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Monday, 18 November 2019

Mokattam hills: Daring to adventure

If you are an adventure addict, Cairo’s Mokattam hills may be the ideal place to try out some physical activities within easy reach of home

Omneya Yousry, Friday 19 Jul 2019
zipline activities in Cairo
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Did you know that Cairo possesses some extraordinary places where you can do adrenaline-spiking activities, admire the view and feel yourself physically challenged? 

If the answer is no and you’re craving new adventures and want to move some muscles, then the following may be for you. Mario came to Egypt from Poland back in 1992 to teach technology in Italian schools, and he found his way to the Samaan Al-Kharraz Monastery in the Mokattam district, founding the first and biggest zipline activities in Cairo and maybe in the whole of Egypt. 

“I went to the pastor of the monastery in 1995, who asked me what I loved to do. I said sports and art. He showed me some sculpture in the monastery and asked if I could work on it. It has been 24 years since then, and I have never left,” Mario said. 

He stopped working as a teacher in 1994 and went to live with some friends in the Manshiyet Nasser district of Cairo, where he was introduced to the pastor in charge of the monastery. He’s been learning about Egypt since then, and now he may know more than many Egyptians about all the nooks and crannies of the capital. 

Mario started sculpting phases from the life of Jesus and creating statues of the holy family. Then he turned to sports activities in the monastery as well. “There are some 30,000 young people in Manshiyet Nasser who are not offered any kind of sport, not even a football ground except at the monastery. So, I thought all their energy could be used in new and different kinds of sports,” he said.

“I decided to concentrate on high rope activities up to a height of 200 m. This kind of sport enhances fitness and strengthens the body. We obtained the security and personal safety permits and started, and now all sorts of people come,” he added.

“We have four main activities: high ropes, low ropes, zipline and rock climbing. On average, you can do two activities during a visit, but you can also take the full package if you dare. Rock climbing costs LE50, zip lining and low ropes LE75, and high ropes LE100. Reservations should be done through our Facebook page to ensure a place on the day you want. You can enjoy this adrenaline-packed sport on any day of the week except Sunday.” 

Abanob, Romani and Kirollos, three young men from the neighbourhood adjacent to the monastery, have been impressed by what Mario has been doing, and they have followed him in his endeavours. While Romani has documented scenes of jumping, Abanob is keen to emphasise the safety of each activity. He ensures that people wear protective helmets before embarking and also works as a rescuer. 

“Adventurous people are often looking for trips outside Cairo where they can find excitement in new experiences such as mountain climbing, ice skating, sandboarding and other things of that kind. These activities are super cool for those who like things a little bit extra. Unfortunately, the ones we offer are not known to many people even though in Mokattam they are still in the heart of the capital,” Aya Youssef, 30, added. 

“I went with a group of friends. The place was amazing: it’s a sightseeing trip in itself. We did the zipline, which is a high tower that you can climb and then do like Tom Cruise sliding through the air on a rope. You can see the whole of Mokattam from the top. The rock climbing was a bit fatiguing, but it was worth it. All the activities are well-secured, and the place is one of the best in Egypt,” he added.

Aya said that those wanting to take part should meet certain health requirements. Those under 18 are not accepted without parental permission. 

Ahmed Moataz, a 27-year-old photographer, said that there was a “magnificent view of Cairo from the top, making this something from which you learn how to be a tourist inside your own country. I found challenging climbs within easy reach of home.”

“Mario offers running, climbing and a number of other high-adrenalin activities at the monastery. I did the zipline and the high and low rope activities. The difference between them is the height, but they both revolve around walking atop a wooden bridge with ropes. The high ropes can be considered where the experience peaks, quite literally. It allows you to climb to the highest point and enjoy views from the top,” Moataz said. 

“Sensible footwear is essential when doing these activities, so it is worth investing in hiking boots that protect your feet and support your ankles. Normally these have a snug fit, very little padding and a smooth, sticky rubber sole,” he added.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 July, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the title: Daring to adventure

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