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Egypt gears up to celebrate International Yoga Day

PTI | Cairo |

Egypt is gearing up to celebrate the third International Day of Yoga with several events lined up across the country to mark the day.

In addition to Cairo, the celebrations this year will expand to Alexandria and Ismailia, India's Ambassador to Cairo Sanjay Bhattacharyya said.

The Indian embassy in collaboration of Egyptian government has organised several events to celebrate the UN International Day of Yoga on June 21.

"The preparations of Yoga Day are really a preparation for spreading the message of yoga which is essentially about peace and harmony and how it promotes the universal sense of camaraderie of friendship and in order to do that we have worked through the year," the Ambassador said.

Bhattacharyya also added this time is very special as there is a strong connection between the spirit of yoga and the spirit of Ramadan.

"We're also planing to organise a couple of flash mobs; one at the Pyramids, one at Qasr el-Nil (downtown) and one at Tahrir Square. What we are also trying to do is to bring children from an orphanage to join us on the Day of Yoga," Ambassador Bhattacharyya added.

Squash player Nour el-Sherbini, whose rank is the second worldwide, will be the chief guest during Alexandria's celebration of the Yoga Day.

"I think this will be a very big message from within Egypt when somebody like Nour comes and practice yoga on the day of yoga," the Ambassador explained.

The celebration of the International Day of Yoga in Cairo will be in the Baron Empain Palace, aka El Palais Hindou, which is a distinctive historic Indian-inspired mansion in Heliopolis, a suburb northeast of central Cairo.

"We chose the Baron Palace this year because it is the only structure in Egypt which has a distinctively Indian architecture style so it will be a good venue for hosting the Day," the Ambassador explained.

Bhattacharyya also mentioned that there are around 50 schools now in Egypt who are teaching yoga.

"There is much greater practice of yoga in Egypt in terms of schools and in terms of people doing the right kind of yoga," he added.

"We are very grateful to the people of Egypt for having accepted and embraced as something that the wish to adopt as a life style," he said.

As part of the embassy's preparations for the Yoga Day, the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC) has organised a round table entitled "Global yoga for peaceful living".

The round table, held on Sunday, focused on different aspects of Yoga and how it unifies all facets of the individual body, mind and soul- to achieve a balanced life.

Eminent speakers and practitioners shared their thoughts and experiences on different aspects of Yoga and discussed the role and importance of Yoga in modern life.

Hala Barakat, Egyptian yoga teacher who mastered yoga in Kerala in India, said that yoga not only has a positive effect of the physical level but also on sprite all level as it helps people meditate and reach inner peace.

Ahmed Shaaban, health and fitness specialist, said that yoga changed his life.

Shaaban used to play martial art since he was seven years old, and he felt that it may sometimes evoke the feeling of anger, so his trainer, at that time, suggested that he practice yoga to control his feelings.

"After practicing yoga for few years, you'll realise that you are not fighting yourself any more. When we seek peace we reject war and other negative feelings," he explained.

Riju Trivedi, school teach at the British School in Cairo, spoke about her experience with schoolchildren and said that yoga is needed during this time while the whole world is experiencing instability when it should seek peace.

Nawal Mustafa, senior writer at Al-Akhbar newspaper said that she loves the spiritual philosophy which India brings to the world.

"In the world of war, violence and terrorism we need peace of mind, peace inside ourselves. Yoga leads us to know ourselves. It helps us how to control ourselves and minds and this is great," she said.

Following the roundtable, MACIC students of yoga classes demonstrated various Yoga asanas.