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Cairo Chronicles: World class stadia dot the landscape

Saturday July 13 2019

Players and officials observe a minute of silence ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Group A match between Uganda and Egypt at the Cairo International Stadium in the Egyptian capital on June 30, 2019. PHOTO | KHALED DESOUKI |

Players and officials observe a minute of silence ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Group A match between Uganda and Egypt at the Cairo International Stadium in the Egyptian capital on June 30, 2019. PHOTO | KHALED DESOUKI |  AFP

CHARLES NYENDE
By CHARLES NYENDE
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Over the last few days I have found myself counting stadiums before I fall asleep.

I wish it were the five world class ones that we were once promised by the ruling party, but far from it. You have to head thousands of kilometres north to Egypt to appreciate my pre-sleep thought processes.

The 2019 Afcon has involved 24 teams playing in six international class stadium namely, Cairo International Stadium, Al Salam Stadium – built in 2009, 30 June Stadium – built in 2009, Alexandria Stadium, Suez Stadium and Ismailia Stadium. Additionally, Cairo is clattered with many, many world class stadiums.

I found myself inquiring about any sporting facility of that nature I encountered while commuting on the Cairo roads. I saw the 28,000 capacity Cairo Military Academy Stadium that hosted 2006 Afcon matches, and the 35,000 capacity Arab Contractors Stadium.

I have visited official team training venues that include El-Shams Stadium (15,000 capacity) and Petro Sports Stadium (capacity 16,000), had the pleasure of being given a tour of Al Ahly Sporting Club Stadium.

Al Ahly plan to build a 60,000 capacity stadium in the capital city. Then there is Gehaz El Reyada Stadium (20,000 capacity) and Police Academy Stadium (12,000 capacity).

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I was told there are many other small ones, and that is just in one city.

Away from stadiums, the two-day break between the group phase and round of 16 gave me time to visit the Giza Pyramids, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and last remaining.

The Giza pyramids, on the south-western outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo. PHOTO | FILE |

The Giza pyramids, on the south-western outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo. PHOTO | FILE |NATION MEDIA GROUP

The ancient structures are situated in the Giza area of Cairo. One minute you are driving in traffic making your way through a congested modern urban concrete jungle; the next minute you are in an open desert where the hot sun stares at you and the parched sand roasts your feet.

I must confess I was here in 2006 but still the sight is beholding. That these monumental, gigantic stone structures with impeccably geometry, were constructed thousands of years ago is a poignant thought. What were the people who walked on this plateau like?

What did they do and how was their life? Why did they construct these triangular behemoths?

Egypt proudly touts this area as the cradle of humankind.

The experience of the pyramid “beach boys” is memory you reluctantly carry. They are cunning and devious. For instance, they will offer to take your photo using your phone and then politely ask “something for me for taking photo? 100 Egyptian pounds (about Sh625)?”

They have countless artefacts on sale. One trick they use is to hand you an item – say a carving or a traditional Arab headscarf - telling you: “This is free. A gift.”

They will then momentarily walk away before returning. “What will you give me for the gift?” If you have never bargained with our Kenyan hawkers then you will be hit hard here in the Giza, but if they realise you are no man’s fool, they quickly avoid you.

Back to my Cairo home. Nigeria, initially in Alexandria, fought their way to the quarter-finals to set up a date with South Africa in Cairo. Their noisiness and boisterousness set them apart. A few found their way to my humble hotel.

HIGH ALTITUDE TRAINING

Abubakur, for that was the name he introduced himself with, was quick to tell me how he was constructing houses back home in Nigeria in addition to managing several athletes, and was planning to bring them to Kenya for high altitude training.

“I and my friends are also setting up an aviation school and are in the process of buying aeroplanes. Do you know anybody in Kenya selling planes?”

So there I was, wondering, how can a person in the business of buying aeroplanes put up in a third rate hotel in Cairo where you will likely meet a lone, struggling foreign journalist?

“I know some people,” I responded.

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