Ride in style: Egypt's pioneering female motorcyclists

Ingy Deif, Sunday 27 Jul 2014

Ahram Online speaks to the increasing number of women who are challenging social norms by riding motorcycles and scooters

Photo: Girlsgo Wheels
Photo: Girlsgo Wheels

Meet Basma El-Gabry, a veiled Egyptian girl living in the district of Masr El-Gedida, who founded Girls Go Wheels, which is a group supporting females choosing to use motorcycles, scooters or bicycles as their main means of transportation.

Since then it has been one of the best-known community groups for encouraging females to change their lifestyles, opting for the convenience of two wheels on the road.

"The refusal at the beginning was very firm and solid, my parents wouldn’t take it at all,” says Basma El-Gabry

"The idea started around ten months ago when I started talking to my family about my will to buy a scooter. The refusal I faced was from almost everybody, they simply couldn’t imagine how a female could move around like this without being harassed or subjected to some kind of danger," says Basma.

Photo: Girlsgo Wheels

Photo: Girlsgo Wheels
Photos: Girlsgo Wheels

Solid argument

Basma's argument was what she still stands for: everybody has an equal right to practice the lifestyle that he chooses and sees convenient and comfortable as long as no harm is imposed on others by his actions, and that the three main reasons for riding a bike instead of the car are as follows:

• Evading the stress of traffic congestion, which takes a toll on the heath physically and mentally.

• Decreasing one's expenditure on gas and fuel.

• Saving A LOT of time better spent on more productive work.

"My mother told me that the only condition for her to agree is that I find five girls who ride on a regular basis and not only as leisure or confined to their residential compounds, so I started the quest!"

After three months, Basma said that her search led her to a group called the 'Cairo Scooters Club'.

"They were a group of riders in Cairo and Giza, from both genders, and from these I found the candidates who fulfilled my mother's condition. I started the procedures of obtaining my ride, and then I had this overwhelming thought of initiating this group to support other females with encouragement, raising awareness, and providing logistics.

"For three months it was calm and slow. It seems that girls were still intimidated by the idea, fearing that they will be met by mockery and sarcasm especially that the basics were a mystery to many of them-some girls wouldn’t know the meaning of scooter and were shy to ask.

Photo: Girlsgo Wheels

Photo: Girlsgo Wheels
Photos: Girlsgo Wheels

"Then amazingly, membership requests poured in. We are around six months old and having almost 2,000 member. There is a wide array of riders, not only those who ride motorcycles, or scooters, but also we include those who choose bicycles as means of transportation. These numbers include many males who support the idea, some of whom were the ones initiating it for females in their families."

Girls go Wheels welcomes those who want to join from all over the country, collaborating with other entities like Cairo Scooter Club and Let's Scoot – which is the first school in Alexandria to teach females how to ride.

The main target of these communities and groups is to exchange experiences, cheer newcomers, and provide advice when it comes to the needed logistics of buying and obtaining a license, in addition to providing information about kinds of rides, as well as giving session to train girls and women for riding bikes and scooters

El-Gabry said that the trend has been on the rise lately, especially since the government raised price of the fuel, which saw the numbers spike by almost 30 to 45 percent.

Photo: Alex Scooter Riders club Ladies

Photo: Alex Scooter Riders Ladies
Photo: Alex Scooter Riders club-Ladies

Pioneering Alexandrians

From Alexandria, Ahram Online met with Sally El-Gindy, one of the founders of the female Alexandria Scooter Riders, which is a sub group of another bigger one for both genders that started earlier.

"Our beginning came two years ago, and we are now more than 300 female riders who use scooters and bikes as a main means of transportation," says Sally.

The group now organises every Friday morning at 10am for a ride that starts at the Library of Alexandria.

Sally takes pride in the fact that the group is considered very active in comparison with other groups, and the fact that peoples reaction is getting better by the day.

"Our campaigns are instant hits when they go viral, and we use interesting sentences to raise awareness and let people be more considerate towards those on two wheels on the road."

Sally adds that not only the number of shares and likes are an indicator for people's acceptance, but also the reaction they get in the streets. "Many people now stop us to take photos with us. We used to be bothered mainly by drivers of the minibuses, now they clear the road for us to pass!"

She concluded that even the paper work that used to take some time and the difficulties they faced back when there was a law prohibiting the importing of scooters to the country are all a distant memory, and that now the steps are much smoother.



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