El Gouna EN BREF #1
Everything you never knew you needed to
know about the El Gouna International Squash Open
is my first time in Alexandria, and to be honest, I
really like it. The hotel, Azure, is virtually on the
beach, and the breakfast room has a nice terrace,
with both sun and shade, perfect for me white skin.
Room is really comfy, spacious, and on the ground floor
with reception, no stairs/lift necessary. A nice and large
corridor from the reception area leads to a sort of round
room, from which our rooms (they put more or less all of
us together) are located.
OK, we have to admit that
Internet here is a bit of a problem, not really
working and horribly expensive (we are talking per hour
the what we would pay in Europe per day. So Omar El Sherbini,
who is seconding Amr Mansi in the tournament, saved the day
by providing us
nice drive along the sea, then turn left, turn right,
and zoom, we are at the Alexandria Sporting Club,
a lovely/huge Egyptian style venue, as in so many
different sports, ladies, men, kids, all smiling and
very welcoming. Lovely atmosphere. And everybody here is
making us truly, truly, TRULY welcome.
And my tea might you ask….
COURSE, they provide us with tea, coffee, whatever you
wish really. A nice little café on the 2nd floor (free
drinks, food, etc), with a lift please, and a lovely
terrace where the Shorbagy’s mum and dad were kind
enough to share their lunch with me yesterday, and today,
Omar, bless him. A lovely view, peace and quiet really.
And to crown it all, our press room is like 15metres
courts, easy, nice knowledgeable crowd, plenty of
smiling faces all around….Excellent conditions to work
in. Absolutely stunning atmosphere. Loving every minute
Welcome to Alexandria.
Of course you know Amr
Raised in Egypt, but with an Italian dad, pt, Amr
- or actually Vincente as his team mates would call him
- was able for a few years now to play for his
second country's Team, Italy.
Well, an opportunity arose via the likes of Amr Wagih,
coach to stars, who knew that the company Otsuka
was looking for a marketing man in Egypt for their sport
drink Pocari Sweat.
"It was a one lifetime opportunity", said Swelim, it's a
complete change of life which I truly enjoy.
"Otsuka is an enormous company in Japan and in so many
countries, and are now set to develop on Egypt. I hope I
can be of some help".
So, there is it. He has apparently played his last PSA
match. I just hope we'll still see him for the Team
IN A NAME…
To be honest, when I was told that I was to land in
Cairo in the evening, to be picked up by a driver who was
going to take me to Alexandria, I sort of worried a bit
that things wouldn’t go that fluidly…And well, it was a
bit of a bumpy ride, but thinking about it now - not at
the time, though - quite a funny one!
Lovely Egypt Air flight arrived spot on time from Paris,
new plane, great seats, no trouble at the visa
desk/passport/ picking up luggage, nice I thought. Cubs’
pick up had gone nicely about two hours before, he was in
the car close to Alexandria, nothing to declare really.
My bag on wheels, I passed the customs, and arrived in
the hall. Nobody with my name of their signs. Ah.
I wait. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. I’m on the phone
to Cubs, as I can’t get through to Omar El Sherbini.
Cubs’ driver is trying too. About 30m of standing up in
the middle of the thinning crowd – apart from the 3,456
nice people that keep on asking me if I need a taxi
bless them – I decide to go and have another look
around the drivers waiting with signs.
One, with a "Francis" on the sign, attracts my
attention. Being used to have my name spelled wrong, I
suspect it could be me. “I’m waiting for a Mister
Francis”, says the man, very kindly. Ah. Not me then.
It’s now been 45m, with me frantic on the phone, as I do
not have a clue what to do. Omar is now trying
desperately to locate my driver, the Agency who arranged
the travels is sending another one, Amr Mansi, the Big
Man, calls me, and assures me that everything is being
done to sort the situation asa.
I have now got some money out of the magical wall, am
sitting down at the café just in front of the arrival
door, and is sipping a nice Chai Latte – note to myself,
not adding sugar when ordering a Chai Latte in Egypt –
waiting for my new driver.
Until the man I actually spoke to, the Mr Francis one,
comes to me, with a big smile. I was "Mr Francis" after
all… The Agency just misspelled both name and gender.
Blesss…What’s in a name, hey.
But. As we had to wait for John Massarella (the poor
driver just didn’t have a clue how to spell that one, I
wrote it down for him) – his London plane for 1h30 late,
we actually left Cairo about 10.30pm, and missed out on
the traffic completely. And whereas others took up to 6
hours to get from Cairo to Alex, it only took us 3!
“A quelque chose, malheur est bon”. A blessing in
BEST MEALS EVER?
When I tell you that we are made to feel extremely
valued here, we've been spoiled for food and nice
night, Heba El Torky and her mum, along with her
younger sister 12 year old Raneem – with a name like
that, she is bound to become world junior champion soon
enough – invited Cubs and myself to a meal in a stunning
restaurant, well known of Alexandria’s crowd, Balba.
Then at lunch the next day, Nour El Sherbini
wanted to invite us, but really, we didn't have the
time, too much work to catch up with, and in the evening,
it's the Shorbagy's that took a few of us to
another stunning fish restaurant, the Fish Mart, with a
splendid view over the sea/harbour.
points in common those restaurants. Their speciality is
fish. And the food is out of this world. First, they ask
you to choose which fish you would like, and how you
want them cooked. As there was actually nothing that
Steve and I wouldn’t eat on there, we let the ladies
choose for us.
And as you can see, they did spoil us. Amazing,
stupendous, gorgeous. Les mots me manquent to describe
how stunningly beautiful, healthy and tasty those meals
It was a lovely evening, Steve didn't stop chatting,
whereas I was quiet and well behaved, as ever... And
such good company, well, expect for Mohamed of course, a
bit of a pain, but hey, he had to come along, after all,
his mum insisted.
ONLY JOKING BAGGY....