If you want to do something few tourists do what about a trip by taxi down to the small town of Shalateen ( population 3,000 ) to see the camel market. It lies some 232 km or 144 miles south of Marsa Alam near the border with Sudan. Ehab’s limousine company can also arrange this. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
It is here that Sudanese herders, usually armed with a long traditional knife and a whip, bring their camels to sell to Egyptian traders. Some are bought for the tourism industry and some for meat. However it may not be suitable for everyone as a few traders sometimes have reportedly resorted to beating camels in order to get them into the lorries for transportation north to the Birqash camel market outside Cairo.
If you wish to buy a camel, the average price is typically around 7,000 Egyptian pounds as of early 2013. The Shalateen camel market is open daily but is usually busiest on Thursdays and quietest, though still open, on Fridays.
The local area is interesting as it remained outside Egyptian government control prior to 1992 and while the infrastructure has been recently modernized, much of the local way of life remains unchanged and is fascinating to observe.
The Government has offered free electricity and water to try and encourage the local Bedouin to settle but many continue to make their living herding goats and sheep or trading in camels.
You should be able to spot the Rashaida tribesmen as they wear lavendar galibayas and the Rashaida women dark red dresses. They are descendants of a tribal group which emigrated to Egypt from the Arabian peninsula around 200 years ago. You will also probably see Bishari (the men often wearing large cotton turbans) and Ababda bedouin who have been indigenous to the Eastern Desert area of Egypt for centuries.
Most of the buildings and architecture in the town itself are however disappointingly modern. It’s divided into two sections – government and commercial buildings to the north and a shanty town of painted plywood and wooden plank houses to the south surrounding the souk.
There are only a few limited facilities but there is at least a bank, a police station, a post office, a simple but popular restaurant, Basmit El Ganoub,serving grilled meat or chicken and a hotel called (not joking) Baghout (meaning “The flea.”) It seemed quite clean but I wouldn’t recommend staying in Shalateen overnight.
WADI EL GEMAL OR
The name camel comes from the arabic gamal.
It’s hump stores fat not water and this allows it to store less fat elsewhere which in turn keeps it cooler.
Unlike humans their body temperature is naturally lower (34C) at night than in the day (41C).
A large camel can drink up to 200 litres of water within three minutes – if you only had cans of perrier that would be 600 at more than 3 cans a second !
However they can get much of the moisture they need from green plants thereby reducing the need to drink.
They can east almost anything, even thorny twigs, without damaging their mouths.
During a sandstorm camels are able to close their nostrils to prevent damage from wind blown sand.
When feeling threatened they often spit – don’t get in the way !
They have large flat feet to prevent them sinking into the sand.
When a camel exhales, the water vapor is retained in its’ nostrils and then reabsorbed enabling it to remain relatively hydrated even in the most arid and hot conditions.
The average life expectancy of a camel is about 45 years.
They can run at speeds of up to 65km/h (45mph) so don’t try to race one !