Kayaks and Rowboats Take Over the Nile for Cairow Marathon

In the early hours of Friday, Oct.21, the scattering of fishing boats checking their nets for the day’s catch and birds dotting in and out of the banks of the Nile through Cairo were interrupted by an unusual sight. A total of 38 participants split between 17 kayaks, 6 rowing boats, and one stand-up paddle board paddled a total length of 21 kilometers from Helwan to Doqqi in the heart of central Cairo. Organized by Cairow, the Cairow Nile Marathon, which is technically a half marathon, is a recent and exciting addition to Egypt’s sporting calendar that has been turning heads and helping promote rowing and kayaking in Egypt.

Via Cairow

Having arrived at the start line in the early hours of the morning, the enthusiasm of the participants was overwhelming as eager rowers and kayakers blew on vuvuzelas, eager to jump in their boats. Once in the water, however, their enthusiasm to get going seemed stronger than ever, as an organizer with a loudspeaker on a speed boat struggled to keep everyone from setting off before the whistle.

The Cairow Nile Marathon is an annual half marathon on the Nile for all types of boats that are organized by Cairow. Ex-professional rower representing Egypt and founder of Cairow Emma Benany told us that the Cairow Nile Marathon is a “personal challenge” for the participants and not a race. As such, there are no awards for first or second place and is instead an event for beginners to professionals alike to enjoy the Nile together and cover the total 21 kilometers as a group.

Via Cairow

Emma Benany elaborated to us how the marathon “gives you the chance to discover the Nile and also a lot about yourself as you do it. It’s also an event that raises awareness and highlights the importance of the Nile and the importance of taking care of it.” Cairow is no stranger to efforts to preserve and clean up the Nile, having been involved in numerous projects in the past to both raise awareness and take practical action in this regard.

In our conversation, Emma Benany also described how “rowing and kayaking in big groups is such a great experience as it’s a group sport, especially for long distances like this because we keep pushing each other to cover the whole distance!” Seeing the participants joyfully paddle up the Nile while some sang and others even played tablas as encouragement, made clear the inclusive environment that Cairow is trying to promote by inviting people of all abilities and backgrounds to enjoy the Nile.

Via Cairow

With support boats ready with water, energy drinks, and protein bars for the participants, the whole event seemed to be an incredibly well-organized event that takes special care to help those who may struggle a little along the way. Carrying on the festive spirit, Cairow even hired a band with trumpets, saxophones, and drums to welcome people at the finishing line in Doqqi.

While the idea of paddling along the Nile through the metropolis of Cairo may not be every person’s cup of tea, Cairow makes a pretty good case for why you should give it a go, and they’ve certainly tempted me. Emma Benany described how those at Cairow enjoy taking to the Nile by boat for a thousand reasons, with some who like the “connection with nature and the calm atmosphere in the morning” and others who like the “challenge of always performing better and taking themselves to a new level.” Regardless of the reason, however, looking at the boaters happily splashing along the Nile for the Cairow Nile Marathon make me think that they may be onto something here.

Via Cairow

If the Cairow Nile Marathon has caught your interest and you want to give something like it a go in the future, there’s still plenty to get involved with. With Cairow now running a branch in Doqqi and Maadi, there are weekly sessions you can sign up for all types of boats and abilities, and even kayaks for rent by the hour if you only want to dip your toes a little, excuse the pun. However, you may have to wait another year for the next edition of the Cairow Nile Marathon, but Cairow founder Emma Benany sounded confident that the event will keep on going annually.”

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