CAIRO: Most visitors to Egypt do not miss a trip to Giza Pyramids, complete with a ride on a camel in the Sahara Desert with the Sphinx behind them. Cairo’s camel market is a must-see for those who want to witness a thriving economy in the trade of these desert beasts, still herded in caravans through the desert from Sudan to their final destination.
The Birqash Camel Market or (Souq al-Gimaal), located 38 kilometers southwest of Cairo, is the place where hundreds of camels, used for travel, work purposes or human consumption, are traded on a daily basis.
“It is one of the biggest markets for camel in Africa where merchants, who come from all across the country, gather to sell and buy camels that were brought from Sudan, Somalia and Libya. Over 2,000 camels are sold here every day,” said Birqash Camel Market’s chief merchant Hassan Darwish in a phone call with the Cairo Post Wednesday.
The 1.5 square kilometer market is cordoned off by walls with its roof covered by hay and sections to provide basic housing for traders along with ramps built for loading and unloading camels from the trucks.
The camels are first brought in a caravan to Aswan’s southern city of Abu Simbel through the 40-day Road. “The caravan usually starts the trip traversing the Sahara Desert in the early morning and it takes the herd 5-9 days to arrive to Abu Simbel,” said Darwish.
The animals are then sold in Abu Simbel, or loaded into trucks and brought to Birqash via Egypt’s western oasis, said Darwish. The camels sometimes are traded for other livestock but they are mostly bought for farm work, meat, or for camel ride purposes at Giza Pyramids and other archaeological sites, according to Darwish.
“The camels, which are brought from Sudan’s cities of Limrat and El Obeid, are considered the best in terms of the meat quality. This is because they are fed fine thorny vegetation, twigs, dried leaves and fish meat. The price of young Sudanese camel between 4 and 9-years-old ranges from 7,000 EGP ($1,000) to 10,000 EGP depends on its physical appearance,” he added.
North African camels, known as dromedaries, have a single hump and can survive for three weeks without water, and one month without food while traveling in the desert. The camels can also store around 30 kilograms of fat in their hump.
“Camels get the best use from their meals by digesting the food several times and quench their thirst by absorbing moisture from the plants they eat,” he said.
Andre Peto, a German tourist who visited Egypt in 2013 and had a tour to the camel market told The Cairo Post via the phone that the experience was “fascinating, as it revealed Egypt’s real life outside urban centers and tourist hubs.”
“It showed the big diversity of Egyptian society. I enjoyed being with the children who learnt the camel trade from their fathers. It was definitely the highlight of my trip.” said Peto.
The market is active throughout the week but on Friday, traffic and bartering in the market is at its highest.