By Mahmoud Fouly
Dozens of colourful parachutes on Monday flew over the Great Pyramids of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, kicking off the 4th annual international skydiving festival named "Jump Like a Pharaoh" in Egypt.
The seven-day event this year gathers over 200 foreign skydivers from around 30 countries, including world champions, and 135 Egyptian skydivers.
The event, organised by Egyptian sports investment company Skydive Egypt in cooperation with the Egyptian Parachuting and Air Sports Federation, is also held under the auspices of the Egyptian Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Mostafa Saeed, the CEO of Skydive Egypt and head of the festival, said that the annual event has never stopped since it started in 2018, even despite the Covid-19 pandemic since the beginning of 2020, noting that it attracts more participants every year.
"This year, after the spread of vaccines and the reopening of airports, we have 215 participants from 29 countries who insisted to join the festival, which has become one of the main festivals on the international skydiving agenda," Saeed told Xinhua in an interview near the pyramids.
The skydivers jumped off a helicopter at an altitude of over 4,500 meters high, and the spectators at the pyramids site could see the parachutes in the sky at an altitude of about 3,000 feet. The skydivers started to deploy the parachutes only a minute before landing.
It took about only about two minutes from jumping of the helicopter to landing on the ground, explained world champion skydiver Omar Al-Hegelan, president of Saudi Arabian Extreme Sports Federation.
French world champion Karine Joly, a skydive coach who holds world titles and records, has so far made some 6,600 jumps in her skydiving life, including 20 jumps over the pyramids.
When asked about her feeling when she saw for the first time the Great Pyramids while skydiving, she replied with a laugh: "I cried!"
"I looked down for the first time and I saw I was right above Khufu (Pyramid). I was like 'Oh my God!' And I started crying," Joly told Xinhua, describing the gathering as the best skydiving event in Egypt.
As for Dutch skydiver Matt Landsman, who is just turning 22, it was his second time to participate in the event. This time, he came with a team of five athletes from the Netherlands, including his own father.
"Well, in an event like this, you have to participate because it's wonderful...And to fly above one of the seven miracles (wonders) of the world is the most beautiful thing you can do," the young man added.
The colourful landing parachutes caught the eyes of the spectators around the pyramids, who included a number of officials and diplomats from participant countries who came to support their athletes.
"I feel happy to be here today to support the Ecuadorian athlete," said Rafael Veintimilla, Ecuador's ambassador to Egypt, stressing that "such a unique event could bring people from different countries closer, especially in this historic place."
The "Jump Like a Pharaoh" event is also supported by concerned bodies of the Egyptian government, including the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
"The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities always sponsors many sports, cultural and artistic events. This is not the first time to sponsor this event and will not be the last," said Ahmed Youssef, assistant minister of tourism and antiquities for tourism marketing and promotion.
Supporting such events is part of the ministry's new marketing strategy to promote tourism in Egypt "in a new, exciting and modern form," the Egyptian official told Xinhua.