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The Middle East @ Work

Egyptian artifacts! (Made in China)

Scott Jagow Mar 5, 2008
The Middle East @ Work

Egyptian artifacts! (Made in China)

Scott Jagow Mar 5, 2008


Scott Jagow: Today, we begin at the Khan al-Khalili bazaar.
It’s the oldest, most famous marketplace in Cairo. On this narrow cobblestone street, you’ll see and hear the Middle East tourism economy at work. A line of tour buses stretches out from the market. The visitors speak English, Japanese, French, German. They come in droves to get souvenirs, spices, even gold.

But you better know what you’re buying. Your ancient Egyptian artifacts might just be made in . . . well, take a listen:

Merchant: Very cheap price here. We got something like water pipe for 80 pound, 50 pound. We got a like, pyramid for 20 pound . . .

Jagow: Trust me: You won’t get away with “Just browsing, thanks” at the Khan al-Khalili. From the moment you set foot in these shops, you will be accosted.

Another Merchant: Uh, how can I take your money?

Jagow: Well, at least that’s honest. I met one seller named Hanuy, who revealed the not-so-honest secret to his business:

Hanuy: Our item, right now it’s 80 percent from China.

Jagow: Eighty percent of your . . .

Hanuy: Eighty percent from China. American people buy the China things, because you can have the same one for less than half price. It’s very hard to buy item right now and you don’t find “Made in China.”

Jagow: I have to say I found this depressing. I moved on to another merchant named Abdullah, and picked up one of the little statues he was selling.

Jagow: Now, was this made in Egypt?

Abdullah: Ya, this made in Egypt, yes.

Jagow: Where in Egypt?

Abdullah: You know, we have many small factories, and this is early, I make . . . they make littlest statues like this one.

Jagow: So why does it say “Made in China” on the bottom?

Abdullah: No, they are . . . this is some stickers because no make it something for our government too much money. Understand?

Jagow: No I don’t. It says “Made in China.” This was made in China, and you’re telling me it was made in Egypt.

Abdullah: No no no, this made in . . .

Jagow: I got you. Is that true? I got you.

Abdullah: Hahah. Ya, ya. This made in China, yes. In China.

Jagow: You guys are unbelievable!

Jagow: Oi. The last thing I wanted to take home from Egypt was a replica of the pyramids made near the Great Wall. So I found a guy who swore everything he was selling was made in Egypt. I asked Ahmed how he could compete with the cheap imports. He insisted his stuff was better.

Ahmed: Is not quality this plastic, not a stone. Check this quality . . . stronger quality.

Jagow: I decided Ahmed was my guy. So, it was time to negotiate. If you accept the first price they offer, you’re missing half the fun.

Ahmed: You’re friend, OK? You work in Egypt. I want to make a good deal for that one.

Jagow: How much?

Ahmed: A hundred twenty pound for all . . .

Jagow: How about 60?

Ahmed: OK, 70. Don’t worry, no problem — 70 Egyptian.

Jagow: All right. Deal!

Jagow: Seventy pounds — about $12. I could get used to doing business this way. I don’t know if I really wanted a stone paperweight with hieroglyphics on it, but at least it’s not plastic.

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