This fabulous lady is as outdoors-y as she is creative! Nora Kafafi co-Founded Rock & Rope after realizing the need for outdoor play spaces. The idea – indeed much needed in Egypt – was an instant hit as it provided exercise options surrounded by nature, which all family members could enjoy. We speak to Nora about Rock & Rope, travel, and rock climbing as a tool for women empowerment.
How did the idea of Rock & Rope come to be?
RnR was born from the lack of outdoor play spaces that people can enjoy together as a family. Growing up outside, I felt that nature played a huge part in shaping my character, beliefs and personality. I wanted to offer the same experiences to my children while simultaneously combating the increasing trend of technology.
What obstacles faced you while starting Rock & Rope, and how did you overcome them?
I think the main obstacle I faced is creating awareness and convincing people that incorporating the outdoors into their daily routine is essential. Changing perceptions takes time. At Basecamp (an RnR and Tatweer Misr project) we are well positioned to create experiences for children and adults alike in a safe, non-intimidating environment.
Do you think young Egyptian women enjoy the freedom of travel more than before?
Absolutely. I remember when I took my first trip alone at the age of 33, it was considered quite odd. However, it has been very refreshing to see that women today feel more empowered to lead the lives they see fit and are more open to traveling.
Did your family encourage your business venture, or was it a foreign concept for them?
I was privileged to have my family’s full support to embark on this journey. I think, however, they foresaw how challenging this road would be and probably would have preferred I take an easier route in my career. However, as time passed, I believe they came to understand more that sometimes following your dream is the only way to true happiness, regardless of the outcome.
Can rock climbing be a tool of women empowerment? If so, how do you suggest that takes place?
Rock climbing is a unique sport in the sense that it challenges you to face your fears, step out of your comfort zone and learn how to be completely present in the moment and task at hand. Seeing the result of climbing a challenging route gives you the confidence that if you can do this, you can do anything you put your mind to. I would encourage everyone to try it because it is very empowering to discover what your mind and body are capable of achieving.
Women in Egypt are often forced to fit into the molds created for them by society. How can we, collectively, combat that?
I think more women need to speak out, share their experiences and change the narrative together. As a CEO I always felt that I had to act a certain way, until I realized it was for me alone to decide my definition of what CEO means. So, I would say, do your thing and own it. You’ll be surprised to see how many women will relate and then be inspired to do the same. Ultimately, there is nothing more powerful than to see women support other women.
Most Egyptian women have had to answer the question “Hanefra7 Biki Emta” before in reference to marriage, despite any accomplishments they may have already made, what would you say in response to that question?
I would throw the question right back at them and ask them why they aren’t already happy for me. As if marriage and kids are just boxes that need to be ticked. Happiness is not a checklist nor is it limited to specific milestones. So enough with all the judgment and preconceived notions of what should make someone happy. It’s 2020. Get with the times.