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The Camel Market in Egypt

Birquash Camels

The Camel Market in Egypt

This client inspired blog tells us of their experience of visiting the Birqash camel market in Egypt.

Birquash Camel market

Branded camels showing owners name

During our recent trip to Egypt, we had the best adventure ever!
We spent some time at the Birqash Camel Market called Souq al Gamaal by the locals, just outside of Giza about 40 minutes’ drive from downtown Cairo and there in a delicious atmosphere of seeming chaos were hundreds of camels for sale.

Birqash Camel Market

Camels as far as the eye can see

Some of them were hobbled and I guess these were the ones who had tried to run off previously but most were roaming around freely. It was great!
Each camel has Arabic writing on its side and we found out this was the name of the owner of the camel so that they could tell who owned what in the ever changing melee.

Through the help of our guide, Mohammad, we priced several (quite expensive as it turns out with prices starting from a minimum of the equivalent of 200 euros) and I tried to trade for my husband, but the sellers weren’t interested when they found out he had no experience in herding camels. However the real bargaining between traders is hard and furious as the best prices are negotiated right in front of you. We got a real sense that just as the monuments and temples we had seen reflect an ancient civilisation, here was traditional centuries old custom still taking place right before our eyes.

Buying a camel

Can I exchange this camel for my husband?

Most of the animals are sold for meat and have been herded up the Nile valley all the way from Sudan and Somalia on the famous 40 Day Road. This ancient caravan route starts in Sudan and ends in Birqash. The camels are herded through Sudan, Eritrea, and Somalia to southern Egypt and this is a journey of over 700 miles and takes about three months on the road. 
We had tea with some of the sellers and took lots of photos. One of the elders wanted copies of the photos so our guide addressed an envelope in English and Arabic for us to use to send them. When we posted the photos, the local postman said “Really?” Perhaps the first time a letter has been sent to “The Camel Market, Cairo, Egypt” from our rural village in Ireland! Hope it gets there.

After the Birqash market we stopped at a roadside stand and sampled camel heart and liver sautéed with chillies, onion and bell pepper tucked inside flatbread, tasty although maybe not for the fainthearted and in fact that goes for the whole market experience!!! If you can see beyond the harsh realities of the conditions and treatment of the camels you do get a glimpse of real African life here.

Final tip is for the ladies – the Birqash market is all male traders so dress modestly.

Holly Macro – September 2012

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What our clients have to say

What a unique experience this was for my husband and I and a group of friends ( 5 other couples). I felt like we were going back in time and living the life that a well to do 19th century family would have while they were sojourning down the Nile River. The decor of the living spaces on the second level upstairs on the upper deck looked like pieces you would see in a palace of royalty. The bedrooms on the first level that had windows that opened up just above the water level were spacious and comfortable. The bed was comfy as can be!!
The staff on the boat, and there were many, were so very attentive and tried their hardest to meet our every need and also surprised us with daily unexpected niceties and full on entertainment. The food was all homemade and delicious. Our chef was quite talented and the meals were never repeated( except for breakfast which was made to order eggs and an assortment of breads/muffins/croissants and fruit etc. Coffee and tea always available.
The tours that were scheduled for us were so well run and our Egyptologist, Ahmed , was obtaining his Ph.D in Egyptology and was so very interesting and knowledgeable. We had the opportunity to go on a hot air balloon ride and also a trip to Abu Simbel which were both amazing and unforgettable. After every tour we arrived back on the boat and were greeted by Tito and Adam with specialty cold lovely drinks and cold lemon scented wet towels to refresh ourselves with.
Tito took us shopping in the Luxor Market for a couple of hours the day before we left. He helped us negotiate the goods we purchased which was a huge help.
Lastly I have to mention our Dahabiya Cruise Captain, Mahmoud . This guy was amazing! He made sure we had everything we needed and kept us entertained with his humour and incredible dancing skills. Our group learned so much about the Egyptian culture from him during our dinner conversations.
Our group all agreed that we would miss these wonderful, thoughtful people that we spent a week with and hope they all knew how much we appreciated each one of them.

Joan Mancini
Travel date Sept 2021

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