Ahmed Tarek Al-Ahwal
29 JUNE 2017
In this latest installment of our “Subversive Cycling Photos” series, we travel to Egypt. The same utterings are heard here as most other places. About how “it’s too hot to cycle” and “oh, but we never had urban cycling here…” With these historical photos, we once again bust some myths, like we’ve done for Singapore, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, New South Wales, Vancouver, Oslo, Dublin, Canberra, etc.
Copenhagenize Design Company has had the pleasure of hosting architect and urban planner, Ahmed Tarek Al-Ahwal, on an exchange from Egypt made possible by the support of the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute. He curated these photographs highlighting a long and proud history of using the bicycle as transport in his country.
Egypt’s President Sisi has been on a bike ride or two, like this one in 2014. He has said that Egyptians should cycle more and that the country can save 16 Egyptian pounds for each 20 km cycled. He has, however, failed to provide any infrastructure.
In the recent memory of some Egyptians, cycling used to serve a much wider group of users than today. Residents in Port Said, a port city on the Suez Canal, are proud that cycling used to be their main mode of transportation. Indeed, during rush hour, the ferries were loaded with the bicycles of employees going to work. It´s a narrative that is heard in many other cities, usually followed by remarks about how women and children used to feel much safer cycling in cities and how there used to be many more bike shops – especially those serving a double-purpose. Shops that were also garages that would clean, repair and store bikes overnight.
Stories of huge bicycle racks next to office buildings, factories and schools are heard across the nation, from the north to the south. The textile factory in Shebin, a city in the northern Nile Delta used to host one of those, which was removed after cycling disappeared under the weight of car-centric planning.