Around two weeks ago I was invited to a group ride to the Pyramids & the citadel in Cairo. The reason for receiving the invitation is that I’m proudly one of the very few female riders in Egypt, let alone one who rides as a means of communing on daily basis in the wild jungle of Cairo traffic. The ride was sponsored by Biker Zone and it comes as a Welcome and reception of Jolandie Rust, the first female to attempt circumnavigating Africa on her bike, SOLO!
Like I said, I’m a rider. BUT, and that’s a big BUT here … “to ride” is a verb which qualifies for anything that moves, and around Egyptian riding communities, we tend to get more flexible with terms, so: anything that moves “on two-wheels” … so, no, I don’t ride a bike … hold your horses and let’s narrow it down to a SCOOTER!
Now l let your imagination ponder a while on that hilarious scene: Me, in all my sturdy giant body, on a blood red Fiddle II, driving through the gateway of the Heliopolis hotel where the start-point is set for the ride, and with a nervous glance on the bunch of fully-safety-gear-equipped machos standing in a row, who were looking down on that clumsy scooter driver as she halts midway looking for a place to park, when some security guy points out an empty slot in the array of bikes parked on the left. I turn my head and there they are, with their sparkling chrome parts blinding me for a split second: Shadows, VTXs, Harleys, Boulevards .. every single brand in the cruisers list, lying there like monsters ready to leap forward and eat my dwarf Fiddle at any moment. But my brave Fiddle raises its head high in Pride, and drives confidently through, and settles finally between two Shadows, with its front tire hardly visible between the two giant tires on its sides.
The ride was simple, on an easy speed of 80km/hr, but the sun was grilling our skins alive. We made it to the Pyramids in less than an hour, then to the Citadel in about half that. Nearly all bike & scooters clubs in town where present in this ride (Yes, we have quite a handful of those): Cairo Scooters Club, Egypt Riders, Ducati Egypt MTI, TiTans, Egypt Female Bikers , BMW Motorrad Egypt and Shadow Riders Club. All on board for promoting tourism in Egypt as a safe country for tourists, riders and adventurers alike.
The day ended with a press conference for Jolandie Rust. Jo is a South African adventurer. In April 2011, she set out on a long journey, that started in her hometown in South Africa, covered all the western coast lining countries of the continent and almost all the coast of the Mediterranean before ending up here in Cairo to start her final lag of the journey back to South Africa through the eastern border countries. She’s crossed 19 countries on her route and Egypt is #20 in her list. Afterwards, she posted a nice piece about Egypt and her brief experience both with the culture and the people. She wrote in reassurance to all people out there who feel worried about the situation given media coverage that is usually focused on a single perspective of the events and mostly fails to convey the day-by-day life inside the city: “I haven’t felt threatened or in danger in any way since entering Egypt and have only been met with a great deal of kindness and support everywhere I go. I really do hope that things will return to ‘normal’ again soon for the people of this wonderful country.“
I was glad we met up later in some other event and we had the chance to chat for at least half an hour about her trip, her future plans and her next steps around Egypt. For a girl who has the courage, will and determination to hop on a bike and ride solo across deserted wilderness, and urban cities in which she knew no one, and even through politically troubled areas (Libya was a good challenge, as well as arriving in a Cairo under curfew), you’d think that she would be wildly out-spoken, too self-engaged to notice anyone around or to say the least: be cocky. Instead, I found her to be a very modest, down to earth person, keen on sharing a lot about herself and her dreams without conservation and willing to answer questions that she must have been asked a dizzilion times in a dizilion number of places with the same enthusiasm and simplicity as if they’re being asked for the first time.
A journey like that comes with no guarantee of safety, no shortage in surprises and no tolerance in dangerous situations. Jo has been robbed off all her gear once, kidnapped in another, spent hours of waiting at border crossings, denied entrance visa to one country on the route, and probably had more motorbike problems (minor or major) than she can remember, but the thing that gets someone to carry on day by day on such a tiresome & troublesome long journey is what Jo describes in her own words: “I have a dream, and I will not stop till I reach the end point”.