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We gave ourselves a tough mission: use public transport to reach the Birqash camel market, 35 km NW of Cairo. Unfortunately, no bus goes directly from central Cairo to Birqash, but we weren't about to pay an exorbitant cab fare so catching several different buses was our only option. To make matters more difficult, we couldn't even pronounce Birqash properly at first. The beginning of our journey brought us to the shockingly poor Cairo neighborhood called Imbaba. We had to search for our next bus in a shanty town, surrounded by refuse heaps, overcrowded streets without sidewalks, and the surprised looks of people who wondered why a pair of tourists were wandering around here. We've learned how to read Arabic numbers, but that didn't help us find our bus since Cairo microbuses aren't labeled, making them hard to use unless you're familiar with their routes. Would-be travelers are supposed to stand by the road and shout out their intended destination as the microbus passes - if there's room and it's going in the right direction, it stops and you can jump aboard. Be quick! Thanks to the patience of some friendly locals, we found a bus going our way. We crammed into a little van that held 14 other people but was more suited for half that number. At least it was cheap - 30 cents to travel 30 km. However, it didn't go all the way to Birqash. A nice lady helped us catch our next bus, but for the last one we were on our own, dropped off in a little village called Nekla. In shorts, Jill attracted a large crowd of men who surrounded us as she struggled to zip on her pant legs for better cover. We were literally mobbed. Twenty or more men pressed in on us, speaking Arabic or broken English that was incomprehensible to our ears. This situation scared us more than bungee jumping, even though in retrospect we think the crowd was friendly. Clearly out of our element, a man who spoke English came to our rescue. We hitched a ride on a pickup truck to reach Birqash and the camel market. Now veteran bus travelers, we had a much easier time returning the same way to Cairo.  
 Squeezing into an Egyptian microbus
The Birqash camel market. Not for animal lovers.