Egypt runners defy Cairo mayhem

2015-04-18 19:56
Egyptian runners warm up before they take part in Cairo's annual half marathon. (Amr Nabil, AP)

Egyptian runners warm up before they take part in Cairo's annual half marathon. (Amr Nabil, AP)

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Cairo - Young Egyptians are once again organising on social media and taking to the streets of Cairo by the hundreds every Friday, not to protest injustice or clash with police, but to enjoy long runs through one of the world's most crowded and chaotic cities.

On a recent Friday morning around 300 young people gathered at a central square, a small fraction of the 2,500 that had signed up for the event on Facebook, but a reasonable showing for an event held at 07:00 on a weekend.

No jogging paths

Organisers with bullhorns led the crowd of young men and women - many wearing headscarves - in a warm-up, and then they took off, flooding a four-lane road and occasionally parting before honking taxis.

Cairo, a city of some 20 million people packed onto the banks of the Nile, with few green spaces and no jogging paths, is an unlikely venue for distance running.

The streets are jammed at nearly all hours with smoke-belching microbuses, manic taxis, speeding motorbikes and the occasional donkey cart. The crumbling sidewalks are often worse - blocked by parked cars, mounds of garbage and mangy street dogs. Anyone who runs in Cairo can expect stares and gentle mocking and women must contend with leering, lewdness and occasional unwanted touching.

Traffic circles

And yet despite all the obstacles, young Egyptians have launched several increasingly popular running clubs over the past two years. A half-marathon this weekend drew thousands of runners, and more than 200 volunteers - some wearing American football pads and helmets - deftly guided the runners through traffic circles and onto and off of overpasses.

Small running groups catering mainly to expatriates have been around for years, but Egyptians trace the growth in local interest to Cairo Runners, a group with a large social media presence that attracts hundreds of people to its weekly runs and has inspired similar groups across the city.


Read more on:    egypt  |  north africa

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