A self-styled Egyptian "gladiator" lived up to his vow of fighting a lion in a much-hyped effort to lift his country out of its post-revolution downturn, but whether his feat had any significant impact remains questionable.
As the Wall Street Journal is reporting, Al-Sayed al-Essawy, a 26-year-old from the northern Delta region of Egypt, stepped into a steel cage with a 660-pound lion in the middle of a wheat field. In addition to carrying a "shield" crafted out of an old satellite dish, Al-Essawy sported a ponytail, a tank top scrawled with a pro-Palestinian slogan and the traditional Palestinian headdress, a kafiya, wrapped around his neck -- perhaps evidence that his feat also had political motivations.
Al-Essawy glared and bared his teeth, but the lion itself looked bored, and spectators said it had been fed an entire donkey and was therefore sleepy. “I can kill the lion now, but I leave him alive out of mercy and to emphasize that Islam is a religion of forgiveness,” Al Essawi, who claims to have supernatural powers, told the media while leaving the cage after the 17-minute fight, according to Gulf News. “My message is that for anyone who thinks he is strong, there are others who are stronger."
Many in attendance said they were disappointed and dismissed the act as a publicity ploy. Al-Essawi previously claimed his aim was to attract foreign visitors to Egypt, where the tourism trade has been in the doldrums following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. Revenue is expected to drop by a staggering 35 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Tourism Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour is said to have blasted the plan as an inhumane act against animals.
Watch footage of Essawi's lion "fight" here, courtesy of CBS: