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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Guests in Town This Week - At the Camel Market

If you have driven down Minnesota and Wisconsin country roads on Saturday mornings, this scene will look familiar.  The trucks parked on both sides of the road say "farm auction."  In this case, we have arrived at the Cairo camel market.

The camel market is held early each Friday morning and is about a 45 minute drive north of the city.  We left the apartment at 6:30 a.m.

There is an admission charge of fifty pounds (about $3) for each "Tourist Tacket" and another thirty pound fee for the camera.  There were only a tiny numbers of tourists - but a lot of buyers, sellers and camels.


Fortunately, we were with an outstanding Egypt guide, Roshdy, and we guys climbed over a blockade of plywood and hay and were soon up on the rooftop with a view of the market.

How many camels are in this picture?  This photo shows only a fraction of the camels for sale on this day.  I cropped out a couple of closer views of the camels and the deals being made.

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While we were up on the top, Linda was sitting with "the big boss" of the market.  His father and grandfather were camel traders before him.  Like many Egyptians "of a certain age," he has fond memories of president Jimmy Carter whom he met in 1988 when the former President toured the market.
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From an Associated Press article that ran in many U.S. papers in September, 1988:
... The saga began the weekend of Aug. 17, when Egyptian officials telephoned wealthy camel trader Abdel-Wahab Waguih and told him the former U.S. president and his wife, Rosalynn, would be visiting suburban Cairo's sprawling camel market.

The Carters and seven relatives arrived Aug. 18 for a two-day private visit to cap an African tour. A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Rosalynn Carter specifically selected the camel market for sightseeing along with the Giza pyramids and the Sphinx.

... Waguih was instructed to show the Carters around and give them a flavor of Egyptian busi-ness.
For a good article on the Camel Market from 2009, follow this link to the Los Angeles Times.

Many of the deals were being made for wholesale lots.  Large trucks bring the camels from Sudan, Egypt's southern neighbor.  A few people were seeking gentle camels to hire out for tourist rides back in the village by the pyramids.  Some were also being purchased for an upcoming wedding feast.  You might get 300 kilos (660 pounds) of meat from a single camel. The big deals are conducted on a handshake and must be cleared before the next Friday. Camels by the ones and twos are mostly purchased for cash and that camel will likely cost around a thousand dollars or more.
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After you buy, you can load a truck-for-hire at a ramp, or with some pulling and pushing, have him step up into the pickup.  There is an additional fee of 120 pounds ($7.00) to exit the market with a camel.

We stopped for coffee and tea at a coffee house across from the market entrance.  We had brought along our breakfast and it was now about 9:30.
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With their loads secured, many people were now leaving the auction.

After a bit more camel and people watching we headed out to our next stop, the Cave Church.  I blogged about the cave church last year in this post.  Follow that link for more details.

Roshdy and our driver navigated quickly from the camel market in the distant northwest suburbs to the southeastern Mokattam Hills in southeast Cairo.  Since it was around noon on Friday, there was little traffic.

The 20,000 seats of the church were blocked off to the visiting public, but our old friend, the self-proclaimed "minister" of the church from a previous visit had now pronounced himself  a "deacon" and was willing to help anyone climb over the barriers.  He described the coming celebration of Easter on May 16, missing the actual date by only a month.

The wood and paintings in the front of the church continue to look very attractive.
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As is frequently the case, some of the visiting children were anxious to be photographed with foreign visitors and we posed with Miriam, Marlene and Sarah.

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