We had not noticed it in years past, somehow, but apparently it is the season for pink chicks in Egypt. Really, they are hard to miss.
Mixed among the cutlery, shoes, and fruit offered by illegal street vendors up and down the road leading to the local Maadi metro station are tiny little chicks crowded into plastic boxes. They sell for a pound apiece, the equivalent of eighteen US pennies. They fit snuggly into the palm of a hand.
Many are also painted pink. Demonstrated by the interest taken by our children, this serves to attract customers.
Street vendors have proliferated since the revolution as police have stopped enforcing whatever codes prevented them from being there. They crowd the sidewalk, spill over into the street, and generally increase pedestrian and vehicular traffic. It is practically bedlam in front of the metro station, as taxis congregate as well, awaiting customers.
The vendors are nice enough and do not impose or shout out prices. Elsewhere, tourist market peddlers are notorious for calling out their wares, hoping to prey on naïve foreigners and help separate them from their money. Most seek to be funny, but the economic situation forces the hand of both groups of aspiring entrepreneurs. It is hard not to be sympathetic when the poverty rate exceeds 40%.
A friend tells us, though, that chicks-as-gifts have been popular since she was a girl. The pink seems to be a recent novelty, but Egyptian kids have always loved having an alive toy. Most die after a few days; lack of proper care is certainly a contributing factor.
Laugh, cry, or shrug it off? How would you respond?
Update: My friend tells me that sometimes street vendors will place the chicks on a heated surface, then market them as dancing chicks from Tanzania. But she also tells me that many Egyptians will raise these chicks, and eventually benefit from either a mature rotisserie or egg-laying hen.
- Sheep – December 15, 2009