Oct 23 2009

wanna buy a camel?

Update: The Birqash camel market is running into hard times. The cost for the camels is rising and the selling price is falling. An LA Times feature today highlights the squeeze on the market I visited in 2006. It also confirms my suspicion that the camels were being sold for their meat instead as a working animal.

“It’s just like judging a beautiful girl,” said Fowzan al-Madr, a camel breeder from the Kharj region southeast of Riyadh. “You look for big eyes, long lashes and a long neck, maybe 39 or 40 inches.”

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A very cute young camel

Camels have been in the news lately and I understand why. I fell in love with camels on a recent trip to Egypt. Not in love enough as the Dubai prince that paid $2.7 million for a camel today. But as a tourist sight outside of Cairo I can highly recommend the Birquash Camel Market (Souq al-Gamaal) that is 35 KM Northwest of Cairo. I had the chance to travel to Egypt with my wife and equally brilliant doctors on an American Diabetes Association organized trip. On the days that the others were busy attending their serious conference I get to go out and do some serious photography.

cameltix wanna buy a camel?

Spotting a brief mention in a travel guide about a camel market I decided that this was the place to visit. Since it was off the normal tourist beat neither my driver or guide knew exactly how to find the place. There are many mysteries to driving in Cairo, but one of the best parts is that is always acceptable to stop and ask any stranger at the side of the road for directions. That is what we did. Every two kilometers the guide would roll down the window and inquire “Souq al-Gamaal”, “Souq al-Gamaal” and arms would point in one direction or another.

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An experienced camel trainer

The market outside of Cairo is more of a working class market where buyers are looking for working animals or perhaps ones that will end up on a dinner table somewhere.This was not the beauty pageant style of market in Saudi Arabia that was featured in the New York Times recently. (The opening quote is from the story written by Katherine Zoefh.) But the next time you are in Cairo roll down your window and shout “Souq al-Gamaal” for a sight that rivals the Giza Pyramids with none of the tourists.

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

@MarkHarmel

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