Given the current state of the economy, it comes as no surprise that many Egyptians are doing all that they can to revive international interest in their country. What is surprising, though, is that one man has somehow managed to convince himself - and a few others - that he can single-handedly “boost tourism in Egypt” by fighting a full-grown African lion in direct hand-to-paw combat, in front of the Pyramids at Giza.Believe it or not, the interview gets even nuttier.
Inexplicably, al-Sayed al-Essawy, a 25-year-old from Daqahlia, has come to believe that “the world will flock to see the Egyptian man who defeated a lion with his bare hands.”
The fight, or “battle” as Essawy, prefers to call it, was announced two weeks ago, immediately igniting a firestorm of international protests and online petitions from individuals and animal rights organizations alike. The negative reaction surprised Essawy, prompting the self-proclaimed “strongest man in the world” to admit to being “confused and heart-broken.”
Nonetheless, Essawy insists that the fight is still on, even if he has to stage the battle in a secret location.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: When, and more importantly, how did you come up with this idea?
al-Sayed al-Essawy: I discovered my incredible strength at the age of 13, and, almost immediately afterwards, promised myself that, one of these days, I would fight a lion. Since then, I’ve been thinking about the best way to go about it, and, after the revolution, with the economy the way it is, I’ve been given the perfect opportunity to realize my dream.
Al-Masry: What about animal lovers? Are you aware of how many people your lion-fighting plans have angered? People are threatening to boycott Egypt and any Egyptian products because of you.
Essawy: That’s because they don’t understand what I’m going to do. They think I’m going to kill the lion. I’m not going to kill it, nor will I be armed with a sword or dagger - those are all false reports circulated by the media for reasons I don’t understand.
Al-Masry: So, you’re not going to kill the lion?
Essawy: No. Unless it’s a matter of life or death, in which case I will be forced to kill it.
Al-Masry: When is fighting a lion not a matter of life or death?
Essawy: It’s up to the lion. If he chooses to withdraw, or surrender, and lets me tie him up, then I will not kill him and the fight will end. But, like I said, if it comes down to either me or him, I will have to kill him. But I don’t want to kill the lion, nor am I planning on it. I want to make that clear.
Al-Masry: What will you do with its corpse?
Essawy: I will have it stuffed (laughs).
Al-Masry: What message are you trying to send?
Essawy: When I defeat the lion - which I will - I will pull an Israeli flag out of my pocket, and drape it over the lion, and put my foot on it. Israel led me to this, through all their atrocities which, as a child, I grew up watching on television. The message is that even though Israel and America may be as strong as a lion - the strongest creature on the planet - they too can be defeated.
Al-Masry: By you?
Essawy: By the Arab youth, which is about to explode. Soon, they will be ready to take on the mightiest foe.
Al-Masry: But, technically, the lion’s only fighting because you’re forcing it to.
Essawy: Yes. It’s a caged fight, so there will be nowhere for the lion to run. I have challenged the lion, and I will defeat it.
Al-Masry: So, to dismiss this as just some really crazy guy beating up an innocent lion would be, in your opinion...
Essawy: Completely inaccurate and misleading. I’m not a crazy person. There’s a political reason behind what I’m doing.
Al-Masry: If the event is successful, how will you follow it up? More lion fights?
Essawy: I have a whole series of shows planned in my head. I will pull an airplane with my teeth, and I will pull an airplane with my hair. I will also be run over by an airplane. In between each of these acts, there will be lion battles.
Al-Masry: Have you fought any other beasts before? Will this be your first lion fight?
Essawy: This will be my first battle with a lion, yes. I have fought other animals, mainly dogs. On separate occasions, I have fought three of the most ferocious dog breeds.
Al-Masry: How are you training for this specific event?
Essawy: By doing a series of mental exercises. Nothing physical, just brain-training. I visualize the fight for two hours at a time. I visualize the lion, and all the possible ways it could attack. Will it go for the head, or will it grab me by the feet? I ask myself these questions and visualize how I will dodge these attacks.
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