Golfing at the Egyptian Pyramids. What would Pharaoh think?

mena house golf course giza pyramidsA new golf course is being built in the shadow of the Egyptian pyramids, the plans for its fairways and greens were recently unveiled by Thomson Perrett & Lobb, an architectural firm specializing in course design.It’s not the first links in Cairo, nor the first course near the Cheops, but Insha’allah that Egyptian environmentalists will make it the last!

The game of golf isn’t quite as old as the pyramids, but golfing near the Great Pyramid of Giza has deep roots (unlike new gardens to be planted in the area).

A favorite pastime in the British Isles where climate ensures steady growth of thick grasses, the sport migrated to the Middle East where it was played largely on sand flats and putting surfaces called “browns”. (Read about Jordan’s only golf course – also naturally landscaped with chipping “browns” – link here.)

Egypt GolfNote the sportswoman above, teeing off back in 1938 on sand and desert scrub. They had it right back then, adopting the game to the place they played it. Today, there are at least seven places to play golf in Cairo, the most picturesque being the Mena House club which sits about 700 meters from the pyramid’s base (see lead image and again, below – the green fields at the top of the photo shows the Mena House course).

Not one concedes to its address, each more artificially verdant than the next.

aerial Egyptian pyramidsThe picture above pretty much tells the story.  This area is desert, inhospitable to golf-course greenery.  Everything planted requires copious amounts of irrigation, and growth chemical, weed-killer and pesticides. This is a water-starved nation in continual battle with African nations over water rights – how inappropriate is it to squander limited resources to maintain climate-incompatible recreation?

In fairness, golf is just one part of the 1,500 acre New Giza development which will also include hotels, a hospital, a university, sports club, and mixed-use areas with restaurants, shopping and offices. Almost 6,000 residential villas and apartments will be built in 10 new “neighborhoods”, each surrounded by parks and lakes. The amount of water used to support those functions will dwarf the amount the golf course will drink.

“With so many golf developments having been put on hold over the past year, it is a credit to the developers and everyone involved with New Giza that the project is moving forward,” said principal Tim Lobb. The project had kicked off in 2010, but financial restraints and political unrest sent it into hibernation.

“The site for the golf course is part of one of the most dramatic landscapes we have worked on, with incredible hilltop views to the pyramids and 50-meter-high cliffs, which have been incorporated into the golf course design.”

If only there was a push for innovation in coursedesign; adapt the sport to local micro-climate and terrain.  Create a truly unique touristic destination that screamed “Cairo” and not “St. Andrews” or “Pebble Beach”.  But no need to get my panties in a twist.  If NASA has it right, the new vacation recreation for the whole of the Nile Delta may soon be scuba.

Image of Mena House course from 1 Golf

About Laurie Balbo

At university, she was annoyed that her architecture degree was called a Bachelor of Environmental Design. As a working architect, she was annoyed that projects weren’t designed with more environmental consideration.She’s a usually-annoyed architect and sustainability specialist who hopes that venting her frustrations will make a positive environmental difference. Her husband just hopes it makes her less annoyed. Born in the United States, Laurie has managed design and managed construction of ports and airports in New York, Dublin and now Amman. She blogs on knitting and other arcane topics at www.fibermeister.comLaurie can be reached at [email protected]

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