Egypt is often described as a sportsman's paradise. The sunshine of her winters and the cool north breeze that tempers the heat of her summers make outdoor games and pursuits an everyday, an all-the-year round possibility. With the exception of ice-skating and snow-sports there is hardly a game which is not played in Egypt and practically no outdoor sport that has not its numerous devotees.

The word sport has a modern ring about it but, like most human activities, it is as old as humanity itself. Primitive man no doubt took to hunting as a means of obtaining food but the innate pleasure of the chase soon made huntings a sport as well as a necessity. It is chiefly as hunters that records are available of the sportsmen of Ancient Egypt.Many drawings and pictures exist of "meets" in the desert, each hunter with his bow and arrows and dogs and nets to check the game. Game was plentiful: the Egyptian desert abounded  in ibex, gazelle, bubule, ostrich, porcupine, addax and, but less frequently, the wild ox and the wild sheep. All these animals were  considered fit for food while the lion, the leopard and the jackal were hunted for their skins. In the marshes of the Delta the hippopotamus and the wild boar were slain with harpoons many of which have been found. The first harpoons, used for fishing, were of bone; later ones, probably used for hunting big game, were made of copper. Fish hooks of copper are found from the 1st Dynasty to Roman times and from the 1st Dynasty also date the first throw-sticks or boomerangs. Hunting lances were fixed in a wooden shaft for throwing and held in by a check-cord from flying too far if it missed the animal. Traps for catching wild animals were also used by the Egyptian hunter. They were formed by splints of palmstick radiating round a central hole.

At least one Egyptian monarch was addicted to the pleasures of hunting to the point of neglecting affairs of state. Ptolemy Epiphanes (203-181 B.C.) would disappear on hunting expeditions for weeks at a time and urgent business had to wait until, tired of the chase, Epiphanes returned to his capital. Under this Ptolemy's reign the hunting of the fox became a favourite sport. There is a pleasingly naive inscription in the temple of Abydos : "We, Thoas, Callistratus, Acannon and Apollonius, came and took a fox". Many of the wild animals hunted by the Ancient Egyptians have disappeared from the fauna of Modern Egypt. Birds and fishes are however as plentiful today as then. The netting of quail on the shores of the Mediterranean goes back to the earliest days of antiquity. Then as now, enormous quantities of wild fowl provided sport as well as food to the open-air enthusiast. Fishing, with hand-nets or draw-nets, was much in honour and the annual catch in the Lake of Moeris and its canal formed an important port of the Egyptian revenue.

Hunting and fishing, while they are undoubtedly sports, may also be considered as trades since they are often practised as a means of livelihood. The same cannot be said of such pastimes as golf, hockey, tennis, polo, etc. Games of this sort were played by the  Ancient Egyptian as a means of securing healthy exercise in the open air.

It may be, as many experts contend, that the game of golf is of Dutch origin. Numerous travellers have however been struck by the similarity of a game played by the inhabitants of the Oasis of Siwa -game of which the origin dates back to Roman times if not earlier with  that of what is known today as golf. The clubs, made of a special kind of hardwood, closely resemble the modern golf-club and the  game itself has many points of resemblance with the "Royal and Ancient Game".

After the Arab Conquest the favourite and most spectacular game played in Egypt was one closely akin to modern polo. Horsemanship indeed was a highly prized accomplishment and its traditions survive in Egypt to the present day as anyone will bear witness who has seen a Beduin "fantasia". Mounted on Arab ponies, with primitive "shoe" stirrups and elaborate saddles, the riders fire their guns, throw them and their lances into the air and catch them again, standing or kneeling in the saddle, all at a full gallop.

Sports and athletics are much in honour in present-day Egypt. In Olympic Games of recent years Egyptian teams have scored many remarkable successes, notably in swimming and fencing. In this connection it may be mentioned that the feat of swimming the English  Channel was performed by an Egyptian as long ago as 1923.

Of the many games introduced into Egypt during the nineteenth century, football has become almost the national game. Several Egyptian footballers have achieved international renown and, at the bottom as it were of the scale, practically every village has its team of football enthusiasts

But, apart from organised games and athletics, it is from the point of view of the average player, the average sportsman, that Egypt is such a favoured land. Few other countries can offer so great a choice, so many facilities.

Sporting Clubs with large grounds are numerous. Many of them have grass golf-courses; in others the course is of sand. They all offer the great advantage of being in or near the city so that time is not wasted in going to and from the course.

Cricket is played regularly in Egypt, one of the great events of the sporting year being the visit each winter of a well-known English team.

The tennis championships also are eagerly awaited events. But while there are plenty of opportunities for indulging in  "spectator sports" in Egypt, it is rather as players than as spectators that interest is taken in games. Nearly everyone who belongs to a club plays one or  several games and of these tennis is perhaps the favourite. The possibility of playing during all twelve months of the year makes for  proficiency and skill. The standard is consequently a high one.

Racing goes on for most of the year in Egypt. The Cairo racing season is in winter and the race-meetings are held weekly both at Heliopolis and Gezira. Alexandria has its racing season in the summer.

Which brings us to summer-sports of which the chief is  naturally bathing and swimming. The blue warmth of the Mediterranean is, it is well known, the ideal environment of the enthusiastic  swimmer and, now that communications with Europe are so easy and rapid, more and more visitors from northern countries are  spending their summer holidays at Egyptian coast resorts, whether Alexandria, Port Said or, further afield but with super-bathing and  the most golden of golden sands, Mersa Matruh. Sailing and rowing and fishing are very popular at all these resorts as well as on the  shores of the Red Sea.

Fishing in the sea is, no doubt a pleasant pastime. Fishing in the Nile, particularly in the neighbourhood of Aswan, is perhaps even more exciting; for every now and then a catch is made in those waters that corresponds to a fisherman's dream.

 Just as hunting parties were the pleasure and relaxation of Ancient Egyptians, shooting, especially wildduck shooting, is a favoured sport in Egypt today. Within a short run by car from Cairo or Alexandria the modern Nimrod finds plenty of scope for his skill. Motoring, camping in the desert and riding are other outdoor sports for which Egypt is a congenial and indeed practically perfect field. Egyptians themselves and foreign residents in Egypt are somewhat inclined to take as a matter of course the fact that every game is available and that weather conditions seldom if ever prevent them from playing them. The delighted surprise of the visitor from abroad  serves to remind the Egyptian sportsman of what is indeed the case: that he lives in a sportsman's paradise.

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