Egyptian sheep-shearers have been handed down the profession by fathers and grandfathers. They have earned a reputation for being the most skilful in the region.
Some of them travel as far as Libya where their work is in demand. Egyptian shearers continue to use traditional scissors to trim or shave the sheep although others elsewhere have adopted a different approach.
“Practically speaking, the scissors are the ideal tool for our type of sheep that have rough wool, remarked Mohamed Abu Zeid, a shearer from Samanud, Gharbeya. “Also, this is one of the most difficult methods, as only the experienced shearer is able to leave the animal with slight or no injuries when shaving it, said Abu Zeid.
The fleecing season starts from February to April in rural areas and in May in desert regions.
“I understand some people might think February is too early but the conditions in the countryside are different from those in the desert. Sheep in the desert are properly fed and are provided with protective enclosures. In the desert they are left in the open where they can be exposed to the harsh desert climate, said Abu Zeid.
The bulk of Egyptian sheep-shearers are concentrated in Sharekeya, a governorate which borders desert terrains, where the services of those professionals are in demand.
“We make our gain during the fleecing season, said Abu Zeid. “Then, we have to cater to the needs of big breeders in the desert as well as in the countryside. But at the end of the season we get orders every now and then from butchers or home breeders who might be interested in shaving two or three sheep.
“We charge LE 1.50 per head when we attend to a big herd. But the fewer the animals, the higher the charge, he added.
Speaking of the shearer’s skill, Abu Zeid said that an experienced one wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes for one sheep and five minutes for one side of a camel that is usually fleeced by a team of five.
“The more you practice, the more you get the sense of how to do it in the same way a barber does. But I would like to note that the skill is not restricted to shaving the animal. Tying the legs and laying it on its side do also count.