Working for Working Animals in Egypt

Travel can bring us close to great beauty but it can also show us great suffering. Often the suffering of animals goes unmentioned but GoNomad’s Jessica Ocheltree confronts the poor living conditions of some of Egypt’s work animals head on in Animal Care in Egypt: Working for Working Animals. Her story reminds us what a difference a few people can make.

working donkey in egypt
A donkey at the ACE, where working animals are cared for in Luxor, Egypt. Photos by Jessica Ocheltree.

The first time that Kim Taylor saw Caraboosh, he had been standing outside a police station in Luxor for days without food or water. The horse was emaciated and near death. It turned out that his owner has been arrested and the police had just abandoned his cart and horse outside in the punishing Egyptian sun, where temperatures routinely reach well above 100 degrees.

She began bringing him food and water several times a day and was eventually able to convince the authorities to release Caraboosh into her care until the owner could claim him.
Caraboosh’s story is just one of the many cases of abuse and neglect that working animals in Egypt suffer every day. Taylor’s organization, Animal Care in Egypt (ACE), works to improve their conditions by providing free veterinary services, doing rescue work and offering public education.

Life in Luxor

Built on the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, Luxor stretches along the sparkling Nile and draws millions of tourists each year to its sites, including the famous Karnak temple complex and the nearby Valley of the Kings. 

In fact, it’s a city that survives largely on the money outsiders bring in. In the bustling city center, you can hardly move without being accosted by horse-drawn cab drivers offering you a ride in their caleshes, boat captains wanting to take you sailing, and shop keepers trying anything to call your attention to their goods.
Outside of the tourist areas, though, Luxor is still very much a low-income agricultural region. On the roads outside of the city, air-conditioned tour buses zip past donkeys trotting along on the shoulder. Often the animals will be pulling carts loaded impossibly
high with bricks or bags of cement. Others are pulling loads of produce into town, where they will have to compete with the hectic city traffic. Road accidents involving working animals are not uncommon.

A Hard-Knock Life

For all that the people of Luxor depend on their working animals, they are not always provided with the best of care. Part of the reason for this is ignorance. The belief that animals have feelings and are sensitive to pain and fear is not well-accepted in the Egyption culture. Striking animals is common practice and little thought is given to preventive measures. Animals are seen more as tools that will work until they die than as feeling creatures.
The other reason working animals suffer is the necessity of poverty. Even when an owner is fond of his animal, he may not be able to provide for all of its needs. When your meager income depends entirely upon one animal, you don’t always have the option of letting it rest up when it’s injured. Either the animal goes to work or your family doesn’t eat. Wearing homemade and poorly fitting tack is a common cause of sores, which are not cleaned properly or given time to heal. Malnutrition, thrush caused by insufficient bedding and injuries from overgrown hooves are common problems.

Animal Care in Egypt: Working for Working Animals