Egyptian man battles lion to promote tourism

3:08 PM, Jun 26, 2011   |    comments
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In front of TV crews, journalists and a crowd of onlookers, an Egyptian showman entered a cage to confront a lion on Saturday, in a contest that had been billed as a spectacle to help revive Egypt's struggling tourist industry.

Sayed al-Essawy has for more than a decade believed himself to hold what he calls, supernatural abilities that make him the strongest man alive.

He planned the event as a contribution to help the countries tourism business, floundering after the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

He promised a one-to-one barehanded battle with the lion, but his initial attempts to put on the show ran foul of protests from animal rights groups and the refusal of the authorities to let him stage the event against the backdrop of the Great Pyramids.

The Egyptian tourism minister called the plan an inhumane act against animals.

In the event, dozens of people gathered Mansoura, Egypt on Saturday to watch al-Essawy enter a cage, armed with what appeared to be makeshift spear and shield, to taunt the lion verbally and by placing an Israeli flag on its back.

After a few moments, where both lion and showman grunted at one another, the beast, which appeared to have a small wound over its right eye, sat down as al-Essawy yelled, "Sleep!"

Among the audience, at least one man appeared to be impressed with what he saw.

"He really does have supernatural abilities; he can pull trucks by inserting metal into his shoulder and pulling. With the will of Allah, may he expand his abilities," Ahmed el-Sayed said.

Al-Essawy afterwards faced down an accusation that he had sedated the lion and trained him for the event.

"I bought this lion illegally and I am the one responsible for him. And with God as my witness, this is only the second time I see this lion, and no trainer could dare go in (the cage) holding a weapon in his hand," he said.

Tourism in Egypt plunged 34 percent in the first quarter of 2011, central bank figure show. In 2009 about 12.5 million tourists visited Egypt, bringing revenue of $10.8 billion. The tourism sector is one of the top sources of foreign revenue, accounting for more than 11 percent of GDP, and offers jobs in a country beset by high unemployment.

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