Sunday,17 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1334, (2 - 8 March 2017)
Sunday,17 February, 2019
Issue 1334, (2 - 8 March 2017)

Ahram Weekly

The curse of Messi?

The visit of international football star Lionel Messi to Egypt earlier this month did not go quite as planned

The curse   of Messi?
The curse of Messi?

The curse of Barcelona football star Lionel Messi has come to rest on me. I have never believed in the curse of the pharaohs, but what happened to me could be explained as a curse nonetheless.

I received a call from Mohamed Talaat, a member of the company Braim Farma which was responsible for the Tour n’ Cure Campaign that brought Messi to Egypt recently. Talaat asked me to meet Messi in front of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza on his arrival in Cairo. I was very happy to do so.

The night before Messi’s arrival it was Valentine’s Day, and I was invited by my friend Salah Diab for a dinner at the steak house of the Marriot Hotel in Cairo along with other friends such as the Egyptian artist Yosra and well-known singer Jose Antonio who is also the current Dominican Republic ambassador to UNESCO. He is also a former Dominican minister of culture.

It was a cold and rainy night. Upon my arrival at the Marriot, I walked quickly from the Giza tower to the main building where the dinner was to be held. The ground was wet from the rain, and unfortunately I slipped and fell. My left leg was caught beneath my body.

People helped me to stand up and resume my walk to the restaurant. I was in some pain, but I was able to stay for dinner and I had a good time. But when I started to leave for home, I was not able to stand up and walk to my car as the pain was getting stronger and stronger. Yosra helped me to get to my car.

The next day I had an X-ray taken and found that my knee had been broken. The well-known orthopaedist Hazem Abdel-Azim was astonished that I had been able to walk to the hospital and he ordered immediate surgery to fix the knee. I had the operation, and my leg is now in a cast.

Messi postponed his arrival in Cairo for a week because his team had lost a match to the rival team of Saint-Germain. On the day of his arrival, Talaat called me to come to meet him, and I told him I was now walking with the aid of a walker. He told me to come anyway, as this showed that nothing would stop us showing our hospitality to the Argentinean football player.

When I left home that morning I was planning to give a lecture to an American group at the Pyramid builders’ cemetery on the Giza Plateau, one of my great discoveries that showed that the Pyramid builders had been free-born Egyptians and not slaves. Had they been slaves, they would not have been buried in the shadow of the Pyramids neighbouring the royal tombs.

I used a wheelchair to arrive on site as it was too hard for me to use the walker. I delivered my lecture and then went to meet Messi. During my walk from the workmen tombs to the Great Pyramid of Khufu, many thoughts came into my mind. I remembered that I had met many royal personages as well as film stars in front of the Sphinx, but Messi could be the most famous one of all because people all over the world knew him, even nine-year-old children. I thought that Americans could be the only people that did not know Messi because they were fans of American football and baseball and not soccer.

I told myself that if Messi stood in front of the Sphinx and the media took photographs of him these would be seen in every home in the world and would help to bring back tourism to Egypt.

At the foot of the Pyramids the security measures were very tight, and there were security men everywhere. I had never seen such security before, even when former US president Barack Obama visited the Giza Plateau.

One of Messi’s bodyguards asked for my ID, and Giza Plateau Director Ashraf Mohi informed him of who I was. The guard googled my name in order to be sure of my identity. When he had verified it, he smiled at me. Waiting for Messi’s arrival before the Great Pyramid, I met several police officers, but one of them was angry because they had had to close the plateau to tourists. This was wrong, he said.

At 4:50pm Messi arrived accompanied by what seemed to be hundreds of bodyguards. The visit was not only to promote tourism to Egypt, but was also part of a campaign to treat people suffering from Hepatitis C. The campaign was sponsored by Messi’s foundation and the Egyptian ministries of health and tourism, which had announced that one million people would be treated for this disease. It was part of a campaign to attract people from all over the world to come to Egypt for treatment because the healthy environment of the country helps cure disease, and Egypt has several natural springs that can also help in therapy.

I had decided to meet Messi in order to help my country. I met him, and his tour guide, who spoke Spanish, introduced me as the famous “Egyptian Indiana Jones”. I began to talk to Messi about the mystery of the Pyramids. I decided not to tell him the regular information, but instead told him about the three secret doors with copper handles that had been found when probing with a robot inside the Great Pyramid. The first time this was done a German robot called “Wepwawat”, the name of an ancient Egyptian god, was sent in.

Later, the US National Geographic magazine designed a robot called a “Pyramid rover”. Today, an English team intends to send in a robot called “Djedi”, the name of a magician who met the Pharaoh Khufu to tell him the secret of the god of wisdom Thoth.

I showed Messi the tent in front of the Great Pyramid and the new equipment being installed to reveal the secrets of the Pyramids. Japanese and French teams working in cooperation with the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University have stated that there are two hollow spaces inside the pyramid, one behind the main entrance and one in the north-east corner. As the director of the scientific team that oversees this work, I think that these hollows are not secret rooms but have something to do with the construction of the pyramid.

I also told Messi about the life and death of the boy king Tutankhamun. But I could not see any reaction to what I was saying on his face as the guide translated what I said.

I think Messi had been happy to be received like a king in front of the Pyramids when he had come to visit the Great Pyramid previously in 2007. On this occasion he had come with his team, and there had been nothing like the same security.

This time round, I spent 20 to 30 minutes with him and then said good-bye. The guide then took him inside the Great Pyramid. I could not attend the party that was held for him, but I followed what was written in the media about his visit, with the best article being that published by writer Salah Montasser.

Messi’s visit may have been like a curse for me, but it was very good for Egypt.

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