Located an hour north west of Cairo’s city centre, the Birqash camel market provides a glimpse of rural Egyptian life that cannot be found on the manicured streets of Maadi or under the loud din of Downtown. On Friday mornings, livestock merchants from across the region gather in Birqash to buy, sell and trade camels, enjoy some banter and peddle various other wares.
But the trip to Birqash is not for the faint of heart. These camels are not pets, to the merchants they are commodities, and hence, treated as such. The camels who cannot survive the long haul from Upper Egypt are disposed of along the side of the road leading to the market. Those that do survive are bound and beaten to keep them in line on the way to the auction. And of course, it all smells as a livestock pen does.
If you can withstand the poor treatment of the camels, you are bound to meet friendly villagers who are eager to talk, have their portraits taken, and share a cup of tea. The good, the bad, and the ugly all come together at Birqash.
To get to Birqash, it is best to arrange private transportation with a tour company. Entry to the market is free for Egyptians, but EGP 20 for foreigners.