Cairo kills, it’s a fact. You spend long hours surviving traffic, harassment, chaos in this harsh city that sucks out your energy. In this issue, we asked ourselves one question, what are the options? Do we have any? And3 women answered us: “Get out of your car”!
Dina Wassef: Playing with big boys toys!
Tough, funny and a hard worker, Dina Wassef is the Marketing Manager of Harley Davidson Egypt. She might have one of the coolest jobs in the world, the thing that we personally envy her for. Dina works around all these sexy gears and is one of only 5 women in Egypt who own a Harley. She goes to work on a bike and is thankful for taking that decision that saves time, money and lots of effort.
Was it your job that made you buy a bike or the contrary?
It’s been my job for 5 years and when I took trainings and courses on the brand I fell in love with it. I went through photos of women on Harleys and it made me feel so much encouraged and it motivated me to buy my Harley.I’m a painter and I never imagined myself behind a desk around the clock. I wanted something to make me feel free.
Do you still enjoy the ride after the escalating traffic turmoil?
Definitely I don’t. But I try to ride on weekends, mainly on Friday mornings and Saturday mornings. You always get to enjoy the roaring of the engine. I go to work on my bike sometimes and I always find a parking spot. I park it out front where I see it from my desk.
In which situations do you prefer to take your car rather than your bike?
Sometimes it depends on my outfit. Some outfits prevent me from riding the bike like high heels or a skirt. If I lived in another country, I would’ve taken the bike everyday. Here, I’m expecting that anyone would harass me anytime, especially when they see my hair under the helmet. I wear the full gear, helmet, jeans, gloves and t-shirt or jacket.
Whether on a bike or in atruck you get harassed, do you get to face many obstacles?
Some people take pictures! Other people encourage me and say comments like ‘thumbs up’. People sometimes come closer to watch me but actually no one sexually harassed me because the piercing sound of my engine frightens them away.
Did it ever occur to you that you could hide your hair and dress like a man to prevent harassment?
From day one I told my parents that I won’t hide under the helmet. I’m proud of it. Yet, when I ride to distant places at night like from Zamalek to Heliopolis, I try to hide a little, but in all cases you can tell it’s a girl riding the bike.
Do you know anyone of the other 4 women who ride Harley in Egypt?
Indji Ghattas the owner of Harley Davidson Egypt, an American woman and another one who got pregnant and sold the bike. They aren’t active riders it’s in their garage for occasions and one woman rides only in Maadi.
Do you think men buy bikes more as a result of middle age crises?
I believe some of them do. We are targeting late 20’s to late 70’s. Some men would want any kind of change; others think that when they ride a Harley they’ll attract more women. Some people are impressed with the trips and gatherings we do, butpeople who buy bikes according to trend don’t last.
When you start a family will you stop riding?
I hope not, it’s a habit.I can give up the job to start a family but I would definitely keep my bike. It’s my way out. Women want to be happy and free.
Sherine Sobhy: Running shoes from California to Cairo.
Sherine, a 27-year-old teacher, has been livingin California all her life, where she ran every morning by lakes and public gardens with a crowd of people from all ages. Sherecently came to Egypt and kept searching for her long time hobby until she met with Cairo Runners, the first running troupe in Egypt. They began last December with 60 people, and this month they have already 2000 registered runners!
How does running make you feel?
It’s a great activity. I like to hang out and socialize, but the active part of my life is very important to me. In Egypt, you are stuck inside the gym or track, but when I used to live in California I used to run around so much beautiful nature. When I came to Egypt 3 years ago, I couldn’t find this, but I’m the kind of person who wants to be happy wherever I am. I’m not an athlete, but I try to be active. Running makes youfeel strong as you do something you never thought of achieving before. Sometimes you wake up really early for Cairo Runners on a Friday morning and say ‘it’s a bad idea I want to go back to bed’, but when you start running you feel like you’ve conquered a lot. I love that feeling of you don’t know how strong you are until you try it.
How many times have you participated with Cairo Runners?
They had 15 runs and I missed like 2 or something. We ran all over Cairo. Zamalek, Korba, Maadi, they even went to Madinty and 5th Settlement. It’s interesting and anybody who has been on a treadmill will understand how boring it is not to run outdoors with nothing to look at. You can also meet people and socialize. I met this girl and found out that we used to live in the same neighborhood in California.
Do you know the ratio of runnersfrom women to men?
Certainly more men as I think girls don’t feel safe. Also it’s related to our culture as some women think that it’s not thatimportant to stay active. However there is a good number of women and it’s growing.
Have you ever been harassed?
No, but one of the best things about this group is the power in numbers.We have lots of men and women with different ages and different kinds of people. You are untouchable and least vulnerable to these kinds of harassment. You can hear funny comments while running but nothing serious or physical happened. Nothing would stop anyone from running.
What do people usually run from?
I think negative energy and it’s really important to find a way to manage this negative energy. Also stress at work, anything with your family, friends, traffic and of course politics. Sometimes I really don’t want to know what’s happening out there.You can never really run away from something but you can push it away and manage to turn it into something positive. I want to be free from things that aren’t authentic like all the fake things around us that distract us.
What are the best running spots in Cairo?
Zamalek andMaadi is also amazing. Our last run was in Garden City and it was really good.Some people can never imagine running by the Nile but we did it and it was wonderful!
What change can Cairo Runners make?
Cairo Runners are really well organized; they give me hope as I see fresh new initiatives.It’s a positive step for our country to have young people who are excited, even if they are a small group. Someone once said that Cairo Runners are ignoring the current issues, but I think that everybody has a role andCairo Runner’s role is to make us feel that we can achieve and conquer things. If you go to our Facebook page you’ll find people writing comments like I can’t believe I walked 5 km or I can’t believe I ran 15 km in two hours. Those things translate into real life and you carry them over. I go to work feeling a little bit more confident that I did something I once thought I couldn’t do.
Sarah Farouk: big wheels keep on turning…
Sarah is an adventurous woman, who likes to cycle, dive, guitar jamand works as an Internal Communication Supervisor at Vodafone. She joined GBI (Global Biking Initiative) a couple of years ago and started a new exciting cycling community called ‘Wheelers World Discovery’, where cycling became every human’s duty!
There are many cycling communities in Egypt today, so what makes Wheelers special?
Wheelers is more or less cycling for everyone. The challenge in GBI was mostly about long distances. We have 16 extra bicycles in Wheelers for beginners and a coaching session once every month. We had a grand parent coming to us saying that she wants to ride with her grand kids!
Do you partner up with other groups?
Yes, we partnered up with other groups in Vienna and Budapest. It’s great as you get to discover a lot when you are on the bicycle. We went on a trip to Alexandria and we had a ride around the Cornish it was fantastic! We are also planning for camping in Sinai.
What are the obstacles you face as a woman riding a bicycle in the streets of Cairo?
Well, sometimes it’s against corporate life, as you can’t go to a meeting riding a bike because of the heat; it’ll ruin your look. Sometimes the heat of the people is more trouble than the heat of the weather you can hear phrases like “I need a ride”, “Where does she thinks she is?” and “Is she Egyptian or a foreigner?”. To avoid similar kinds of harassment I try to ride with groups, who are already riding to the same areas I am going to.
Have you ever dated someone who prevented you from riding?
Thank God I haven’t but the last two people I dated got into cycling right after we met so I guess they were encouraged.
Did you discover anything interesting while riding?
Going around with my Lonely Planet, I found out that we have Turkey’s Blue Mosque in a place called El Darb El Asfar in Egypt! It broke my heart that very few know about this place.
Cairo Runners organized a “half marathon” this month where a group of Wheelers World Discovery cycled ahead of the runners, stopping cars at intersections and distributed water and energy bars to Cairo Runners participants. Wheelers are also teaming up with Cairo Runners to raise money for education in unprivileged Egyptian villages in collaboration with Sona3 El Hayah Project. Thumbs up!