Khawaga's tale: Mena House Golf Club

Peter A. Carrigan
6 Min Read

CAIRO: The Assistant Professional at Mena House Golf Club, Mohamed Fahmy, has that sweet swing and casual debonair air that comes with a life time association with the royal and ancient game. In fact he was picking up balls at the age of six.

Mr Fahmy, known to members and guests of Mena House as Helmy, has been associated with the golf club for 35 years, where he has been watched over by the royal and ancient tomb of the Pharaoh, Khufu, and numerous family members.

With three children at home and a boy aged 10 living with his brother in New Jersey, USA, Fahmy is hoping that his children can get the education he didn’t. Fahmy’s father was a security guard at the hotel and that is where he got his start picking up balls. His brother worked in the kitchen as a pastry chef, another brother was in engineering and his cousin was the executive chef.

The Mena House Hotel is not as clubby as it once was, learning towards more modern methods of recruiting hotel professionals, rather than relying on extended families.

In 2007 this Cairo institution is to undergo a face lift. No, not the Great Pyramid, but the golf course is to be remodelled at the cost of LE 7.5 million. It will close late January 2007 and re-open in October, in time for the 22nd Annual Mena House Oberoi Nations Cup.

Golf course architect, Robert Trent Jones II, will be giving the Mena House golf course, which was laid out in 1889, a make-over, complete with 3 lakes, flood lighting, an automatic irrigation system and a lush covering of Sea Isle Supreme Paspalum grass imported from the USA.

In this way Mena House will be able to better compete with the championship courses which have opened around Cairo in the last 10 years and capitalise on Egypt’s push to garner a larger slice of the Middle East golfing market.

The Mena House course, which is ranked in the top 10 of golf courses with the best views in the world, will be extended to Par 70, from its current 68 strokes. The two par 5s will stay the same and two extra par 4s will be added.

Presently Egypt attracts 20,000 golfers a year. Whereas Turkey racks up twice that figure and Dubai cashes in on 70,000 players that hand over $120 per round of golf.

Raouf Gamal, Manager of Golf and Sports Activities at Mena House said, “There are 30 million golfers in the US and Europe and 43 per cent travel regularly. A golf tourist spends on average $750 per week, compared to a non-golfer who spends in the region of $300 per week .

With such heady figures ringing within the industry, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism is hosting a delegation to Europe’s largest travel & trade show, ITB (International Tourism Berlin), to spotlight Egypt as a golfing destination.

Gamal, whose name appears on the hole-in-one board in the club house said, “Closing for a year is of a concern, especially regarding our caddies. I am presently working on a project to secure jobs for them with the construction company .

Fahmy himself, as the Assistant Professional, works on a freelance basis, teaching maybe 30 lessons a month. At LE 160 per lesson, it is a long way from the big winners checks of the PGA or a Dubai golf tourist for that matter.

None the less, Fahmy’s instruction is thorough, helping me to strike the ball better than I have ever done before.

In the Club House, I was not to sure if the Christmas decorations were going up or the bunting from the CSA Tournament the day before was coming down. The Community Services Association 3rd annual tournament attracted 104 players and the gala dinner afterwards 350 guests.

And this friendly, family atmosphere will not change, Gamal assured me. “We will still have the high trees and small greens that make Mena House a difficult course to play. The cozy atmosphere of the club will be maintained and of course the view of the Pyramids will not change!

Like the assistant golf-pro known to everyone as Helmy and the Great Pyramid know to most by its Greek name Cheops, Mena House is a comfortable Cairo institution. So much so that I swear one lunch time guest on Saturday was wearing green stripped pyjamas, matching bottoms and tops.

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