Saturday, June 22, 2013

Girls selling bracelets in Dahab

Bedouin "bracelet girls" on the back of a truck.

You will see them everywhere.  From the restaurant where you eat, to the sidewalks leading along the waterfront.  They are also at popular sites, such as the Blue Hole.  These girls sell their colorful bracelets to the tourists that oftentimes buy one.  Their tactics are sometimes questionable; sometimes they are beyond pushy.  And if you say no, they will make sure you "promise" to buy one later.

I was immediately curious as to what these girls are really peddling.  Are the bracelets really made by machine, or are they a front for something insidious?  Perhaps these girls are being forced to work by an all powerful merchant headmaster?  I did not know.  I have heard stories of children being forced to beg for money in some areas of the world, and immediately I felt uneasy at the idea of supporting child labor and possible slavery.

I looked around online, and found nothing that stated that these girls were anything but sellers of handmade bracelets.  Perhaps they are working for their parents, but I realize that one can not blame their parents.  The income level in Egypt is much lower than we are used to.  Survival for many is not as easy as many of us tourists are used to.  Therefore, I could come up with no reason to not support them, even if their sales tactics leave a bad taste in one's mouth.

Case in point, immediately after arriving in Dahab, I found my arm being quickly wrapped by a bracelet by a young girl.  I had yet to see these sales people and had no idea what was going on.  Beverly was able to unwrap me and we gave the the girl a "no thanks" and let her be on her way.

Later, a girl came up to us and asked us to buy.  We said "no thanks" and she kept saying "maybe later?"  We said "maybe" and she left.  A while back she came back and said "buy a bracelet" and we said, "not right now."  She was a little pushier than most, yet we were firm.  Eventually, as we made our way into a tourist agency building, she said what I thought was "later."  I said "yep" and Beverly told me that she didn't say later, but instead said "liar."  I guess I am a liar, even though I said "maybe later" not "I will buy from you later."

In all honesty, the girls add a little flavor to this part of Egypt, and they are fun to watch.  They will sneak into restaurants and try to sell to those who are eating.  Sometimes the waiters will try to chase them out.  Some of the waiters are nice than others about doing so.  Sadly, they these girls are seen as pests to many, but they are just trying to make a living.

Many people buy a bracelet and they usually charge 5 to 10 EGP for one.  The girls themselves usually travel in packs, and work from the morning hours to late in the evening.  They are hard workers, working more than many adults in the United States or Europe work.

For a little more information on this aspect of Dahab, please visit this site which talks about one of the bracelet selling girls.

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