while he left.

This is where we meet Mohammed. Mohammed is about 3 years old. He has very few teeth. He has a very raspy voice. And he sells stones. This is an interesting thing to sell since there are rocks all over Petra (because Petra is rock). He comes up to us and says, "D'ya wanna buy a stone?" Andrew stoops down, picks up a rock and says, "I have one." Mohammed says, "But this stone is from Petra." Andrew says, "This one is, too!" Mohammed says, "This is pretty." Andrew says, "This one is, too." We turn to leave and Mohammed demands, "Give me bon-bon!" I say, "We don't have any candy." Mohammed says, "Hatha." (which means that) and points to Andrew's backpack. We had strapped some food to the back and he wanted a cookie. So, I gave him a cookie and he gave Andrew and I each a rock and then let us take his picture. He then went and tried to sell rocks to other tourists. About an hour later we saw Mohammed and his mother...doing what? Picking up rocks and putting them in his box...to sell...

On our first day in Petra, we got bombarded with Bedouins. The first thing they ask is, "Is this your first day in Petra?" If you say yes, they will say, "I'll show you around...I will help you..." This means Sweet! I can totally rip you off! And they do. We rode camels to the museum for 15 JD (for both of us, so that's not terrible, but it isn't great either). Our guide says, "It is very hot and the museum is very far. It is an hour walk but only half an hour on camel." We wanted to ride camels anyway so we bartered him down from 30 JD to 15 and rode the camels to the museum. Our guide walked leisurely behind us. How long did it take to get to the museum? About half an hour. So, by camel...1/2 hour. Walking...also 1/2 hour. From there people tried to sell us a donkey ride up to the Monastery. They said it was a long way...uphill...very hot...1000 steps. We walked it. I refused to ride the donkeys there. They are the ugliest creatures ever! So we walked up to the Monastery. It was a long way, uphill, and hot, so they weren't lying about that, but it was worth the walk. We got a lot of exploring done. And the walk was free.

Some other ploys that the vendors use is, "No charge for looking. Have a look. No charge. Just look." So you walk over and they accost you! One bedouin man had a heavy cockney accent, "'Appy hour! N' cherge fur lokin'. Go' some nice col' wiskey.'" I don't think that he even had whiskey...he just knew how to say that much in English. They will also tell you, "Business is bad. There are no tourists. Here I put my things up on the top of the hill and no one will hike it to see them. For you I make good price. I close my shop today. Must sell. Business is so bad." I think to myself, "Why did you put your things at the top of the hill?--because you knew people would come up here, duh!"

Another thing they will do is give you a gift and pretend to want to be your friend. I ask, "How much is this?" the lady says, "For you...free. It is a gift because you can be my friend." If they say that, you just take the gift and walk away. Take the gift...walk away. They pump up all the prices after that. 10 JD for a little wooden camel. I don't think so. We did buy some things from her, at very inflated prices because we felt obligated since she gave us a gift and wanted us to be her friend, but decided that if anyone else gave us a little gift we'd just walk away.

Walking away is actually a good way to get the price you want. They will refuse to drop prices and you walk away and they will say, "Fine! Whatever you want..." I think it's because what they are selling isn't really worth anything anyway. Andrew and I even walked away, hiked up a hill, were gone for an hour, and when we came back down this girl says, "Fine, mister! For you, only 1 JD! Come and buy!" And she let us buy some camel bone necklaces for 1 JD.

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