Egyptian Police Officer in white

Today was another eventful one, although relatively quiet. I didn’t have a schedule outside the routine today.

Finally, I get to sleep for 8 hours at a stretch last night. It is the longest I have ever done since I arrived here. My regular routine is Wake Up, clean up, TENS, Gym and Rehab, Return to freshen, breakfast, go out to see the city and volunteer, return to eat and rest, gym and rehab again, write this diary, sleep.

Just that sequence every day. It would have been very boring here if I didn’t have the opportunity to do all these things concurrently. There are few locals that one can meet and play with. The average Egyptian speaks Arabic, the Egyptian dialects(s) and very little English. So you can imagine how I would have been bored to death if things were different.

I would continually remain grateful to my benefactors who made this happen, who I have not mentioned just yet, but whom I would write my appreciation for in the final days of this 4-week diary.

Why can’t the Nigerian Police wear white?

That written, can anyone imagine men of the Nigerian Police Force wearing white uniforms? You know our NPF wore full black uniforms in the past, such that they were described as the men in Black. That was until an advancement not too long ago, less than 20 years certainly, when a particular Inspector General, IG introduced the purple shirts for a certain echelon of staff.

Anyway, while you think about that, a section the Egyptian Police Force indeed wears white uniforms, as in snow white uniforms, yes. It amazes me how they do that – but that is what they do. And yes, they look pretty clean in them – like blazing white, yes! I see a lot of them around.

Egyptian Police checkpoint versus Nigerian

I miss a lot of stories in this diary. I would provide them as I recall. I was in town with some of my new friends here, some of whom I have mentioned in the past when we were stopped by the police at the entrance of an establishment – not on the main road like Nigerian stop and checks. I haven’t seen that here. Anyway, as the driver spoke Arabic to the Policeman, I simply sat quietly. I am restricted in communication here as I can speak only one international language.

Educated Egyptians can speak two: English and Arabic. Back to the issue, as I didn’t understand what was being said, I watched on. Then my friend from Tunisia, who sat in front, began to mention something that seemed like who we were and where we were from. I heard him mention “something something-something (in Arabic) Chad,” “something Tunisia” and then I heard “la Ni-je-ria”. Once he mentioned Nigeria, the Policeman stepped back and waved us in, opening the gate in the process. I have long known that being Nigerian opens doors in some places abroad (and closes many others though) but this was a fantastic opportunity to relive when it does positive!

Say my name

All the plenty Arabic they had been speaking didn’t do anything until “La Ni-je-ria”! Whoops!

Said from Chad now calls me “Baba, the popular man from Nigeria!” As in Kano, few people can pronounce my name, so I am called several things; Dr Tee, Mr Dr Tee (that’s very funny, when Claire mixes Mr with Dr together before the Tee), Baba, Nigeria (yes, I am sometimes addressed by the name of the country of all 200 million of us!). Rani, who is a Canadian-Egyptian, however, calls me John, my third name. Rabi says something like “Baba-Turned”. It is so funny!

Meanwhile, I may have discovered why I don’t sleep for long here. This place is one hour ahead of Nigeria. People go to bed very late. I was once in the Mall by 11:45 pm to get supplies and it was like the stadium people had all come to the mall. It was bubbling like Oshodi in Lagos as late as almost 12 midnight! I also get to go to bed late. My brain then wakes up at Egyptian 4:30 am, which is Nigerian 3:30 am!!!! I believe I would adjust with the passage of time.

Did I write that the people here often look like mannequins that walk, talk and breathe? I mean no disrespect, but the average Nigerian who initially comes here or anywhere with Caucasian population would have that feeling, at least for a brief instant. It is so interesting. You feel like playing with them the way we played with dolls that had their complexions when we were children back home. All our dolls when I was a child were Caucasian-skinned anyway, so you understand what I mean. We loved our dolls. As adults, we really don’t love the mannequins – but those dolls were our hearts and minds back then. Male children quickly moved on from dolls as early as age 3 or so, but I know girls who had dolls till age 18!

The exterior of one of several media centres in the stadium

The major difference here is that these people are real human beings and not dolls or mannequins! What’s more they are essentially conservative people, especially the ladies – but also the guys. Unlike Nigerians who would ‘hayaj’ everyone, whether Oyibo or a newcomer or anyone at all by “How far” and any discussion flows, it is fairly different here. Although tourism is a big industry here and many people are bilingual, many Egyptians would naturally do their things without relating to people they do not know, especially with such skin colours as mine. Make no mistake, there are a few almost-black Egyptians. Rabi is, for example. His hair, however, is a major difference. It is curly. That’s aside from other phenotypic differences between us black Nigerians and the almost-black Egyptian. Oh, a Fulani light skinned lady from Kano or Katsina or Adamawa would easily blend here with the skin colour of the natives by the way.

Someone is thinking “Is this Dr Tee’s first trip abroad?” No, however, I am writing a diary for the Nigerian audience – and writing as though I have never stepped out of Lagos.

Okay, that’s 969 words. I’ve got to stop writing now. Not to worry, there would be plenty of gist for a long time. I would write daily for a while. I may not stop even after I arrive in Nigeria. I would write about Football primarily but sometimes delve into Medicine, Sports, Leadership and Governance and whatever tickles my fantasy.

Please feel free to send me feedback either by dropping a comment below or by tweeting to me @BibiireD. I thank @BlinksAsuzu for the feedback on Twitter. He asked that I continued writing long. I’ll consider it. However, what I can promise is that I would try to write daily.

The Cairo International Stadium is beautiful

This picture doesn’t do justice to this 75k capacity. It isn’t like what it is in real life

Tomorrow, aside from my regular routine, I would assist with Doping Control measures at the Cairo International Stadium for two matches. I went sight-seeing it yesterday afternoon for the second time. It is the biggest stadium I have ever seen in my life! It is a massive complex that appears like one is walking into a big hole! It is essentially like some underground. I have been to the biggest stadia in Nigeria: Abuja, Teslim, Uyo, Kaduna – nothing is like the Cairo International Stadium, nothing. I have also been to a few stadia outside Nigeria too. It is like six stadia in one place.

It is a huge mega-structure. The capacity of the main football pitch is about 75, 000. Conversely, the newly renamed MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja seats just 60,000. As at the time it was built, it was touted as the most beautiful Sports Complex in Sub Saharan Africa. Although South Africa and Egypt aren’t essentially in that belt, I want to query that claim, with what I have seen in other countries of the world – even Senegal! The National Stadium, Lagos was built to seat 55,000 which was reduced to 45,000 in 1999. Needless to say that both Lagos, as well as the MKO Abuja National Stadia, are essentially National embarrassments with the state of dilapidation and poor maintenance in both structures today. The less written of Liberty Stadium, now Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan, the better.

It isn’t to say that there are no issues with even the stadia here in Egypt, no. You can almost smell the fresh paint in some places, and can see construction going on in areas of the complex – not the football pitch or the main bowl area though – but the organization and presentation in this place is far ahead of what regularly obtains around Sports structures and its management in Nigeria, indubitably. It is my sincere hope that the government of Nigeria would prioritise Sports and see it as a means of engaging many people productively and also to gain foreign exchange. The Sports Industry can be bigger, in the multiplier effects, than whatever we have gained from Oil. After all, Microsoft as a Tech company can virtually buy the entirety of Nigeria while a combination of Apple, Amazon and Microsoft are richer than the economy of almost all of Africa!

Okay people, got to go now. See you all tomorrow!


Warm regards,

Babatunde ‘Dr Tee’ AKINBINU


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