Wednesday, November 12, 2008

200 Pounds

The money system here is rather curious. They have 9 different bills and even fewer coins. I'm actually not sure how many different coins they have because the Wikipedia article on them is rather elusive. All I know is that we, personally, have 3 different coins--a 5 qirsh, a 50 qirsh, and a 25 qirsh. We only have one of each and we don't plan on spending them because they're such a novelty.

Plenty of 1 pound coins have passed through our hands. We see those with more frequency than the other coins so they aren't quite as cool when they come around.

Instead of coins here, they use bills. They have a 1 pound bill, a 50 qirsh bill, and a 25 qirsh bill. Believe me, those qirsh bills are the rattiest looking things! I think that's why coins are supposed to be coins--because they get used more often than anything else.

The funny thing is, that with the exchange rate, 25 qirsh is equal to 0.04 dollars and yet we use them all the time. All the time. But never the coins. We've kept most of the coins we've found (all 3 of them) because they are so rare we'd hate to spend them.

The "big" bills don't come in much larger denominations, so whenever you have to pay for anything that costs a lot of money you end up with a huge wad of bills! They have 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 pound notes. Whenever you get money out of an ATM it always comes out in 100s and 50s. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll get a few 20s in there. You will never, ever see a 200 pound note, which is probably a good thing because it can be very hard to break even a 100 at a store without change.

A lot of stores don't give out change, which is something I don't understand because I usually pay with exact change, as do most people here, so the one day I happen to need to break a 100 you'd think they'd have change. Not so. They have to scrounge around looking for change. Always.

The metro costs 1 pound. Everyone pays with either a 1 pound note or a 1 pound coin. Thousands of people use the metro everyday. Maybe even millions. I don't know. All I know is that if you try to pay for a metro ticket using a 10 pound note you'll ruin the ticket seller's day.

You can look through the window into his booth and see 1 pound notes piled up everywhere, but he will hem and haw and take several minutes counting out your change, like you somehow inconvieninced him. It's not hard to count to nine, Mr. Ticket Man.

Once, Karen, Rachel, and I went to KFC for lunch downtown while we were sightseeing. Karen paid for lunch and it took them a full hour to come up with her 16 LE in change. When they finally gave it to her it was all in 1 pound bills when it would have been much more logical to give her a one, a five, and a ten. So maybe that's why establishments that should have change never seem to have any. They give all their change to only one lucky person per day. The rest of the population just has to suffer.

We've been here for about 3 months now and we've seen a lot of money come and go in that time. I don't think I've ever seen such a large amount of cashflow--of course, I'm used to the "cashless" society of North America so any cashflow seems like a lot. However, in all our time here, in all the many bills we've seen and handled, we've never seen a 200 pound bill.

Until today.

I went in to the CSA to get the refund from my Egyptian cooking class that I never went to. I had signed up to attend the class with Sara in September. She said Kevan would watch Sam and Rachel for us while we went. But then the instructor broke her back and the class was postponed and Kevan ended up in Saudi Arabia so...long story short, I finally went to get my refund today.

And it came in the form of a 200 pound bill (among other, smaller, denominations).

I was so excited! I felt so rich...but I'm not exactly sure why since 200 LE is less than $40. Still, I felt rich. Perhaps I felt rich in experience because I handled the bill before Andrew did! Neener, neener, neener! ...Not that it was a competition or anything.

He was pretty excited about when I showed it to him, too!

We considered just holding on to it for a while, but then we remembered that we live on a grad student budget, and while 200 LE isn't a whole lot of money, it is money. I wonder how we're going to break this 200.

I kind of want to do it at the metro station just to stick it to Mr. Ticket Man. I can almost see his face when I hand him a crisp 200 pound note and ask for 1 ticket. If I succeeded in convincing him to give me 199 one-pound notes, I'd never need to scrounge around for taxi change again!


  1. I bet they think if they take long enough getting the change, people will say ahh forget it......specially the tourist!

  2. You're so funny. I'd love to know what happens if you did try to buy one ticket with a L200 note!

  3. "Note: It is not uncommon for a child with tactile defensiveness to become aggressive towards other children if they are touched or bumped into at school. Be aware of this type of reaction and be proactive by putting them in the front or end of a line, for example"

    Okay, so I haven't read your post yet - but I will right after this. I was going to email you but my comp. is being stupid.

    Actually on the list given to Kai's teacher, having him stand at the front or end of lineups and situating him away from high traffic areas are both on there.
    Kai does a pretty good job of separating himself from other kids. The OT noticed that he sat at the back of the group. Whenever his teacher had them change directions as a group, Kai would move himself to the back and put distance between himself and others.
    I didn't put all that in my blog because, well, it was really long already.
    I love you and thank you for your concerns now... I'm off to read your post.

  4. Hahaha you guys are so funny, I love that you did a photo op with the money. Where is Rachel in that one? How come only you two were lucky enough to handle the 200 Le?

    I'm confused are they pounds or LE? Or does that mean the same thing.
    If they're pounds then you should move to England because that's like 400 dollars or something and you guys are definitely getting the short end of the stick.

  5. Go to the pharmacy! I was at one at the mall and was in the process of making as-exact-change-as-I-could, when I noticed the cash drawer was FULL of money. So I handed her 100LE for my 18LE purchase.

    Yesterday I was getting some money at the bank, and the guy tried to give it to me in 200's. Uh, no way, buddy, not practical.

  6. I just learned this from one of Andrew's textbooks, but LE is actually the French abbreviation for EGP (Egyptian Pounds). It means, "livre égyptienne," or Egyptian Pounds.

    I didn't just learn this on wikipedia. I learned this from Andrew when we went grocery shopping once (a long while ago) and I said something along the lines of, "Oh, look! Grapes are on sale for 99 cents a lib!"

    He thinks it's funny when I say "lib" for LBS instead of saying "pounds." I've done it since I was little and, really, it's logical.

    LBS comes from the Latin word libra. If you know your zodiac, you'll know that libra means scales.

    So we do the same thing in English. We say "pounds" but we abbreviate with LBS.

    Egyptian pounds are much different than British pounds, although it would be nice if we could use that 200 LE note in England.

    In case you were wondering, "pounds" comes from Latin as well--but from the word pendere, which means "to weigh."

    And in Egyptian Arabic, they use neither pounds or LE. They call their money gineih, which probably comes from English.

    In short, there are so many names for Egyptian money because they didn't make their money system up. The English made it up. And then the French took over. And then the English took over...and then they became independent, and the poor, innocent money just went along with whatever was happening.

  7. @Abra--Rachel was butt-naked while we were doing this photo shoot. We tried to get a couple of good shots of her, but were too lazy to put clothes on her and she kept running away from the camera.

    She'll have to find her own 200 LE bill!