Women in Egypt are expected to only go out in public while in the company of a male relative. Their heads and faces should be covered as well. Not all women conform to the norm, however.
According to The Source, based in the United Arab Emirates, Yasmine Mahmoud rides her bike to work every day through Cairo traffic bare headed and wearing a bright yellow blouse. The 31 year old woman is an advocate for building dedicated bike lanes in the city.
“A bicycle saves both time and the money required for gas,” she says. “This road would have taken at least half an hour,” she explains, pointing to a line of cars crawling around a traffic circle. She is quickly by the traffic jam on her bicycle.
Yasmine’s journey is not without its difficult moments. “Verbal sexual harassments and cynical passers-by are big problems too. I just ignore them and ride on,” she adds, laughing. But she still remembers when a young man assaulted her while she was riding one day.
Yasmine is a member of Go Bike, a group that promotes cycling. Every Friday morning, the group arranges cycling tours that attract many women who want to learn the sport and follow Yasmine’s lifestyle. “I am ready for the challenge,” says Shaimaa Ahmed, a veil-wearing 26-year-old pharmacist who has just tried bicycling for the first time.
Fifty-year-old amateur Wafaa Ahmed is proof that cycling is not just for the young. “The only fear is harassment, more than the chaotic traffic and lack of security on the streets,” says the mother-of-two, who wants to travel to her workplace by bicycle.
Other Egyptian women find the bicycle too tame for their tastes. For them, motorcycles are not only a way to beat congestion but a way of bonding with other women as well. They meet during the weekends in the upscale Zamalek district, to share their passion for riding bikes.
One of the women, Dina Wassef says the members of her group don’t ride to prove a specific point. “Of course, some people do not approve of this. Some people believe that we ride bikes out of stubbornness,” Dina said.
But that’s not the reason, she says. “We do this because we love motorbikes and because of how we feel while riding the motorbikes with our hair flying in the air on the open road. It’s something that makes us happy and that we love,” according to Africa News.
Since humans first invented the wheel, it has stood for freedom. Sometimes just feeling the wind in your hair is a way of making a statement while you ride.