Connie Tindale

A calleche is a horse drawn cab. They are often quite decorative, well maintained and pulled by a healthy horse. Through the work of ACE (Animal Care Egypt) and the Brook Clinic, great strides have been made in education in the care of horses but unfortunately some horses are still not so well cared for. When you tackle the owners about the state of the horses, they invariable tell you that the horse is thin because it has just had a baby. This is rubbish. The horse is thin because it has been starved.

Although the main trade for the calleches comes from tourists, they are also used extensively by the local population. In the early morning, it is common to see them acting as school 'buses' and over-flowing with children. Generally, the cost of a short journey on a calleche is 3 LE although tourists would be expected to pay 5 LE plus a tip.

Some drivers will try and take you to a Papyrus Museum. They will tell you that there will be no charge for the service. This is not true. The 'papyrus museum' is a euphemism for shop from which they receive commission on anything that you buy. The drivers often get appear to get angry when you do not buy anything and that is when the arguments about the cost of the journey and his wasted time start. It is just a game whereby the driver hopes to extend his income. Just smile and tell him that you do not want to go to there and to take you where you really wanted to go. He will usually smile back at you.

I think that if you want to be taken around town and shown its sights, then 20 LE per carriage (not per person) is a generous payment for the service but please think of the horse and do not try to cram too many people into the carriage. It is tragic to see an animal trying to pull a huge load of enthusiastic but unsympathetic tourists. Also, please do not use a calleche that has an unhealthy horse pulling it. Eventually the message will get through to its owner that if the expects trade then he should look after his horses better.