Euro-Med “Sports for All”, Cairo July 2004
This was our first Euro-med experience. This is a wonderful concept, enabling youth from different parts of Europe and the Mediterranean to go abroad and to get to know each other. For many Turkish participants this was the first foreign experience, requiring passports and visas, flight tickets and customs checks. For most of them this was their first trip without their family, requiring them to stand on their own feet, make their own decisions, handle foreign currency, communicate in a different language and adapt to a new environment. We all arrived with expectations of what Egypt would be, many of which did not stand up to the reality of life in a contemporary Arabic capital. Our first Arabic experience was very successful, in a supportive and friendly atmosphere. With the current Euro-Med focus on “young people with fewer opportunities”, the topic was excellent. We all came away challenged and changed by the continuous opportunities for informal education. We have all made new friendships, developed our understanding of human interactions through encounters with people from different countries as well as gaining a deeper understanding of members of our own groups. We began with assumptions which were either proved correct, increasing our confidence in our ability to anticipate situations, or shown to be based on false premises that crumbled, leading us to begin to question other assumptions previously taken for granted. We learnt to see through masks and images that people project on first meetings. We learnt to value fundamental characteristics that are too often overlooked in routine life. We learnt to read body language, in the absence of a common spoken language. In terms of combating negative prejudices, an unexpected issue of ‘attitudes to Islam’ in different Muslim countries was successfully addressed. Furthermore, I particularly enjoyed the contacts made at the Egyptian museum, with the educational department (among whose staff are two visually impaired people) and the work they do with disabled visitors. One project at least is being realised in Turkey as a result of this ‘Sport for All’ project.