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Open quotesThe drinking club with a running problem.Close quotes-

Is this before or after the run?

In many ways itís not my kind of thing, and I never really got too involved with the social side of hashing. But this is not to criticise it, Iím just not a very good singer. They do say it doesnít matter and I never doubted them, but that bit didnít appeal. Nor did the drinking. But my comment once that hashing was the best fun Iíd had in a long time still stands, and I was very disappointed to learn when I got here that the Tien Shan Hash in Kazakhstan is no longer active.
Hashing was invented in the 30s in, correct me if Iím wrong, Malaysia by a group of British ex-pats who probably had no idea it would go so global. The original idea of running and following a trail is still central to hashing today, as is the ritual consumption of beer and accompanying singing.
In Cairo I was joined by (or rather, I joined) a mixed bunch of ex-pats and a few Egyptians to run about eight kilometres through the desert along a trail set earlier in the day by a small group of hashers known as Ďharesí. There was also a walk for people not inclined to the hard slog in 40į heat across very rugged terrain that I was amazed never to knacker my ankle on. I never did the walk, apart from on the last day when I was so ill I couldnít run a step. It was a sad way to bow out, a few months earlier I had enjoyed being up with the front runners for most of the way and on the last day I cut a very sorry figure trailing behind them all.
But hashing has in fact very little to do with running. Itís a social event. The trail is marked in flour laid at about ten to twenty metre intervals and has the unpredictable habit of disappearing or leading runners the wrong way. I found a few of these. But itís more like a game than a run, experienced hashers develop a sense of when to run and when to hold back and let the faster novices bomb on ahead while they look for the real trail. Sometimes you can be looking for ten minutes, in a group of thirty. I always found it a good time for a breather.
Finding the trail is totally pointless unless you know the sociable way to declare it to the others! A simple cry of ON ON! is all it takes to get the whole group moving again. If you say something like 'hey, chaps over here!' you will only alienate yourself and have to spend the rest of your hashing days in shame.
Later in the run the false trails tend to disappear and those still with enough energy run back to base. Most tend to walk at this stage, and who can blame them, it gets very hot in the Sahara.

Like sand? Join the Cairo hash

On an average day about 80 people either walked or ran, most of these remaining after for the ritual boozing and barbecue. There are far too many hash traditions to describe here, and in any case I donít even know them all (not least as I never fully participated in the circle activities), but after the run things tend to revolve around the circle (see photos) which subjects people to humiliation in the shape of good humoured banter and jibes, often about their personal life (as I have no personal life, I was spared any such treatment) ahead of them having to drink a (small) beer in a few seconds. This is called a down down. For some reason they have to do it with the left hand (why?) and anything they donít drink they have to tip on their heads.
Most hashers also have embarrassing names. (One guy in Cairo was called Useless which is highly ironic because he was one of the most active people there.) You have to lay a trail before you get one. I never did, so I have no hash name, but I did always think theyíd struggle to name a vegan teetotaller with no embarrassing secrets. I guess weíll never know.
The other benefits of hashing included getting out of the Cairo smog, although in so doing we did get to see how polluted the place really was. One time we left the city, ran into the desert and could barely see the buildings from just a few kilometres away. Thick white clouds of something, best not to dwell on it too much.

You don't have to drink though

Normally when I travel I tend to avoid ex-pats and for my first six months in Cairo I carried on much in this way, but when the time came to change my ways I was glad I did. Still the best fun Iíve had in ages, a good way to meet a lot of great people with a lot to say, and a good way to find out both local and global information. During the six months I ran with the Cairo Hash, I must have met people from about 20 countries, and then even more people whoíd lived in as many places again. So even before I came to Kaz, I knew to expect beautiful women and cold winters. Always count on a hasher, between us, there ainít a lot we donít know.
The Cairo Hash is a decent Friday afternoon out and when I visit Cairo again Iíll be straight over. Check the link and if youíre ever there, give it a go.
The Cairo Hash

Hash House Harriers Egypt