Captain Mohamed has promised us the spectacle of the biggest camel market in Egypt, a riot of Arabian bargain-hunting in the dusty no-man’s land north of Aswan. It’s a chance to see something different after two lazy afternoons drifting along the Nile. He’s moored the felucca between two wooden fishing boats and flagged down a passing truck, which belches a few discouraging puffs of exhaust before wheezing down the road.
At the market men in turbans haggle hard; the camels look on, nonplussed and serene in a way that only camels can be. A guide points out the choicest ones: their humps proud, their flanks padded with muscular flesh. We watch a few get loaded onto flat-bed trucks. They wail and moan and hold their ground; a couple of guys take running starts and slam into their haunches. One gruff buyer punches a fine-looking steed in the neck, winding up for roundhouses that could floor a heavyweight. There’s a murmur of approval as the beast finally gives in, its legs roughly taken out from under it. Nearby old men sit Indian-style in the shade, drinking mint tea and lazily swatting away the flies.We stop for supplies in a busy town nearby—an anonymous place of poured-concrete shops and women doing brisk business in their flapping chadors.
One personal whinge - my lifelong amibition to read a travel item about the Nile which doesn't quote the Herodotus “the gift of the Nile” phrase remains to be fulfilled :-)