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 •  Banque Misr Sky Open Squash 2013 • 17-24 Nov  • Cairo •  

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Do you know Takashi? Well, you do. That’s the nickname of Mohamed Ali Anwar Reda. Apparently, his Egyptian mates have decided that he doesn’t look Egyptian but Japanese, and gave him that nickname for years!

Funnily enough, when Aqeel stepped in the hotel with Takashi, he was very surprised as everybody was greeting him. “Oh, so people recognise players here” he asked, “that good”. Takashi laughed! “No, absolutely not! It’s just that I got married in June and I did it here, in this hotel!”

So Takashi is telling me the story, and goes on and starts asking me a lot of questions about my suite.

“So I hear you have a suite, which side are you on, the left of the hotel, or the right”. “The left”. “And when you are in the corridor, is it the right or the left?”.

By that time, I am starting to wonder where the heck he is going with that line of questioning!

“Fram, you are staying in the suite I had for my honeymoon”…

Oh thanks Takashi, that’s an image I’m not about to get out of my head!


And that’s it. Another tournament that closes its doors. Today, the day after the final, I am taking it easy in my hotel room.

Yes, normally, I rush back home or to London, or to Paris. But this time, I was invited to stay for a few extra days in Cairo at the end of the tournament by a friend, who unfortunately, had a family emergency at the last minute and couldn’t receive me. I was about to change my flight to go back home early when Mr Hanafi – Tournament Director – stepped in and allowed me to stay here for two extra days. I am every so grateful!

Talking of Ashraf Anafi, he has a bit of a nice CV you know… He’s been coaching most of the top players and you have now on the walls of Sky Club their acknowledgment to his contribution to their career.

He was Junior National Head Coach in ’98 in the US with a team composed of people you may had heard about, Wael el Hindi, Mohamed Abbas and Karim Darwish! A few years later, in ‘2004 in Pakistan, he had another “little” team with Ramy Ashour, Omar Mosaad and Mohamed Ali Anwar Reda. In 2008, he went to Pakistan for the boys, Mohamed Elshorbagy and Andrew Wagih while coaching Nour El Tayeb who beat seed one at the time, Dipika Pallikal, and finished right behind Nour El Sherbini…

And funnily enough, he was instrumental in getting Ramy into his first PSA tournament as a wild card in Greece, where he lost in the final against… big brother Hisham!

Now in Cairo, Ashraf is extremely active. In 2008 he was head coach in Cairo Stadium, he started in Sky in 2010 and is also very involved in Heliopolis (Ramy’s).

“I would like to start my camps in Europe and the US from 2014 and try and show what makes Egyptian players different from the rest of the world. We have little secrets, little know how that make us just not like the others…” he says with a little smile…

His academy is extremely organised, structured, and evaluations every 3 months (like the three refs system, each giving their notes on the players) help the coaches to keep up with each and every players. Ten coaches plus two fitness trainers, 135 kids, 6 levels, for individual training and team training three time a week.

Organised. Structured. Planned. Nothing is improvised when it comes to teach “Egyptian Magic”….


After the hiccups – numerous – I witnessed on the last big events I’ve covered, it was such a RELIEF to have EXCELLENT refereeing (all former players)!

OK, their English is not perfect. And they are not using the right words sometimes for marking.

But you know what? When I get a gift, I don’t really mind the box around it. I want the gift. And that’s what they were. A superb surprising gift of excellent refereeing.

Thanks guys for your professionalism, knowledge of the game, fairness and honesty.

And thanks to EVERYBODY here who made my stay a joy...

Oh, I'm fine, I'm blond, I'm a woman, I'm a Christian, and I'm safe in Cairo.... 

The cleaner I have for my room has been adorable and made a swan to me today... In Love with Egypt...


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It was so nice to see Engy with her baby Omar. They both look absolutely radiant, and Karim just seems to glow where he is next to them.

Could that be love you think…


First day when I have a bit more time, as in, I’ll only be going to the venue around 5. Luxury.

Yesterday again was an intense day. On top of our 8 matches, I met at lunch time with my friend, Doctor Samiha, the Mother of Egyptian Squash.

She’s been poorly for the past 18 months and I’m glad to say she is on the way to recovery Hamdollah. It was great to see her, catch up with her. That’s the miracle of squash, when thanks to your travels around the world to follow the Tour, you come to meet people you wouldn’t have met any other way. And they enrich your life…

What is really nice is that I am working again with people I worked here last time! First Mr Hassan Khair, based at the hotel, and who help us with the day to day here. He is the man in charge of Public Relation for Petrosport.

He was already very helpful the two years I covered the Sky Open. Very discrete and always helpful, he and his team is in charge of the flight ticketing, of course, organising all the transports from the airport, our pick-up, all the players/officials logistic.

Of course, if a player wants to go and visit the Pyramids, or just go to the market, they will arrange transportation and details to make sure they are send in perfect conditions. Also, they arrange and made sure that our hotel rooms are booked (they have the Sky Motel near the club, and the Dusit) and smoothen any kind of problem we may have (so far, none for me!). And they will make sure we are taken back to the airport in time too!

The other gem I have to work with is Amgad Khalil, the IT manager for Sky Petrosport. He was assistant to Robert Edwards last time, but this time, he is in charge of everything that’s got to do with IT really, and my personal angel.

I call him to the rescue like you do 911 (or 999, or 18 in France!) From sorting out the power plugs to locating my camera that has been taken by mistake, to sorting out the internet (which has now been working spotless after the first day hiccup), he is the man…..

And now we have moved to the other side (right behind the glass court, superb, absolutely superb facilities), I’m actually working next to him! Poor man, he’s bound to regret it…

Basically, it’s a great set up. They really are making sure I’ve got all the tools to work in perfect conditions. They even gave me a local sim card, which allows me to be easily reachable, and to call if I’m in need of any assistance!

Oh, I'm fine, I'm blond, I'm a woman, I'm a Christian, and I'm safe in Cairo.... 


You may have read my article about Kama Khan who really didn’t impressed me during his match on the first day, to say the least.

He actually came to me and apologised/explained why he was so cranky and really unpleasant.

It took guts to do so, and I appreciate his gesture.

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By Day....


Started with a nice breakfast with some of the players, all from the main draw, Mohamed, Alister, both coming from Qatar, plus Shaun.

I'm glad to say that Nick convinced me and I am actually trying the porridge diet in the morning. To be fair, it's pretty well, not such a great taste, but yes, it fills you up, and yes, you don't feel hungry for a long time. Not sure I'll keep on doing it once at home though! Still, when on a tournament, never knowing when your next meal is coming, it's an excellent solution, thanks Nick.

A bit tired, as  you may imagine, it's now my third tournament in a row, no rest day, so a bit slower than I would like. Arrived at Sky Club around 12, just in time to translate bits of the qualifiers meeting to Christophe André, the only French representative - didn't do very well on this one unfortunately - who doesn't speak much English bless him.

I must say I was quite impressed with the way things had been prepared. Each and every player had his name printed and pinned at a specific place on the show court (court 3). And that allowed us to see who was missing, and who was there.

You won't be surprised to hear that the only ones that were a bit late - "only 20m" smiled Mr Hanafi, the tournament director as they came in - were of course our Egyptians players! Bless them, time has a completely different value here. Just need to adapt to it....

Right after that, I met with Mr Big, Mr Yasser Al-Maghraby, Chairman of the Board & Chief Executive Officer of Petrosport, and his right arm, Mr Medhat Al-Maghraby, who was working with the Minister of Sports for six years, also Vice-President of the African Handball Federation.

With Mr Ashraf Hanafi, tournament technical director, they have managed this "tour de force", this amazing task of organising a major squash tournament in a month. That's thirty days.

That's short.

But then again, when you have a company that deals with six different projects (including a football stadium right next to this club, two in Ain Sukhna, three Sports Club in Cairo, plus numerous hotels projects between 200 and 375 rooms in Cairo, Alexandria and Ain Sukhna, (some finished already and some being build as we speak), nothing is impossible.

And to be honest, those three have really done wonders. We have about 30 people working on this event, and that's without the refs! We have some superb facilities for the press, right next to the glass court, and for now, I've been lent a gigantic office with cable internet - makes a great difference - next to the traditional courts we are using for the qualifying and the start of the main draw.

OK, the Internet went down yesterday, for about 45m right at the start of the session, but thanks to Amhgad team, I got back on there!

Talking about team, this is probably the main word here. I feel that everybody is working as a team. You have the "next to the court team", who deal with the results/score sheets, then the "IT department" in the Sky Building, then another IT Team that works in the Press Rom next to the glasscourt, and handles the official website.

I'm ashamed to say I added to their duties, as they are in charge of sending Steve - who went back home to Whitley Bay - results and photos that photographers are taking.

A crash course in Picasa to the nice man Mr Ahmed Marwan who is working with us - to reduce the photos quickly and allow them to send them fast - and hop, Steve is a happy man, getting results and photos as they happen!

So yes, a great team work for a event that should be the first one of a series of events, probably in Luxor, Sharm El Sheik and Ain Sukhna in the coming year with a common theme of "In Love with Egypt".

Which in my case, couldn't be more appropriate, as I truly fell in love this country, that in so many ways reminds me of my own: proud,  undisciplined, passionate and determined to make their country the way the people want it to be.

Oh, and by the way, yes, I'm fine, I'm blond, I'm a woman, I'm a Christian,  and I'm safe in Cairo... 


Bless him.

The end of the day was a bit long, as we were waiting for a player who had visa trouble, and that delayed the day by a good two hours. When that finished, there was a bit of misunderstanding, and the driver that was supposed to take me back to the hotel thought I had left already!

But suddenly, I heard a voice "Fram, I've got a car, I can drop you off if you want".

Andrew Wagih was calling me. And I said OK. BIG mistake....

The hotel is about 5 minutes - I promise you - 5 minutes from the club.

It took us about 45 minutes and two motorways to eventually get there. Like I told him at some point, "I can see the sea, we are in Alexandria"!!

Andrew, whatever you do at the end of your squash career, don't go into the taxi business. You would starve to death.

But joke apart, thanks for the ride, you were there when I needed ... Thanks for that.

Getting there...


... After



... And the Main

By Night...

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Tournament FB Page



A pretty short turn around for that one.

Last night, after the final, I went and had a great meal with some great friends. They know who they are, and I'm extremely grateful for their hospitality. Magic moment. Thanks....

Then back to the room, past 1am, didn't have the time to do the match report, thanks to Mr Shorbagy's 5 pages and a half of quotes, by the time I finished, it was 2am. Couldn't sleep before 4 something, and up at 8.30. Not in the best of shape....

Last breakfast with Cubs, and off to the Airport where I met with the same Mr Shorbagy Mohamed, along with his mum and dad (Dad going back to Saudi though) - and guess who was carrying the trophey? Mummy... What would you do without her, Mohamed!

Short flight, about 3 hours, with very passengers on board, about 70 I was told, so plenty of space for us! A bit of children activity in the aisles, climbing up and down the seats... Only Egyptair... Didn't prevent me from zzzzzzz away I can tell you that.

Thanks to Mohamed, I quickly get the stamp for the visa ($15 or 205 Egyptian £), and I fill the form. We are lucky, no queue, nothing! With seconds, we are at the luggage which also arrive quickly. Bit of confusion when I pick up my bag, red and blue Tecnifibre, only to be told by Mohamed that it's his. And it was... Mine arrives shortly after, and off we go to see the Cairo Wizard.

The hotel shuttle was quick to arrive for Mohamed and myself, while Basma Shorbagy went to Alexandria - her home - to pick up her car and her other son Marwan who is also in the tournament.

Temperature is lovely, about 23°, slightly cooler than Doha, but as pleasant. Little drive from the airport to the Hotel, stunning I must say. The lounge, well, could host about 10 glass courts!

Mr Ashraf Hanafi - who celebrated his birthday today - has made sure my room is upgraded to a suite. Oh well, if I have to...

I must say it's absolutely stunning. Great lounge, great bedroom, love the bathroom, of course, an immense bathtub AND a large walk-in shower, nearly a room-in shower. And wait for it. Two loos. One for the guests I may have. One for me. And of course, an large terrace that gives onto the swimming pool....

Like James Willstrop says "Fram, there are two sorts of women. You have the low maintenance, and the high maintenance. You are a very very very high maintenance. Well, I cannot argue. I am that indeed....

We start tomorrow, matches at 3, but meeting at 12 with all the qualifyers. Will keep you updated...

Oh, and by the way, yes, I'm fine, I'm blond, I'm a woman, I'm a Christian,  and I'm safe in Cairo...

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