Baksheesh

Baksheesh became such a major part of my experience in Egypt, I thought it warranted a blog entry of its own.

Baksheesh – Wikipedia, in Egypt

We started with a budget for this trip that included Baksheesh.  We wanted to make sure we had enough cash on hand to cover this very important aspect of tourism in Egypt.  We also had some requirements for US dollars in cash from some of the people we were patronizing.  So, we withdrew a bunch of cash to bring with us.  We distributed this among the family to carry in money belts so not all would be lost if someone was robbed.  

US dollars is acceptable but not preferred for Baksheesh.  Most of the time, the amount small.  Using foreign currency for tipping in small amounts makes it hard on the Egyptian, since it can be extra effort to get currency converted.  So, we tried to keep cash available in Egyptian Pounds.

Getting enough Egyptian currency was a challenge.  With a conversion rate of 20 Egyptian Pounds to a Dollar, we needed to withdraw bundles of pounds at a time.  The egyptian ATM system limits withdrawals to 3000EL per day.  I had two cards to use so I usually withdrew 6000EL each time.  Misr bank ATMs didn’t work for me.  The Misr network seems to be the largest, so I would hop from bank to bank finding the Misr ATM most of the time.  When I found a Bank of Egypt or other ATM, I could usually withdraw the funds.  The error at Misr was “You have withdrawn your maximum for the day” so I called my bank and made sure there was no fraud.  A max of $300 per day didn’t go far as you will see when you read what kind of baksheesh is required.  And since, the ATMs were hit and miss and many places in Egypt don’t have ATMs at all, keeping enough cash on hand can be a challenge.

After Egypt devalued its currency in November 2016, it went into freefall.  Prices doubled and it’s value against the dollar went from 9 EL for 1 USD to 19 EL for 1 USD.  With a 1 to 20 Dollar to Pound conversion rate, taking 3000 EL per day amounted to only $150.  Using two cards, I was able to get $300 per day. 

Who gets Baksheesh and how much?

Our travel agent publishes a helpful hints document for his clients.  This included a section on tipping.  He recommends specific amounts in USD for different services.  We tried to follow these guidelines even though they seemed a little high.  We questioned why they were tied to USD instead of EL and it seems the USD is more stable relative to the value of the services rendered.

The internet has a lot of advice on Baksheesh amounts.  Unfortunately, the devaluation of the currency was very recent rendering the numbers out of date since they were mostly in Egyptian Pounds.  If we followed them, we’d be giving people half the value they would have received only two months earlier.  We leaned on our guides to help us when we were in doubt.

So here are the recommendations for daily baksheesh (each is per day per person):

Daily Baksheesh Amounts
Service Base Amount Quantity Amount USD Amount EL
Driver $5 to $10 4 $20 to $40 400EL to 800EL
Guide / Egyptologist $10 to $15 4 $40 to $60 800EL to 1200EL
City Manager $5 to $10 4 $20 to $40 400EL to 800EL
Total per Day $20 to $40 4 $80 to $120 1600EL to 2400EL

We used the lower end of this range and found ourselves shelling out up to $80 more per day.  Over 16 days that adds up to over $1200 more dollars or 24000EL!

Other baksheesh

Baksheesh for Other Services
Service Amount
WC 1EL
Boat Ride 20EL
Monument Helper 20EL

So, be sure to bring more than one card for withdrawing Egyptian cash.  Make sure to get it when you can (when ATMs area available and work for your card).  Try to keep lots of smaller bills.  Some ATMs distribute with smaller bills, but I never figured out how to get single Pound coins except in change or by asking my guide to change a 5EL note.

Preparing for Egypt

We’ve had Egypt on the bucket list for a long time.  This fall, Geeta (my wife) decided this would be the year we finally visit.  Preparing for a trip to a place like egypt takes a lot of work and Geeta was up to the task.

Research

Geeta spent many hours on the internet finding information on all aspects of the trip from tips for travelers, to information about the sites, to reviews of travel agencies.  It was several months of many hours per day she put into this.

Shopping

In advance of the trip we needed to have a number of specific items with us.  Here are some of the things we added to our inventory:

  • Money Belts
  • RFID protection sleeves
  • Travel Insurance
  • Wipes
  • Toilet Paper
  • Zip Pants and Tactical Shirts

Things we missed

Warm clothes (it was much colder than we expected for December)

Travel Agent

Geeta worked with several separate travel agents before we decided on one:

Djed – they ran the Dahabiya cruise which was at the center of our itinerary

Hesham’s Recommendation

Others

Desert Operators

Germans

French

 

Steel Cut Oats Breakfast Bars

These bars are an experiment using Steel Cut Oats.  I will update the recipe from time to time to fix things as I try variations.

My first try, I baked them for 30 minutes at 350. 

File Feb 21, 18 56 02

Steel Cut Oats Breakfast Bars
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 Bars 15 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 Minutes 3 Hours
Servings Prep Time
8 Bars 15 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 Minutes 3 Hours
Steel Cut Oats Breakfast Bars
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 Bars 15 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 Minutes 3 Hours
Servings Prep Time
8 Bars 15 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 Minutes 3 Hours
Ingredients
Servings: Bars
Instructions
  1. Combine oats, coconut and cranberries in food processor
  2. Process until cranberries are down to 1/4 inch chunks
  3. Combine honey and Almond Butter. You may want to heat them to get them to combine nicely
  4. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with a spoon or fork or your fingers
  5. Line 8 X 8 or other similar sized container, metal or glass and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
  6. Cool on counter
  7. Put into refrigerator until completely cooled and stiffened.
  8. Cut into bars
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Thai Red Curry Zoodles with Cashews Stir Fry

This is a recipe I tried tonight.  It came out great.  It’s not full Paleo, but it is vegan.

Thai Red Curry Zoodles with Cashews
Serves 2
A delicious and hardy red curry sauce over spiralized zucchini with cashew and seeds.
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Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
  2. 3 Medium Zucchini, spiralized
  3. 1/2 Red Onion sliced thin
  4. 1 Bell Pepper sliced into thin strips
  5. 1/2 Cup Raw Cashews
  6. 1/4 Cup Raw Seeds (Pumpkin and Sunflower)
  7. 3 Tablespoons Red Curry Paste (I used Thai Kitchen)
  8. 1 Can Full Fat Coconut Milk
  9. 1/4 to 1/2 Cup Soya Granules (Indian Store is a great place to find these)
  10. Green Onions
  11. Hot Pepper
Instructions
  1. Combine the Coconut Milk, Curry Paste and Soya Granules in a Sauce Pan and heat on low
  2. Start by stir frying the onions in the coconut oil
  3. Throw in the Bell Pepper after a few minutes
  4. Once the vegetables are soft add the nuts and seeds
  5. Stir fry until the nuts are cooking a little bit
  6. Stir in the spiralized zucchini
  7. Cook until you get the desired consistency of the squash
  8. Now, you can add in the curry sauce. I make separate sauces (with and without soya) so I put the curry sauce on after stir frying.
  9. Sprinkle with green onions and hot pepper as desired
  10. Enjoy
Jack Bubba http://jackbubba.com/

Homemade Crackers

Homemade Crackers without Egg Whites
Simple crackers that do not include egg whites or any wheat flour
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 Cup Coconut Flour
  2. 1/2 Cup Rye Flour
  3. 1/2 Cup Almond Flour
  4. 1/2 Cup Ground Seeds (Sunflower and Pumpkin)
  5. 1 to 1-1/4 Cup Water
  6. Olive Oil
  7. Salt
Instructions
  1. In medium bowl, combine all flour and ground seeds
  2. Add water starting with a cup
  3. Add more water until the dough hangs together
  4. Split into two halves
For each half
  1. Place ball of dough onto parchment paper sized for a cookie sheet
  2. Place clear plastic wrap of same size on top
  3. Spread first with hands then with rolling pin to consistent depth (around 1/8 inch)
  4. Thickness will affect cooking time
  5. Remove plastic wrap and brush with olive oil
  6. Sprinkle on Salt
  7. Cut with knife or pizza wheel into desired shapes
  8. Place in preheated 325 degree oven
  9. Start watching after 10 minutes taking out crackers with brown
  10. Watch every 5 minutes after that until all are done
  11. The edges will cook first
  12. I usually get them all done by 30 minutes
  13. These cook slower than recipes that use egg whites
  14. Feel free to use egg whites instead of water (two for this recipe)
  15. Try not to eat them all at once!
Jack Bubba http://jackbubba.com/