Friday morning early birds heading for coffee in Zamalek or Maadi are very likely to bump into a bunch of cyclers, who teamed to pioneer in conquering Cairo by bike. Many people would hear about the cycling events and think ‘how cool is that’ yet always with a hint of ‘do they have a death wish’. We met up with Sara Farouk, one of the cyclers from GBI, who cycle for fun, fitness and charity.
It all started in Egypt when two Egyptians who worked at Vodafone joined a group of cycling enthusiast in Europe on a cycling tour from Dusseldorf to Newbury to raise money for charity.
In 2009 the Global Biking Initiative, in short GBI, collaborated with UNICEF to provide medical equipment to hospitals in Gaza. In 2010 they supported early childhood development in Upper Egypt, working closely with ‘Alashanek ya Baladi’ to build 26 classrooms in Qenna. “It’s really great to find the positive side to everything you want to do. I’d like to focus on the good that can come out of this practice”, Sara Farouk, one of the cyclers, responsible for the media department of GBI and a successful Senior Executive in the advertising field.
Due to the numerous health benefits of cycling, the group promotes the usage of bicycles as a daily means of transportation as well as pointing out the importance of civil society action towards the chaotic and jammed up Cairo traffic. “It’s a lifestyle now and at the end of the day we’re trying to send a message: Guys it’s getting really crowded out there! We want people to perceive biking as a tool for saving time and the constant traffic hassle”, Sara tells.
GBI Egypt is the only Arab team on board, and is known to be the biggest team right after Germany. “They like us a lot in Germany. We are known for our entertaining and festive nature as we dance and sing when there. We are promoting tourism and we are trying to get the Ministry of Tourism on board with us. Everyone of us has a certain role at GBI; there are people in charge of routes or media, for instance. Our age brackets range from twenty something and way above and all members are well established professionals in their various fields and organizations”, she points out.
Cycling has become more than just a fun ride for GBI bikers. Most of the team park their cars and take it as a daily practice. “It changed my life. I live by the Cairo/Alexandria Highway and everyday I take the bike to my office in Zamalek. People used to think we’re crazy but now they encourage us.Today, people on the streets greet us for they got used to us. Work wise I’m more active and I’m more enthusiastic about things. You get to know people who want to take on a certain challenge. I’m more positive towards things now. Before cycling, I used to go to work like everyone else, today; I’m always excited and thrilled. I’m eager to go to work and see what’s there and what I can do today”, she excitedly tells.For lots of Egyptian women, to ride a bike in the streets of Cairo isn’t a walk in the park. With all the daily harassment some women might see it as an undoable activity. “Well, you’ll be surprised. When it all started, we used to get dreadful comments.We wanted to only ride in Zamalek and Maadi as they are the only ‘open’ communities around, but today we are 400 bikers. Our numbers increased and we are spotted much more than before. People started to get used to the cycling scene. For us, things aren’t as bad as before. I think we’re getting there; people are starting to believe in what we’re doing”, she says.
One of the best things about GBI is their charity engagement. They are not just a cool group who are spotted around Cairo having fun; they combine the hobby with a good cause for their country. “A lot of charity events are taking place, we really have great potential.
When the whole thing started, we had a lot of negative comments, like why should we support you, you bike for your own joy. But they realized that we are actually doing something positive for the society”, Sara tells.
With all our busy schedules, crammed up streets and stressed out minds, cycling shouldn’t be the only getaway. “Everyone should find a hobby, someone reads, someone sings. I believe every hobby in this country should be turned into something positive. Doing every positive thing you can on daily basis is very important.One of the goals of GBI this year is that we want more women to join. We want to encourage more women to jump on board with us”, she emphasizes.
If you want to join GBI please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org