Tuesday, January 13, 2015

News: Young cyclist checks in 1 month into his 4 month ride across Egypt

Ahram Online follows Egypt's youngest solo cycling adventurer on his 'Egypt on 2 Wheels' tour, highlighting his encounters 1 month into his route

Bedouin kindness on the road
On the 22nd of November, and after extensive preparations, young Egyptian adventurer Galal Zekri Chatila took off from his secondary school in Cairo, embarking on his 'Egypt on two Wheels' tour that was to take him around Egypt in the span of four months on board of his loyal steed Sophia, his bicycle.

Maintaining a steady speed of 20 km/h, and covering an average of 60km a day, the young adventurer pedaled his way to the farthest eastern and northern corners of the country, reaching Taba and Portsaid.

Next week he is expected to reach until El-Salloum, his most western destination. Chatila has visited many unique locations which portray the beauty and diversity of Egyptian landscape, away from the crowded and hectic capital.

To this point, Chatila has biked a total of 1,900 km, sometimes covering additional distance by hitching rides on boats and camels. This marks the end of more than a quarter of his intended 7,000 km route around Egypt.

Chatila is one month into his intended four month route, spanning across nine stages.. From Cairo, his route took him to Ain Sokhna, Zaafarana, Suez, Ismailia, Port Said, Alexandria, Mansoura, Zagazig, Tanta and Rashid

Hike on camel from Dahab to Abou Galloum
All along the way, the cyclist has marvelled at the beauty of the landmarks he has come across. “A day on the road means fun for me; it must involve good scenery, and a challenge to overcome so that I feel I have achieved something. I would rather spend 12 hours riding on a road that unveils Egypt’s natural beauty and warm people to me, than two hours on a busy road,” says the 21-year old adventurer.

In many places, Chatila would describe to those keeping up with his trip the landmarks specific to a city or a village. In Mansoura, he described Dar Ibn Louqman, where Louis IX was jailed for a few months – during French occupation (1249-1259) – until his wife bailed him out. In Tanta, Galal was mesmerised by the beauty of the architecture of El-Sayed El-Badawy mosque, which is the city’s primary landmark. In Dakahlia, he paid his respects to a very small village near Simbellaween called Tamay, where the late and most famous Egyptian singer, Umm Kalthoum was born and raised.

But the real beauty that was uncovered for the young man as he went through different places was the continuous support and warm welcoming that everyone gave. In Zaqaziq, he was welcomed by youth, many of whom are members of ZAG cycling group, before he was presented with the city’s key by the vice governor. In Ismailia he was escorted by fellow cyclists for part of his trip.

Reaching Matrouh, on the north coast of Egypt
In El-Gouna, Chatila was treated to a complimentary stay and dinner and in Port Said, Rashid, Sharm El-Sheikh, Ismailia, people made him feel at home. Along the way to Alexandria, he was greeted by youth from Agami district who showed deep interest in the details of his trip. Global Biking Initiative members in Alexandria also celebrated his arrival.

Chatila said the individual kindness of people was overwhelming in many places, describing one such incident in detail:  "When I was heading along the road, I found a motorcycle come up to pass me. I said hello, but he didn't answer and continued with his bike into the desert. Honestly, I was a bit worried because I know many people on motorbikes get robbed.”

“Shortly thereafter, I found that the same mysterious man had returned and was signaling to my wheel which needed to be fixed. He was extremely helpful and kind. I figured out why he didn't answer me when I said hello the first time: he is deaf. After he helped me with fixing the wheel, I invited him to drink juice and eat some sweets dates. I also learned he's a talented photographer!"

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