Cairo: When he appeared inside an iron cage for his widely hyped lion fight, Al Sayed Al Essawi looked confident of conquering the wild animal with the declared aim of reinvigorating the Egyptian tourism.
While whipping up the interest of the local and foreign media for the fight held at the weekend in the Delta town of Mansura, Al Essawi, 26, raised the anger of animal rights groups, who accused him of cruelty.
“Those who call for showing mercy towards the lion should show similar care for the Palestinians being brutalised by Israel,” the young Egyptian declared from inside the cage as he was armed with an armour, a spear and a sword.
He stomped over an Israeli flag rolled out in the cage before the fight. In publicising the controversial fight, which authorities refused to allow it be held at the Pyramids near Cairo for security reasons, Al Essawi said his aim was to attract foreign tourists to Egypt whose economy has been in the doldrums due to recent turmoil following the ouster of long-standing president Hosni Mubarak.
But apart from correspondents of some foreign media and local friends, there were no foreigners around to watch the fight, which lasted for 17 minutes.
Even those who attended felt disappointed at the scene and described it as a publicity ploy. The lion looked so exhausted that he did nothing other than roaring.
“I can kill the lion now, but I leave him alive out of mercy and to emphasise that Islam is a religion of forgiveness,” Al Essawi told the media as he left the cage.
“My message is that for anyone who thinks he is strong, there are others who are stronger,” said Al Essawi who claims having supernatural powers.