This trip has
been full of emotions and energies, as you would imagine when a
tournament is organised around/in front of one of the Seven
Wonders of the World, The Pyramids of Giza.
Not only the monuments in themselves are overcharged with
Historical Energy, images we carry from our childhood, from
films, from a past buried deep inside us, but the place had
been chosen for energetic reasons, and the ground itself is
charged with a special energy, you feel it extremely strongly,
especially at night, when everything quietens down…
was pure madness.
Twelve matches on the three courts
at Le Lido City View,
with no court for the players to warm up or hit
on, a level of
noise quite unheard of,
from 12 to 5.15 end of the last matches (Omneya, Simon were the
last I spoke to), no time to breathe, think or say hello to
I found myself on the last shuttle bus trying to reach Mena
House in order to take another shuttle bus to the Court for the
first matches planned at 6.30.
you have ever been in a vehicle of sort in Cairo at 5.20pm
trying to go anywhere,
you will know how very unlikely we
to be on time up there… I
raised my concern but from the back of the bus, I heard the
voice of John Masserella, one of our two world Refs
present in Al-Ahram “don’t worry, Fram, they cannot start
Cleverly, the plan was changed and the shuttle, after dropping
Simon at the hotel – you have to pass in front of Mena House
entrance to get to the Pyramids, yes, we were THAT close –
straight up the hill.
10 years ago, we could go freely up to the venue, now, you have
to go through heavy security. Every day, our shuttle would be
stopped, we would get out of the bus, with our bags, and go
through the machines, to then climb up the hill a bit, and
our bus for the last leg of the journey.
A quick drive, less then 10m, but somehow felt too short,
between the Pyramids. Every day, it was the same emotion, truly,
that moment when you look on your left and baoum, you have those
immense powerhouses standing there. A bumpy road, the driver has
to go very slowly, and finally, you take a right, and you
arrive at the venue.
It is HUGE. Ten
years ago, you were walking most of the time on the sand,
but this time,
it’s like a real city, with huge white
tents and wooden lanes everywhere,
with two entrances - one main audience, one VIP, both equipped
with heavy security.
That first night was a bit panicky as I didn’t have a clue
where to go. Cubs had been there before – it hadn’t been simple
as you need a special permit to get to the place before play
– and knew his way. But he was in the previous shuttle and I was
on my own.
Didn’t have a clue
where to go first. So many different arches, ways. Thank Heaven
my pass let me go wherever, so I finally found the way to the
AKA the VIPS....
The atmosphere was as you imagine electric. As usual in Egypt,
things were not, well, exactly going as planned and last minute
adjustments had to be made, putting all concerned in a state of
panic. It looked a bit like a beehive, with a few Queens around,
Headless Chickens probably more like...
soon found the press room which had been arranged with a lot of
computers and another sections with tables, that we used.
Internet was working fine, SquashSite was in place and
As ever, I got my seat with a little note
scotched on it.
People ask me why I don’t sit in the VIP section when in Egypt.
Well, I like having the same angle when I watch a match, and I’d
rather have a dedicated seat in the first row
of the crowd – even if it’s challenging sometimes –than having
to hop from seat to seat as the VIP do the whole night. It’s
actually like a Ballet Musical Chair, which I enjoy every event
in Egypt, watching who is
sitting where, with whom, at what time…
the 12 matches of the
afternoon, we had 4
more matches to cover, having no time at all to finish the
previous ones. To be honest, I cannot remember who
played, who won. I was like on automatic pilot, trying to reach
the players, having to talk to them in their changing room,
meaning having to time to type any kind of quote or report
before the next match started.
remember that I finally started on the report Ramy/Meguid around
a match played at 3pm, and
probably finished the last report around 2.30am.
That's when I realised this event was going to be a bit of a
From the second night onwards, it was plain sailing really.
Watching the match, in the “main section”, then coming back to
the “triage arch” to sneak in the VIP section trying to stay out
of TV view, waiting for the player(s) to get to the changing
room, at the bottom of the stairs right behind the court and
right after the PSA/SquashTV Tent.
with the player(s), then going round on the left via the
sand bit to avoid going up to the court and disturbing everybody
– that was a bit of a challenge with my knees and not much
Between the TV van, some piece of wood laying on the ground and
the WIFI tower, but I got there – a little visit to the Best
Toilets of the World Of Outdoor Squash!
You think I’m
kidding, but if you ever had to cover an event “en plein air”
outside in the field, you know how disgusting that place can
quickly become. Ten years ago, I kept praying not to need to go.
This time, it was a bit of a 1’30”” to myself really. Well done
to whoever was running it. The Rest of the world could take
example on that event for sure.
Internet worked as a charm – needless to say it was not done by
snapping fingers, a huge tower was installed to get signals, and
well, there again, spot on, not a trouble the whole time for us
– I heard that SquashTV ran smoothly as well.
food/drink area was a bit on a weak side. Only one outlet for
coffee/bakery, and one for
burgers. But people seem to manage. I even got John Massarella
to offer me a green tea! That was the only warm drink I got the
whole time… Sigh…
The volunteers – students between 18 and 25 - were pretty
enthusiastic and always said yes. Action sometimes didn’t really
follow bless them, but 90% of the time, they were helpful and
efficient, speaking a minimum of three languages, which in our
case was extremely useful.
un chat un chat” as we say in French, “let’s say it clearly”,
the event has been a huge success. It was done on a very small
budget, all what could be cut as an expense was cut, I know it
was anything but easy for the Federation and in particular Uncle
Assem – Assem Khalifa, President of the Federation and
Nassef George, Executive Manager.
They were trying to balance out the budget offered by the
Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr Khaled Abdel Aziz, who was
at the heart of the project. They did wonders to be honest, and
I think they are both going to sleep for a week!
course, the event couldn’t have happened without
the support of NEWGIZA and its CCO
Ramy Halabi CCO, and of all the sponsors that made this
event possible. The fact that on the finals day, we have Two
Ministers (Sport and Tourism) the Governor of the region, plus
several dignitaries, proves how important this event was
perceived in Cairo.
How not to mention Amr Mansi and his team – Omar El Sherbini,
Nora ElGabry, George Hakim to name only a few – who were
working in extremely difficult conditions, I saw on Mansi the
first grey hair which I swear weren’t there in El Gouna!
They kept their smile with us for the whole duration, and their
friendship is for me the reason why it was went smoothly…
A DREAM COME
What made it special was the sparkle in the eyes of every
Egyptian player that came and played on that court. They all
used the same expression – it is a dream come true. They all had
stories from their childhood about Al-Ahram. They remembered the
players, the atmosphere, Robert Edwards – who was presenting the
semis and finals – the lightning, the magic of it all.
for me. I did enjoy last time round, I remember having been
forgotten in the field as I was the last one to leave and saved
by Mohamed Menshawy – he and his wife have been my best friends
in Egypt ever since – I remember the drama of Greg’s match balls
and Jahangir telling me “if he doesn’t win that third, he is not
going to make it”, I remember the hologram of Shabana on finals
night apologising to his people for not making the final and I
remember the feel of the Pyramids in the background…
But this time, the Pyramids were not in the background. They
were THERE. RIGHT THERE. On your lap. Over you. Inside your
soul. Overpowering you truly. And I must say that as the music
started on finals night, I looked at the court, on the left,
that Pyramid standing tall and eternal, on the right, the
SquashTV screen with the “vue d’ensemble” the larger view of the
whole venue, with the lights and crowd and depth and magic, I
couldn’t stop tears coming from nowhere.
So to conclude, I’ll just steal Raneem El Welily’s words: “I
just want to thank Al-Ahram, the Pyramids for being kind to me”.