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Boatman invitations

You will find, when in Egypt that many Egyptians will extend a lot of “boatman invitations" to people. These are invitations that are only extended to you when they are sure that you will most probably turn them down, or they will ask just to sound generous.

You will hear many people saying, “this is a present, you do not have to pay for this,” “please stay for the night,” “have lunch with us,” “come and eat with us,” when they do not really mean it. They are saying it to be polite as it would be rude not to invite someone over to something. However, they are hoping that you will not accept. If, after the second refusal, the third proposal comes, you should accept it. It means that this invitation or help proposal is serious.

It gets confusing because sometimes it is difficult to distinguish a boatman invitation from a real invitation, and when you accept a boatman invitation, it becomes embarrassing for everyone involved.

It is called a boatman invitation because the Egyptian generosity is like someone on a boat inviting a friend on the shore for tea, knowing it is impossible for him to join him unless he swims, which he probably won't do. Not just for tea, anyway.