Picture by allieseye.com
Baksheesh (or bagsheesh) is an established habit, anchored in the civil law (as a social insurance for the most poor) and it is embedded in the entire Egyptian economy.
The word baksheesh derives from the Sanskrit word Bhiksha (food obtained by asking for alms). During the British occupation in Egypt, British soldiers gave children small money (as they did in India) for a rendered service or just like that. The Egyptian kids were surprised, because they were not accustomed to this, but in the end the bhiksha became the baksheesh as we know it today.
- Baksheesh is given as alms: By praising Allah, beggars make it possible for their fellow to men to serve Allah, by giving baksheesh.
- Baksheesh is given for services rendered: Egyptians give baksheesh for providing service. This is the most close to the the tipping as Westerners know it. You give this only if you are satisfied with the service provided.
- Baksheesh is given for favors granted: This is baksheesh for unsolicited services that are offered. This can be an annoying experience as a Westerner, but after a while you get used to it and you will see the advantages and insh'Allah the fun of it.
Yes, baksheesh is expected - often for the most minimal of services - and yes, it can make you feel uncomfortable if you're not used to it, but remember that this is not about large sums of cash and baksheesh is much more than just a tip - it is an integral part of life in Egypt.
So don't let it ruin your travel experience and be a good guest in our country. Make sure you always have some coins of 1 Egyptian Pound (about € 0,10) or 2 Egyptian Pounds or small bills of 50 Piasters, 1 LE or 5 LE on hand. Put this unpretentious in the hand of people and thank them with a smile.
Because baksheesh is embedded in the economic system of Egypt, salaries in many professions only form a basis for further revenue and to actually make ends meet, one is dependent on baksheesh given. This is the case for many people working in tourism and sadly travelers do not realize this anymore...
These are the people who hold the door for you, hand you the toilet paper, the waiter, the staff on the boat, the cleaner, those who work in the kitchen, etc.
For example for a driver or guide on a desert safari who guides you, cooks for you, etc. the baksheesh is 50 LE (about € 5,50) per day.
As a traveler you may think you are short on money and you might not feel rich, but in the perception of local people all Westerners are rich. The fact that you are able to travel to Egypt for a holiday is for them a sign of your wealth.
Realize that not every Egyptian offering help, is doing so to get baksheesh!
It would be a complete mistake to think that you will only find kindness in Egypt for a fee. On the contrary, Egypt is famous for its friendly, helpful and generous people.
Sinai Bedouin are a proud people. They will never ask for baksheesh, but they live in this economic system and hence they are depending on the generosity of travelers while working in tourism. Generosity is an important pillar in their culture. It shows a good character and avarice is seen as the opposite.
BEDAWI pays a fair wage, but if you want to give baksheesh because you are happy with the services provided, this is most certainly appreciated. You can always ask our advice and we make sure this happens in the right way, without local people getting (unintentionally) offended.