In late February, I had the opportunity to visit a local camel market in Egypt with some colleagues. We woke up early on a Friday morning to venture to a little town outside of Cairo. Even though I knew it might be difficult to go there, it was something I wanted to see and document since I heard about it nearly a year and a half ago.
To be honest, I’m an animal lover and at times it was difficult for me to be there. You don’t see it in any of the photos I posted, but most of the camels had one leg bent and tied up, so they couldn’t run as fast if they tried to get away (they walked on 3 legs). It was also hard watching them load the camels onto the backs of trucks after they had been sold. They would squeeze several of them into the back of a truck, and you can imagine that the camels didn’t like that very much. At one point, a smaller camel that did not have his leg tied up, ran away from the area it was supposed to be in. It was amazing to watch camels of a different herd surround and try to protect him from the man chasing after him.
Camel selling is definitely a man’s job in Egypt. I was one of maybe 5 woman that I saw there (and 2 of the woman came with me). There were also many young boys who were helping their fathers/grandfathers control and keep an eye on their camels. Some men just ignored us, while others were very welcoming and said welcome in English or Arabic. One seller we spoke to actually spoke quite a bit of English, and was telling us about the camel that I took a close up of – she was old and not worth much anymore he said.
While I was there, I tried to keep an open mind and respect that this is part of their culture and a way of life for many men in Egypt and other parts of the Arab world. If I had to guess there were between 5,000-10,000 camels being sold for meat or work at the market. Some of the camels trekked all the way from places like Sudan to be sold at the market. Here are a couple of photos I thought captured the essence and atmosphere of the market.