Travel Review: Camel Market at Birqash, Egypt
Egypt's Largest Camel Market, the Birqash Camel Market is 35 km away from Cairo. The best day to visit is supposed to be Friday, when the market is most lively in the earlier parts of the morning 7am-9am.
This market used to earlier take place in Imbaba, but as the city expanded, the camel market was moved to the suburb of Birqash which is at the edge of the Western Desert.
Hundreds of Camels are sold here everyday. But this is definitely not a market for the Animal lover. The animals aren't in pitiable condition, but they could be treated much, much better than they currently are.
Camels from Sudan are brought into Egypt on the 40 day road via Abu Simbel to the market in Daraw. The unsold camels are then loaded into trucks and brought to Birqash after a 24 hour drive. Camels also arrive from the rest of Egypt and sometimes from Somalia. These camels are traded for other livestock or cash and are mostly bought for farm work or consumption.
Photo opportunities abound, if you can get the angles right since the camels are almost monochromatic in color. The traders have wonderfully charactered faces and I would have loved to be able to take close up portraits and talk to them and listen to their stories. Unfortunately as a woman, taking close up pictures of men is not the sanest thing to do. And my Arabic is too limited to have had a proper conversation with them.
As an obvious foreigner, you will be charged entry to the market. (it has a gated entry) 20 Egyptian Pound per person. Then they may try to charge you an additional 10LE per camera. Once you enter, you will not face any obvious resentment. The traders are pretty welcoming of foreigners and try to make a buck or so by posing for pictures with them. There were at least 10 other foreigners the day we visited. The only thing to be aware of is to not behave like an Animal Rights Activist and they will pretty much maintain their distance for the most part.
The market extends inside for a distance with sections cordoned off by walls for certain traders. Small single level constructions provide basic housing for traders. The roofs of which are covered with bales of hay. There are basic ramps built for loading and unloading camels from the trucks.
Obviously not all the camels are sold and some of them may not be worth carrying back. Some don't even survive the truck ride to Birqash. Their corpses are carelessly strewn about the desert as you approach the market. There are a few pictures of that at the bottom. Please don't scroll to the end, if you are squeamish.
The Drive through the Nile Delta makes you forget that you are surrounded by the largest desert in the world and is very reminiscent of the UP and Punjab fields.
The River Nile in the background is of course, unique to Egypt .