Birqash Camel Market (Souq al-Gamaal)

Birqash Camel Market (Souq al-Gamaal)

Birqash Camel Market (Souq al-Gamaal)
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4.5
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HPowers
Kampala, Uganda34 contributions
Friends
I have been living in Cairo as an expat for two years and the camel market is my favorite place I have visited. I have been twice, once when we first arrived and about two weeks ago for the second time. Both times I have have walked away feeling exhilarated and wanting to go back. I couldn't exactly put my finger on why I felt that way after the first visit but after spending two years here and going back for a second visit I am able to identify why I feel that way. It is because the camel market operates completely independently of the tourism industry. Its operation has nothing to do with tourists or visitors, they will operate exactly the same way whether an outsider is observing or not. It is the only place in Cairo I have really felt as though my presence didn't have an impact. There was nothing for them to sell me and their behavior wasn't altered by me being there. I can also say that it was the most genuinely friendly place I have been in Cairo. The people seemed very pleased that we were interested in what they were doing and didn't mind us being there but at the same time didn't pay us much attention other than to welcome us and offer to have there picture taken without wanting money.

However, the camel market isn't a place for the faint of heart. It is an animal market that is buying and selling camels mostly for meat and a bit for other things such as racing and farm work. The camels have one leg tied up to keep them from running away and they are often hit with sticks to herd them in one direction or another. If you can take it for what it is without any judgement then It is dirty, dusty, totally chaotic, and completely wonderful!

If you are interested photography the camel market is a wonderful place to visit. You will be about 30le or $4 to bring your camera in and then you are free to take pictures of anything and everything. It is an authentically cultural experience and as a photographer it is has been the only place where I have been comfortable taking pictures of people without feeling as though I am imposing or offending anyone. The best pictures I have taken during my two years in Egypt have been taken at the camel market!

If you are a true adventure traveler the camel market is not to be missed!
Written March 31, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Z042010
British Columbia, Canada157 contributions
Family
The Birqash Camel Market is truly an amazing experience and a must see for anyone who likes to do things off the beaten path.

I visited on a Friday morning in August 2016 around 8:15am with my husband and baby (in a carrier). We happened to find an uber driver the night before who knew where to go so we asked him to take us there and back for a fixed rate (we paid 250 LE). The drive is an hour from downtown Cairo, regardless of the direction you go. We did not follow the route approaching from the south, but rather took the highway adjacent to the Nile and after we passed Imbaba, we followed the Nile Corniche road which took us a hard left toward Birqash. If you look at the google maps location of the market it will show to places called "camel market". The correct location is the one off Al Khatatba-Berkash road, not the one close to the Nile.

We travelled with an Egyptian and no one asked us to pay money to enter. I didn't see a ticket booth as others mentioned, presumably because less tourists go after the recent civil unrest. We got some looks when we entered the gate, but no one said anything. The market was buzzing with activity and hundreds, if not thousands of camels. As others have mentioned, the herders can be aggressive and do hit them with sticks to corral them or show off their muscles to potential buyers. I did not see any blood or gore as others have mentioned. I did not get as dirty or smelly as I expected to and I wore sandals. The ground in the market is sand, dirt and hay.

The herders were all very friendly and let us take their pictures without question and touch their camels. Some younger boys asked us for money but we ignored their requests. We attracted a fair bit of attention being the only tourists there. Many wanted to be in our pictures and were laughing at our reactions to the animals and watching us. I found out afterward that some of the men had made lewd comments toward me when we were there and one had asked me for a kiss (albeit in Arabic, so I couldn't understand). I was fully covered and dressed head to toe in Muslim clothing (hijab and black gown abaya) and I was the only woman in the entire market. Word got around that Canadians were in the market and we were followed to our car by a few young boys who were demanding money for parking, to which our driver refused and we left without incident.

This is the absolute perfect trip for anyone who loves an adventure and wants to see real Egypt. Apparently, the camel caravans have traveled north into Egypt from Sudan for centuries. Truly a nice break from the conventional tourist activities.

I have several recommendations for anyone looking to visit:

-Go on a Friday morning as it is the only day it operates. The market runs 6am-12pm.

-Go with an Egyptian driver or a tour or a local. There is zero security around there so you need someone who will be able to communicate in Arabic to the people if need be. This is especially true if you are a solo female traveler, or group of females. There is no reason to be afraid as Egyptians love tourists and are incredibly friendly. My recommendation is simply because the market is a men-only environment and doesn't have tourist amenities or security like conventional tourist sites do.

-Do not tip anyone for a picture or anything (they may ask for money using the Arabic words "floos" or "giney"). Ignore their requests for money or pretend you don't understand their English. If you tip one person, many people will notice and come to you demanding the same and you may put yourself in an uncomfortable and potentially unsafe situation. Use common sense and bring bags that zip closed.

-Plan to spend 30 minutes - 1 hour there. There are several shady spots, but the sun was still scorching in the summer at 8am when I went. There were no washrooms inside the market, but a small mosque was located just outside the gate which would have a toilet.

-Have fun! It's like being transported in another world to be around all the camels amongst their groans and the bartering between buyers/sellers. Dodging the camels hobbling around was hilarious and it was a fantastic photo/video opportunity. We're so glad we went.

Written August 5, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

justwanderlustblog
Los Angeles, CA23 contributions
Couples
If you consider yourself a "traveler" and not a "vacationer"....
If you want insight into "local life"...
If you can find transportation here (some tours offer it, but a lot of people don't know about it)...
If you won't mind seeing camels with a leg tied up (so as to not escape)...
and if you these pictures don't offend you (pics from when I went): http://wp.me/p27toQ-8Y

Then you HAVE TO go to this camel market. I know Egypt has the pyramids, the Nile, and the feluccas, but this camel market was the single most memorable thing we did in Egypt. It is nuts just seeing hundreds of camels and the men auctioning them off -- it's like a train wreck watching it all (not for the faint of heart) but at the same time, I think being privy to such local activities/traditions is what traveling is all about.

One tip is to wear shoes you won't mind getting dirty. There is A LOT of dust.

PS. I gave this 5 stars purely for the novelty factor -- you're just not going to find something like this in many other places you'll ever travel to so this is a "once in a lifetime" thing. But again, make sure you won't feel offended seeing it all.
Written February 14, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

DOUG and NIKI
Long Island, NY282 contributions
We had no idea what to expect, we thought The State Fair just unorganized. Instead we found anarchy, camels running wild almost running us over more than once. Crazy insanity, not fun. Check out our video on YouTube.

Search for DOUGandNIKI on YouTube to find it.
Written February 1, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

carlaroseberry
Memphis, TN171 contributions
Family
As Americans, we often do not understand the way of life of other cultures as we either are not open to it or we delight in remaining oblivious to the plights of others who have lives much harder than ours. This tour was the most unusual and one of the best of our trip to Egypt. This is NOT a tourist destination. If you are a real traveler...do this. If you just want to see swimming pools and resorts, do not do this as it may be upsetting to animal lovers. The camels are bought and sold at this market and come from all over Egypt and the Sudan. Their legs are tied up to keep them from running away or stampeding, as camels are HUGE and strong. The camel sellers will strike the camels with sticks to get them to run and to show how strong and muscular they are so they can be sold for farm work, livestock, food consumption, or for tourism. They are not being cruel to the animals but Americans may not be used to seeing this. You will be surrounded by thousands of camels and traditionally dressed Egyptians and Sudanese who will be thrilled to see you and will welcome you to the market.
Written July 26, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Lieutenant_Feraud
London, United Kingdom927 contributions
Rather pleased that we were the first to request this and my guide had himself never been before. The pre-printed ticket giving you photographic rights for E£ 20 suggests that the tourists are starting to discover the market. Its just hundreds of camels running around and being sold off, seems they imitate the Cairo traffic system ( ! ). Not for the faint hearted or small children as the camels are treated "robustly" during the process and are destined for consumption mainly. Got to get there early and have some of the cakes, amongst the best I had during the holiday in Egypt.
Written January 4, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

RedddFreddd
Halifax, UK86 contributions
What an amazing place to spend a Friday morning! About 40 minutes drive from downtown Cairo is a truly Egyptian experience. Not, though, for the faint hearted! Literally thousands of camels wandering (and occassionally running) around - with one leg tied up to prevent them getting up too much speed.

There are sales taking place hapazzardly here and there, accompanied by the par for the course argument! To be honest though, words dont really do this experience justice. Just go and enjoy!

Tickets can be bought at the gate - 20 LE at the moment but they will charge for taking in a camera, i think it was 10 LE. Make sure you ask for a ticket otherwise you could be paying much more.
Written December 5, 2008
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

travelingbabeB
Belleville, MI101 contributions
I had read about the camel market at Birqash before coming to Egypt, and wanted to make sure we paid a visit. There are more caemls there than I have ever seen, and lively banter between the camel owners and those there to make purchases. Camels ran by several time, with one leg tied up so they can't run (AS FAST!) with a small boy quickly following with a switch yelling for the camel to stop. WE were the only tourists there, but none of the merchants seemed to mind us. Watching the caemls being loaded into the very small trucks was fascinating...if you're looking for something off the beaten path this is definitely something you might want to check out!
Written December 7, 2009
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Lon V
Wooster, Ohio208 contributions
Family
If you are even thinking about doing the trip, then you probably should do it. I was a bit nervous being in the country like this, as an American, but the trip was a blast. It is about a 45 minute drive from Cairo, but almost feels like you are in the middle ages. Thousands of camels, most of them hobbled, being led around to auction is a scene you could have seen in the 1200's. As the others have said, these animals are not pets and are treated harshly, at least by our standards, but they are being sold for food and work animals. It is one of my truly memorable experiences in Egypt overall. Security is really not an issue, the businessmen there largely ignore you, (unless its to prevent a runaway camel from running you down!) and it is a hoot!
Written January 7, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

E-Lizard-Breath-B
Mackinac Island, MI71 contributions
Friends
The camel market (souk al-gamaal) is just outside Cairo, in Birqash. Even though it is just outside the city, it took us about an hour to get there. When we saw pick-up trucks with camels loaded in the back, we knew we were getting close. It cost 20 Egyptian pounds for each of us to enter, and I paid an additional 10 pounds for a camera permit. (At the time of our visit, the exchange rate was five Egyptian Pounds to each US Dollar.)

Luckily my mom knew Fridays were the busiest day with the most camels. The pictures just don't do the place justice - imagine about 1,000 camels walking, running, sitting, peeing, groaning. Just imagine camels everywhere. We were the only westerners there until right before we left, and then it was only one van load of people.

Most of the camels were hobbled (with one leg tied up) so they couldn't get too far too quickly. Every now and then someone would want to see one of the camels run, so they would unhobble it and "encourage" it to run around. If you don’t do well with harsh animal treatment, this may not be a good place for you to go. We repeatedly saw camels “encouraged” to do things by being hit with large sticks. We also saw a number of dead camels (in various states of decay) that had been left by the side of the road.

Once the camels were purchased, they were loaded into trucks, tied down and driven off to who-knows-where. Mustafa, our driver, told us they were off to camel races in the Sudan.

The hardest part of the day, for me, was seeing school-age children working rather than being in school. There were lots of young boys working on the day we visited. Many of them walked up to me, pointed to my camera and then back at themselves, as if to say, "Take my picture." So I did. Then they would rush up and want to look at the image on the back of the camera. When I showed them, each one would get a huge smile on his face. As we left, an older man asked me to take his photo too - he was the only adult who asked. You should have seen his smile when he saw himself.

If you are in Cairo, have the time, and want a taste of local culture, I highly recommend visiting the camel market.
Written July 4, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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