Postcard from... Cairo


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The Independent Online

In the shadow of Cairo’s medieval aqueduct, Mohamed Mustafa teaches his five-year-old son the family’s trade, one shear at a time.

Mohamed is one of the city’s donkey barbers, an expert in trimming and styling horses, camels, mules, sheep, goats, dogs and donkeys. He is a third-generation qassasseen, the Egyptian Arabic term for animal barbers.

It is a profession often looked down upon in Egyptian society, as he works with the beasts of burden that still roam Cairo’s streets, pulling carts filled with vegetables or rubbish. But workers rely on the animals and take pride in them, getting them haircuts or having their fur shaved with designs or their initials.

“There are a lot of other people who do this job. But Mohamed is gentle – and his prices are gentle too,” says Abdulrahman Ibrahim, a cart driver getting his horse’s monthly trim.

Mohamed charges £1.75 to £2.60 per customer, with each appointment taking less than 30 minutes.

“All the horses are clever –  in fact, all the donkeys, cows and dogs are clever. Dogs will slip out from under you,” he says. But the work is dangerous. “One horse bit my finger off, another horse hit me here,” he says, pointing to a scar on his jaw. AP