-Come, take our picture as well. How do we look? Please, show his golden teeth. Great, so how much I should give you? – a man, happily grasped a stack of money ready to give it for the picture, which he cannot even get at the moment.
Few tens of kilometers away from Georgia’s capital Tbilisi there is town of Marneuli, mostly inhabited by ethnic Azerbaijani. Quite a bit far from the town center among the hills there is a cattle market, which starts early at 5a.m. and dissolves after 10a.m. every Sunday any season of the year.
Sellers and clients are used to this environment and each other and it is quite unusual for them seeing a photographer wandering around the area.
“Will I be on TV?” is the common question.
Most of the clients, those, who really want to buy something come very early until the sunrise and at about 9:30-10:30a.m most of the people are just sitting, chatting or start to load trucks with the cattle they didn’t sold or purchased today.
Vast majority of the sellers are ethnic Azerbaijani, as well as Georgians coming from South and East Georgia.
Men are everywhere, the sellers, clients, taxi or bus drivers. Women can be spotted selling ice water or sunflower seeds at the entrance of the market. Some women follow their husbands to help choose what kind of cow to buy or sometimes entire family comes to be part of important deals.
-What brought you to this god forgotten place, take a picture of me,-a man, selling goats, came to me,-and please, show my goats as well, might be a good advertising. He continues asking questions where I work, how much I earn. – How old are you?
-Wow, I guess you have a husband and kids already,-he resolutely continued, unlike few others, who directly proposed to marry them.
“Working language” on the market is Russian and Azeri. Marneuli cattle market was launched in 1996 and now is Georgia’s second largest cattle market. It locates about 400 animals on the territory of about 3 hectares which is fenced. Seller has to pay 2 GEL (USD 0.80) for each bovine animal he is willing to take on the territory and one GEL for each sheep.
Some sellers can be seen outside the fenced territory of the market.
Among the problems which sellers describe is a heat in summer. There are no water reservoirs and no sewage. Sometimes animals cannot bear the strict high temperature in summer.
Early summer heavy rains turn the area into mud, making it hard to walk, while of course in winter frost is the enemy of the market.
For a long time market has been target of number of reports from non-government organizations as there are no measures taken to avoid spreading different diseases, no quarantine zones, no barriers to accommodate animals separate from each other and animals are not applied disinfectant solution during entering the market.
At this time of the year most of the clients come from Azerbaijan or from Turkey, but they can be coming from Iran, Kazakhstan and few countries from central Asia.
The outside territory of the market is filled with old rusty trucks. Some of them are empty, some of them are already filled with animals ready to take to home or new home.
When you enter the market first sheep and goats are seen. Further on the upper hill there are cows and bulls on the other side, which need permanent attention as they may be quite aggressive at a time.
Some of the sellers organize a ‘catwalk’ for the horses they are going to sell, like a PR outside the fenced area. Somewhere nearby there are just a few minibuses with a backside filled with small pig grunting.
Walking around the market whole day it is difficult to decide who is in the most difficult situation - a seller, who wasn’t able to sell anything despite spending six hours on feet, or selling them for the lowest price, or maybe a giant black bull staring from outside an open load truck, sweating, or the sheep carried by the master, who grabs them by feet, maybe the goats attached to the car on a ridiculously short rope barely breathing or cows in a minibus with shut doors and windows squeezed altogether.
No matter what happens - a bad weather or economic crisis with devaluated currencies, every Sunday sellers and clients would come here to do the deals.