El Shams Club Stadium

On the immense scale of Heliopolis in north-west Cairo, El Shams Club is only a stone throne away from Estad El Koleya El Harbeya; or as the birds fly, only a few flapping of the wings.

The doorman at El Shams Club is the impersonation of the Greek mythological creature Cerberus and the emblematic omen of any doorman at any Egyptian ground or stadium whose instructions not to allow anyone in seems default. A standard procedure, perfected almost to fine art by the die-hards among overzealous gatekeepers.

The severe safety regulations are almost discouraging, turning grounds into almost unassailable fortresses. Only members are allowed access and any request to take photographs is met with sheer disbelief and instinctively denied. It feels like asking permission to enter a mosque star naked.

Eventually capturing Egyptian grounds on camera is a result of sheer persistence, determination and bluffing a way past a chain of security people, usually ending up in the stadium manager’s office after endless begging. It’s been close to a fata morgana to manage these pictorial series.

Metaphorically speaking, Egyptian grounds are like pyramids and mosques. If you’ve seen one, you have seen the majority, barring the odd fine exception.

Once inside a stadium one eyes the inevitable and dreaded athletics tracks, a semi-covered main stand running three quarters of the pitch and open stands sweeping round the corners only to meet uncovered seating opposite main stand. The main reason for the oval ground landscape in Egypt is that the vast majority of football clubs are actually omni sports clubs, with football being only one of the activities. The archetypal Estad El Shams in Cairo is no exception by all means.