The night before the feast: animalia in Cairo

A young camel for sale in the souk in Nasr City.

Cairo’s
streets are always crowded, always colourful, but moreso this week, in the
lead-up to Eid al-Adha, the great feast. 

Impromptu butchers shops have cropped
up on major intersections, the fumes from a hundred thousand minibuses curing
the slabs of beef, lamb and goats’ meat that hang in the open air.

Beside the
butchers, shepherds in dirty gellibayas care for the next batch of carcasses – fat-tailed
sheep, blank-eyed goats and unperturbed cattle huddle together, tethered by the roadsides in
readiness to be sacrificed for tomorrow’s feast. The meat will be distributed evenly
between the family, the poor and the freezer.
Sheep on a Cairo roadside, awaiting a buyer.

This
morning, I popped down to the local souq, here in central Cairo, where makeshift stables house a
hundred head of animals, alongside the usual market offerings of ducks, fish,
pigeons and rabbits. Standing separate from the melee, a young camel stands awaiting a buyer.

The day
before, observant Muslims fast in preparation, parents buy their children party
hats and new clothes, and tomorrow?
“Tomorrow,
the streets will run with blood,” is the ghoulish refrain in the lead-up to the
feast.

About the author

Fear is found on a creaking glacier in the Caucasus mountains and joy is encapsulated in the perfect Shanghai dumpling. And while I love a $500-a-night hotel room (who doesn’t?), sometimes the best stories are found in a $20 guesthouse. With an eye always out for good markets and great street eats, I write the travel news and features for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age newspapers, and features for whoever else asks. I have a particular soft spot for the wilds of the Middle East, scarves and carpets. My articles and photographs have been published in a range of consumer magazines and newspapers in Australia and abroad.

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