Part 1 - Let's Go to Egypt!

The Great Pyramid Trampoline Caper
A short story by Ron Munn

“Say George...Wouldn’t it be great to put a trampoline 
on top of this pyramid?"

And so the story begins….
JUst George and Ron with an outrageous idea!  

Part 1—“Let’s go TO EGYPT”

In the fall of 1976 George Nissen and I traveled to Egypt in hopes of introducing the competitive sport of trampoline to the Egyptian Gymnastics Federation. To become an Olympic event George knew that a sport must be recognized in numerous countries and each must have it included in their Federations. Adding Egypt to the list would only help in the dream of one day seeing trampoline as an Olympic event.  

Prior to our trip George had become friends with an Egyptian who lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He had been the former captain of the University of California Gymnastics team and a member of the 1948 Egyptian Olympic Gymnastics team. His name was Adli Roushdi and through his contacts within the Egyptian Gymnastics Federation we were able to organize the trip and meet with the Federation executives. 

Adli was a realtor in Cedar Rapids but was also working on an enterprising idea which took him to Egypt quite often….ice cream that was made in Iowa from corn, and in extreme heat didn’t melt as quickly….a perfect product for Egypt which he felt would be a big seller if only he could find the right connection.  A great idea, but unfortunately it never materialized.

With Adli’s connections we were introduced to the executive board of the Egyptian Gymnastics Federation, along with its President, Lt. General Gadawi of the Egyptian Armed Forces.  Throughout our initial trip and additional trips thereafter both General Gadawi and Adli proved to be invaluable at every turn……and during the “Great Pyramid Trampoline Caper” there were numerous doors that needed opening.

Upon our evening arrival in Cairo we were met by Adli and Lt. General Gadawi along with officials from the Gymnastics Federation and shown to our hotel that the Federation had booked. In 1976  Cairo only had two hotels that would be considered up to the standard of western visitors…….unfortunately both were fully booked which left us staying in one of the more local establishments!
The next day our order of business was to work on booking a room at the Nile Hilton Hotel……and, through hook and crook we were successful………but, that first night was one that will always be remembered , along with this lovely view from our room.

During the next day we spent a great deal of time with the Federation officials, overseeing the local equipment and facilities and discussing their involvement in the sport of gymnastics.  They had little background in the sport of trampoline, but were very interested in finding out additional information and expressed an interest in having a team of U.S. gymnasts and trampolinists travel to Egypt for exhibitions and clinics. 
During these discussions we explained that one important expectation of providing such a tour would be proper equipment for all the demonstrations. Although the Egyptian Federation was unable at that time to commit to the purchase of Nissen equipment they felt that once the equipment was shipped and in Egypt the necessary procurement channels could be addressed and the equipment could be purchased. Somewhat a risky proposition, but even so, one that George was willing to take.

It should be pointed out that earlier in1973 George sold the Nissen Corporation to Victor Comptometer of Chicago.  Although George remained President of the Nissen Corporation the Victor organization kept a close eye on George’s trampoline escapades and associated expenses since trampoline product liability was becoming a growing concern. In 1977 Victor Comptometer was sold to the Kidde Corporation which increased the scrutiny of George’s activities even more. Then in 1978 the Nissen Corporation was finally forced to discontinue manufacturing trampolines.  During these tumultuous times George continued to set his sights on seeing trampoline in the Olympics. He felt having an additional country such as Egypt added to the roster was important, since there was a possibility that the sport might be included in the 1980 Olympics.  Even though he felt the negative pressure from the new owners, George gave his personal assurance to the Egyptians that a team would be put together, the necessary equipment would be shipped and in April of 1977 the tour would begin.

Although I had been to Egypt in the early 60’s and had seen the Pyramids, George was certainly interested in visiting the area himself and checking them out, so on our second day we made the journey along with Adli. For those who have been to the area you know that once you step out of a taxi it’s basically straight onto the back of a camel, head dresses are applied and from there you’re off and running with no guidance on where the camel is going…..although I’m sure the camel knows! The owner slowly follows and when the camel finally stops in some far off place you don’t want to be, the owner shows up asking for “bakshish”……tip money!

Either pay up, or you’re in for a future rough ride….of course we paid up!

Riding a camel is fun, but no matter what “Lawrence of Arabia” might say the fun wears thin very quickly….especially in the hot sun with head dresses on and potential fleas in the blankets you’re sitting on.  We finally convinced our “camel jockey” that we had enough fun and pictures riding around the “Sphinx” therefore with additional “bakshish” he was kind enough to let us dismount.

Once dismounted we set our sights on the three pyramids that appeared to be so close, but as we walked towards them we realized the true distance due to their enormous size. The “Great Pyramid of Khufu” is the largest pyramid of the three.  It is 756 feet long on each side and 450 feet high and is the only one of the famous “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” that still stands. Even today it remains the most massive building on Earth.


As we gazed in amazement we were approached by an Arab individual. Little did we know that he would become a close friend and helpful comrade throughout our future adventure…..but the best part was when I asked him his name and he replied, “Sam Scooby-Dooby”!  
Of course we asked “Sam Scooby-Dooby” if we could climb to the top of the Great Pyramid and he said yes, and led the way.  So off we went, and about 30 minutes later we were standing on top enjoying an outstanding view of the entire area, the city of Cairo and the desert beyond…….as well as providing some “bakshish” to “Sam Scooby-Dooby” for his assistance in getting us to the top! Part of this “baskshish” would be shared with a few of the guards at the bottom of the pyramidJ “Sam Scooby-Dooby” knew the ropes around the pyramids and over time became very helpful. 

After doing numerous handstands and having “Sam Scooby-Dooby” take pictures I turned to George and said, “Wouldn’t it be great to put a trampoline on top of this pyramid?”  From that point forward the seed was planted, and the “Great Pyramid Trampoline Caper” idea began!  

When it was originally built the Great Pyramid was 481 feet tall.  Today 31 feet are missing from the top.  Some say that when Napoléon invaded Egypt in 1798 he took the top off looking for treasures, but this theory was never proven. Without these huge missing blocks there is now an uneven surface on top. To signify the original height of the pyramid the Egyptians have erected a 31 foot pole.

George and I took a very close look at how the pole was connected, noting that it was anchored by three additional poles set at angles for support. We came to a final conclusion that it was possible to disconnect them and lower the main pole, thereby allowing us to put a trampoline on top!  At least we hoped it would work! Of course replacing the pole to its original position was another question….but we were confident it could be done with some additional help.

During our flight back to the U.S. our discussions centered on the arrangements for the tour in April of the following year, but there was also a burning desire by both of us to accomplish the goal of putting a trampoline on top the Great Pyramid of Khufu, and how it could be accomplished. 
...Maybe with a helicopter?

Jump to Part 2: "Trampolines, Gymnastics & Pyramids"

1 comment:

  1. Yes, this surprised me because this is the first time I learnt about trampoline in Egypt!


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