Photo Essay: Market Day in a Small Egyptian Town
On market day the little Nileside town of Daraw comes alive in a chaos of stalls and traffic. Nubian men in pristine robes squeeze their way between tuk-tuks and stalls selling mint and molokheya, Egypt’s answer to spinach.
School girls in uniform headscarves pick their way through a morass of tuk-tuks, pickups, donkeys and donkey carts, chattering as they go.
A guy on a donkey, perhaps in from the countryside, catches up with a friend on his way into town.
The stallholders have been setting up since long before dawn, and the heat, the dust, the sheer exhaustion is starting to tell.
But there’s no bargaining in the market, not for fruit and veg, at least. Guys – and most of the shoppers are, indeed, men — know the price and hand their money over.
The butcher is a man of considerable dignity. Not for him the bloodstained white robes of his assistants, but a pristine tan gellabiya, as he carves leisurely slices of camel, beef, even goat, from the carcasses his juniors have butchered.
In fact, even the kid whose job it is to sprinkle the water that settles at least some of the dust does so with an air of dignity, even grace.
There are more women in town than there would be on any other day, poring over plastic sandals, or checking their texts as they stand in line to pay.
I even see a woman on her own. What’s she buying? Not carpets, by the look of her.
Perhaps perfume? From the grimy apothecary store that sells spices by the bucketload and rose oil by the plastic bottle. He’ll mix it up, you know.
As ever, most of the men are at the coffee shop, shooting the breeze outside by the election posters like so many Parisian flaneurs.
Or bantering with the barista, after a hard morning drinking coffee and watching Rambo 4 in Arabic on the knockoff big screen TV.
Or perhaps sitting meditatively with a sheesha pipe, some water and a sweet mint tea, and watching Rambo with the timeless dignity of age.