The Nile River saw plenty of action from the Egyptians in the form of sport-like activities. The Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to regard hunting and fishing as both a sport and a source of food. Just as people enjoy leaving their towns to go on fishing expenditures today, Egyptian recreational fishers adventured to regions of the Nile preserved by the Pharaoh’s for hunting and fishing. Rather than using nets, these fishermen often used harpoons so that they could target good-tasting fish. There was a modest variety of options on the Nile including Tilapia, Elephantfish, Nile Perch, Catfish, Eel, Shark, and Dolphin. Once a fish was harpooned, it was then clubbed to death and kept in shade to keep the stank from spreading.
Swimming was another pastime that the Ancient Egyptians thoroughly enjoyed. The Nile was used by many to learn how to swim. Calm regions in the Nile allowed competitions to be held so that young competitors could prove their skills against one another. Also, many hieroglyphs depict the Egyptians using the “front crawl” style.
However, the most interesting and brutal of all the Nile River Sports is “Fishermen’s Jousting”. A team consisted of four men in one papyrus boat, and each man was armed with a paddle. Two teams would paddle out into the middle of the Nile where they would then proceed to beat the shit out of each other. It was a last man standing type of deal where opponents tried to knock each other off their boats. Unlike the Dragon Boat Racing, these guys were not hardcore water-men. Often times they would drown as a result of not knowing how to swim, however it didn’t really matter because with blood splattered everywhere from the heavy blows, crocodiles and hippos were attracted by the excitement. If you fell off, there wasn’t really much you could do, you pretty much blew it. These guys would drown or get chomped.
There is not too much information on this sport, however there is some stipulation that it involved ritualistic and spiritual components. The Pharaoh’s really got a kick out of it, and some argue that if you did eventually make it ashore after repelling a water beast, that a priest would be there waiting to kill you because the croc’s and hippo’s were considered to contain sacred spirits.
In relating this to today, we do not really have a sport that can be compared to Fishermen’s Jousting, but swimming is an Olympic Sport, and there are several TV shows such as “River Monsters” on animal planet hosted by Jeremy Wade that depict the rewarding adventures of exploring different fishing regions.