Nora Kafafi grew up in the wild, her childhood spent outdoors by the ravine next to her house. Years later, working as a project manager in a company helping start-ups grow, Nora remembered the ravine and, fuelled by her work with start-ups, dreamt up an outdoor adventure company. This company is Rock & Rope.
Kafafi was partly inspired by her work with start-ups, “I think that’s when I realised that if all these people could do it and not be afraid to fail, why should I be afraid? There’s nothing wrong with failure and I think that was always my biggest fear.” But she was also inspired by her own growing family, for when Nora had children it became even clearer to her that there was very little to do outdoors in Cairo, especially as a family. As she says, “This was ultimately for my kids first. But then I realised that there are a lot of other people who face the same problems that I do and this is my way of trying to solve that problem.”
We’d also like to send Egypt’s first rock climbing team to the Olympics, the 2020 Olympics- the first games to include rock climbing.
Rock & Rope was founded with a clear mission plan, “We’re trying to do two things. We’re trying to build a rock climbing centre where you can come and learn to climb from the ages of 4 and up and take what you learn in the centre and apply it to the outdoors. The central line of business is adventure parks. We’d also like to send Egypt’s first rock climbing team to the Olympics, the 2020 Olympics- the first games to include rock climbing. That’s a really big step and I feel that we have the perfect topography, we’ve got great mountains, we’ve got great weather, so there is really no reason why Egypt shouldn’t have this sport blossoming like it does all around the world.”
It has such a profound impact on your personality, on your character. It heals. It transforms you. It grounds you.
What Nora really wants to do is renew the old bond between man and nature because, as she says, “It has such a profound impact on your personality, on your character. It heals. It transforms you. It grounds you. It opens your horizons, it gives you perspective because it shows you how small you actually are in this great expanse of a universe and yet how important you are. How you can make a very, very small difference and it could have such a ripple effect.”
In a city like Cairo this is no small task and no small promise, but Nora is already seeing an awakening among the younger generation. “I do feel that there has been, I don’t know whether you can call it a fitness revolution? The past few years with all of these outdoor fitness groups arising. So, I definitely think that we feel with this generation that they’re a lot more open to getting out of their comfort zone, and trying new things, and travelling.”
Although those in their 20s may feel up to a bit of reckless adventuring, most of us mere mortals might still feel quite daunted by the prospect of scrambling up a rock face. Nora assures us, however, that it is perfectly safe “If you read online most accidents that happen are usually from people who are quite expert and they sometimes just get too cocky. But if you just play it safe you’ll be fine.” Rock & Rope even sends out an expert to make sure old climbing routes have been properly maintained because, as Nora says, “We are a business at the end of the day, however the social aspect of it is much greater.”
Drawing on what she has learnt from a life spent in the great outdoors, she sees “a connection with something much, much bigger than yourself.” She realises that “these are all things that I really can’t control. I can only do the best I can, we can only teach people, educate them, raise awareness. We do our part the best that we know how and just really hope for the rest.”
After all, she says “Even if we start off as a small community, that’s totally fine with me. I think that it’s bigger than us, and it will grow.”
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