Friday, December 4, 2009

Morning at the Camel Market

The Birqash Camel Market is the place to be on Friday mornings. Hundreds of camels arrive from Sudan and are bought and sold there every week. Looking for a good deal, Lillie and I decided to check out the offerings.

At 6:30(ish) AM, I woke up and sleepily made my way to the district of Imbaba in Cairo where microbuses left to go to the market. The market is most active between 7 and 11 AM so we had to get there early. A microbus had left just before we got to the stop, so we waited around in the next one til it filled up. The driver found out that Lillie and I were American and proceeded to tell us about the wonders of his microbus. He told us that the seats were taken from an airplane and as proof, we could recline them almost completely. The seats did recline almost all the way which made me pretty sure that they're not from an airplane. They also looked nothing like airplane seats. But I did not tell him that. He seemed so happy and proud. He also mentioned over and over that the microbus had air conditioning. He then repeatedly asked if we approved. We kept telling him that it was Gameela, beautiful, and he seemed satisfied after the 6th or 7th time.

The microbus slowly filled up and we were off to the market, arriving half an hour later. Parts of the trip were very unpleasant as there were massive ditches and mounds of garbage, some of it being burned.

At certain points, there were little bridges over the garbage to cross to the other side.

At 9:30, we finally made it to the market. I had read that the camel tendors badly abused the camels and so I was a little nervous about going--I'll be honest, I'm not a huge fan of animal abuse. All the tendors had sticks that they would use to whack the camels to make them move, sit, or stand or if they were doing something wrong (like running towards freedom). Some of the tendors would just whack their camels for no apparent reason and some would gang up on one camel and hit it repeatedly. One tendor hit a camel in the head creating a loud Thok which sounded awful. No good.

In the back of the market, we saw a pack of camels who looked very healthy and content. The owner saw us and talked to us for a bit and seemed very nice. He told us that he buys one to two hundred camels at a time. He also siad that the market was empty today because people were still on vacation from Eid and that in two weeks, there would be over a thousand camels in the market. Sounds overwhelming.

Each camel's left leg was tied so that they couldn't run away easily.

Looking for some buyers.

Baby camels eating.

There were about seven other tourists there. They were easy to spot given their tendency to clump together, their cameras, and their whiteness.

Sold camels being moved to their next destination.

An adult camel goes for 7,000 LE (~$1300) and a baby goes for 3,000 LE (~$550). Let me know how many you want.