There are new ripples on the placid surface of the Nile. Every December for the past three years, the Egyptian Rowing Federation has sponsored an International Rowing Festival in Cairo in which crewmen from local clubs and universities have been pitted against teams wearing the colors of such rowing citadels as Oxford, Cambridge, Yale and Harvard.
The Nile, broad and slow-moving at this stretch, is ideal for shell racing, but with a heavy schedule of other crowd-pleasing events geared to Egypt's current tourist drive, the river can get crowded and choppy. With up to 25,000 spectators lining the banks near the Maadi Yacht Club, fleets of silver sailboats pirouette like dancers between the graceful lateen-rigged feluccas while motor boats churn past the reviewing stands towing teams of bronzed water skiers. Some of the skiers carry flags, others do acrobatics and one at the last festival, "Batman" Salah Fayed, soared 125 feet into the air dangling from a giant kite.
When the noise and waves quiet down, the burly, broad-shouldered crews lower their fragile shells into the river and, oars dripping in the sunlight, race across the placid surface like darting water bugs.
The 1970 rowing event was won by the eight muscled crewmen of Cairo's police team, with Oxford close behind, but in the 1971 meet, the police slipped to third behind first-place Harvard and runner-up Oxford.