Journal: Monday 11 December 1995
I had come to realise that visits to these wonderful ancient sites had to be ‘paid for’. While I came away from each monument with my head full of images of gods and kings, eager to go back to the boat to read more about them or write in my diary, we were invariably brought back to earth by a visit to an emporium. Papyrus, perfume or alabaster, they were all the same – each visit consisting of a lengthy demonstration of the production of the goods before being given the great opportunity to buy ‘genuine’ souvenirs. This time it was a perfume factory on the outskirts of Aswan grandly called the Sultan Palace, where members of our group were daubed with several different fragrances from intricately made glass bottles which, we were told, go into some of the world’s most famous perfumes. After accepting a ‘welcome drink’ of cold kakade (a refreshing drink made from hibiscus flowers), the visitor is somehow made to feel ungrateful if no money changes hands. Nothing is obvious of course and there is no pressure to buy anything but for many the temptation is great. I learned later that tour guides depend on a large commission from these places to augment their wages and also that the goods for sale are rarely made on the premises. After this visit our coach had a distinctly exotic aroma all the way back to Aswan, especially as one lady from our group had accidentally dropped a large bottle which spilled perfume over her clothes. Or as another gentleman (who may have had the experience) put it, ‘This coach smells like a Turkish brothel’.
Please note that I have nothing to do with this or any other perfume factory in Egypt. I do not supply oils and cannot help to obtain them!