Thank goodness, in these fraught and complicated times, for interviews such as this one, with an Egyptian strongman who plans on reviving the tourism industry (and sending a message to Israel) by engaging in bare-handed combat with a lion. The young man's fantastical confidence, and interviewer Ali Abdel Mohsen's polite persistence, takes this interview almost immediately into wonderful, surreal territory:
Essawy: That’s because they don’t understand what I’m going to do. They think I’m going to kill the lion. I’m not going to kill it, nor will I be armed with a sword or dagger - those are all false reports circulated by the media for reasons I don’t understand.
Al-Masry: So, you’re not going to kill the lion?
Essawy: No. Unless it’s a matter of life or death, in which case I will be forced to kill it.
Al-Masry: When is fighting a lion not a matter of life or death?
Essawy: It’s up to the lion. If he chooses to withdraw, or surrender, and lets me tie him up, then I will not kill him and the fight will end. But, like I said, if it comes down to either me or him, I will have to kill him. But I don’t want to kill the lion, nor am I planning on it. I want to make that clear.
Essawy: When I defeat the lion - which I will - I will pull an Israeli flag out of my pocket, and drape it over the lion, and put my foot on it. Israel led me to this, through all their atrocities which, as a child, I grew up watching on television. The message is that even though Israel and America may be as strong as a lion - the strongest creature on the planet - they too can be defeated.
Al-Masry: By you?
Essawy: By the Arab youth, which is about to explode. Soon, they will be ready to take on the mightiest foe.
Al-Masry: But, technically, the lion’s only fighting because you’re forcing it to.
Essawy: Yes. It’s a caged fight, so there will be nowhere for the lion to run. I have challenged the lion, and I will defeat it.
Al-Masry: So, to dismiss this as just some really crazy guy beating up an innocent lion would be, in your opinion...
Essawy: Completely inaccurate and misleading. I’m not a crazy person. There’s a political reason behind what I’m doing.
Essawy: I have a whole series of shows planned in my head. I will pull an airplane with my teeth, and I will pull an airplane with my hair. I will also be run over by an airplane. In between each of these acts, there will be lion battles.
Al-Masry: Have you fought any other beasts before? Will this be your first lion fight?
Essawy: This will be my first battle with a lion, yes. I have fought other animals, mainly dogs. On separate occasions, I have fought three of the most ferocious dog breeds.
Al-Masry: You punch dogs?
Essawy: I punch and kick them.
Al-Masry: How are you training for this specific event?
Essawy: By doing a series of mental exercises. Nothing physical, just brain-training. I visualize the fight for two hours at a time. I visualize the lion, and all the possible ways it could attack. Will it go for the head, or will it grab me by the feet? I ask myself these questions and visualize how I will dodge these attacks.
Just read the whole thing (and obviously here at Arabist we are not in favor of fighting dogs, or lions).