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Dragon boat racing finds new niche on the Nile

China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-09 07:33

Academy brings sport to Egypt ahead of festival

CAIRO - The 2,000-year-old tradition of Chinese dragon boat racing has found a new home in Egypt's Nile River after the opening of a training academy in the province of Giza.

"It brings Egypt and China closer and will enable us to send Egyptian players to join dragon boat racing in China and host Chinese teams here in Egypt," said Ehab Gouda, co-founder of the Egyptian Dragon Boat Academy.

"The two peoples will come closer through sports and mutual love and respect and avoidance of political issues. Sports give people hope in the future," said Gouda, who first brought the sport to Egypt last year.

Dragon boat racing finds new niche on the Nile

Egyptian Dragon Boat Academy co-founder Ehab Gouda puts trainees, many of them trying the sport for the first time, through their paces with a session on the Nile. Xinhua

Gouda has been working hard on spreading the word about dragon boat racing back home after he mastered the sport in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, Guangdong province, where the first dragon boat festival was successfully held in October.

He is currently training several groups of players to prepare for the next festival on May 20, where teams from Spain, Cyprus and other countries will take part.

The trainees, mostly trying dragon boating for the first time, showed real enthusiasm for the sport during the ride as they sat in two rows and learned how to row their sticks together to keep the boat's movement smooth and balanced.

They also enjoyed the pulling competition at the end of the training, where two groups of trainees at the front and tail of the same boat rowed in opposite directions and the movement of the craft forward or backward decided the winners.

Yehia Khair el-Deen, a trainee in the winning group, said that he loved the dragon boat round they made between Giza's Manial and Cairo's Maadi districts during the training, noting that it was his first time to exercise dragon boating.

"It was a fascinating view among the Nile River islands and the sport is very nice. Although it is exhausting for the muscles, it is really such an enjoyable sport," said el-Deen, who works as an engineer at a multinational company.

Water connection

For her part, Abeer Ali, a university graduate and keen rower, said that she loved her first experience of dragon boating, stressing that sports generally bring people together, especially water-based activities.

"Having the Nile River makes us always connected with water, so I believe the dragon boat sport can easily spread in Egypt as it is connected with the Nile River," she said.

More than 100 countries have dragon boat federations, including Russia, Italy, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States. In the Middle East the sport is represented in the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon while in Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa compete.

Mary Lai, the academy's co-founder from Hong Kong who has been living in Egypt for almost 30 years, said that the first dragon boat festival was timely as it marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Egypt and China.

"The academy seeks to teach Egyptians how to exercise dragon boating, regardless of their ages, and we're preparing an Egyptian dragon boat team to join a festival in China in 2018," Mary said.


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