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.

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