There’s a strange dichotomy that defines sports and fitness in Egypt. On one hand, we love the spectacle; we love to idolise footballers, athletes and, for a fleeting period last summer, Olympians. Egyptians are a competitive, success-hungry people, but mention exercise, and most will call to the heavens and ask forgiveness from a higher power.
Yes, the majority of us avoid exercise like the plague. But take a step back and you’ll find that what it really comes down to is accessibility and education. In the realm of arts and culture, there’s a theory that diminishes any kind of hierarchal structure of appreciation; it states that if more people were given more access to more art via educative means, the world would be a happier place. The theory isn’t as convoluted when applied to sports and fitness, but it’s still very much relevant. Can the average Egyptian fork out 4000LE to join a gym? No, of course they can’t. Do those who can afford a club, or ‘nady’, membership use the fitness facilities effectively? No, they’re drinking mango juice at the club’s cafe. Fancy a quick morning jog? Sorry; microbuses, outdoor cafe seating and the robabekya man got their first. There’s always the Ring Road, though.
Even initiatives and groups that utilise Egypt’s streets as their gym rarely expand outside of the gem of the Nile that is Zamalek and its surrounding areas. Word-of-mouth is possibly the best means of promotion in a country like Egypt, but the huge social and cultural divide renders that ineffective.
In the El-Fit Fitness Festival, however, we may have the answer. Recognising that health and fitness has been slowly coming to the forefront of Egypt’s collective consciousness, the organisers of the El-Fit Fitness Festival are riding the waves, but bringing the concept of better-living back to basics.
El-Fit has it figured out. It’s simple, but the festival’s foundation is based on one thing: make the pursuit of keeping fit fun and relevant, by fusing fitness and entertainment using ‘adrenaline packed events’. That’s all fine and good, but the key, as El-Fit’s vision states, is to raise awareness. We know that exercise is good for us because that’s what we were told at school. But engaging people of all ages in the actual, physical how and why of exercise is what will implore Egyptians to take care of themselves. It needn’t be scientific; El-Fit is introducing Egypt to the simpler side of fitness.
But what is a fitness festival, you say? We’re not a hundred percent sure. What we are sure of is that this particular fitness festival has a host of treats in store. This isn’t for the faint of heart, though; the El-Fit Fitness Festival is all about hard work and will.
Visitors can test their fortitude and resolve with the Experience Area; a mini obstacle course that very much requires you to bring your ‘A’ game – expect to run, jump, duck, weave and crawl for your life. The F&B Zone will help you replenish and recharge, but don’t expect cupcakes; just pure nourishment and energy-inducing, adrenaline-pumping treats.
There’s one aspect of health and fitness that has yet to wholeheartedly win Egypt over. Yoga, Pilates and Zumba, for example, are yet to conquer the hearts and minds of all Egyptians and are still to some extent outcast in the same way they were by the west. This is another facet of what makes El-Fit a landmark event. It’s not exclusively about gym rats; the festival recognises the benefits of alternative exercise, upholding it as the epitome of their concept. Fans of Zumba in particular can enjoy Egypt’s first Zumba marathon, with Zumba Fitness’ top instructors leading the charge. Other health-conscious fitness communities in attendance include the ever-growing Cairo Runners, who will begin the day with a brisk morning run through Smart Village, where the GBI Egypt Team (Global Biking Initiative) will also get the adrenaline pumping – but not before biking their way to the festival from Lebanon Square in Mohandiseen. Like Zumba Fitness, GBI is a perfect vessel through which El-Fit can demonstrate its philosophy. The initiative promotes cycling as more than just a token exercise. Through weekly events and annual marathons, GBI encourages cycling as a lifestyle; an activity that’s as practical and useful as it is beneficial.
But the pièce de résistance of the El-Fit Fitness Festival is the El-Fit Challenge. Although the details of the showpiece remain a mystery, grand prizes for the individual (male and female) and team sections of the competition stand at 4000LE and 5000LE respectively - so you know it’ll be no walk in the park.
With an additional kid’s area where your little tots can enjoy the spirit, the Fun Cannon firing off prizes and stand-up comedian Ramez Youssef MC-ing the festivities, the El-Fit Fitness Festival really does have something for everyone. Just remember to use deodorant.
The El-Fitness Festival will take place on Saturday February 23rd at Smart Club, Smart Village. For more information on tickets, click here.