I remember when the wind used to hit my face as I flew through the air on my inline skates. I remember when I used to skate from the ages of six to 15 at the Alexandria Sporting Club. We used to form a large community where we could cruise around, play tricks, and do the 180 degree spin.
We used to spend long hours skating with no feelings of tiredness or boredom. Sometime, we even played hide and seek and held racing and artistic competitions. I remember our being interviewed several times by the local TV channels, where we impressed everyone with our activities and sheer enthusiasm.
However, we did not dare to take our skating onto the streets.
Later as adults each one of us had some history of his or her childhood to remember when it came to doing energetic sports like inline skating, roller skating, electric scooter riding, bicycles, tricycles, and so on.
But such activities fade away later in life, either as a result of growing up or of giving up on them. Most of the time they fade away because we think they are childhood activities that should only be kept in the closet of memories.
However, today it has become normal to see skaters of all ages hitting the roads and going to their university faculties, clubs, and carrying out various errands on skates. It is normal to find skaters in the streets in groups, hitting the highways or gathering at landmark places.
Dina Hamdi and her daughter Jory are famous skaters in Egypt, with Jory’s Instagram account exceeding 500,000 followers. When Jory began skating, she was only five years old. She used to watch people in her native Al-Shorouk City skating, and then she decided to try it for herself.
“From day one, she taught herself how to balance before going for training with a coach. In two months, she was able to run very fast, and I could not catch her even while running. That’s why I started skating myself – mainly to catch up with my daughter,” Hamdi said.
Jory Mohamed, now six years old, can do many tricks, including rise, switch, tic-tac, 180 ollie, rock to fakie, and vice versa.
“We skate with the skating communities in Cairo, Alexandria, and Mansoura. We love them as they are like our close family. We are always learning from one another, trying to reach a higher level and spread skating in our circle,” Hamdi added.
“We will be celebrating Jory’s seventh birthday soon with our community in Alexandria.”
Abdel-Rahman Ragab, a videographer, entered the field mainly to make films about skaters. But when he started the sport himself, he fell in love with inline skating and founded a large community, eventually becoming the administrator of the skating community in Alexandria.
“It does not feel like you are wearing heavy equipment. The longer you train, the better you become,” the 20-year-old engineering student said.
“My brother and I went to Al-Alamein City on skates. It took us eight hours, and now we are intending to do the same for Cairo and many other cities,” Ragab said.
The Alexandria community has more than 3,000 skaters from different areas of the city. Sometimes, they join other communities from different parts of the country to go training together or to share information.
Nevertheless, the challenges that skaters face in Egypt can be formidable. “Sometimes, we get targeted by others who are not there for the skating. Sometimes, people do not take the sport or the group seriously. Things are getting more difficult for us in some areas we used to skate in, such as Al-Tabya and Al-Mahkama,” Ragab said.
“Sometimes cars annoy you in the streets, as some drivers are simply unaware of the hazards they can cause. You can easily flip over as a result of their behaviour.”
Many skaters want to see more skate parks being built and even special skate lanes specified on some roads. Many of them skate at sunrise or at night when the traffic is less and it is easier to find non-crowded areas.
Despite the fact that many streets are not prepared for skaters in Egypt, people are joining the sport faster than any other. They see it as a way of getting fit and socialising with others.
“I accidentally watched some YouTube videos and on Tik-Tok too, about skating in Egypt. This is when I started skating myself,” Magda Hassan, a dentist in Cairo who has been skating for seven months, said.
For Hassan, skating has a creative, recreational, and artistic element she could not find elsewhere. She used to go to the gym sometimes, but she thinks that skating tops the fitness you get in the gym because it is much more fun.
It improves the mood, and the skating community is really supportive. Most trainers do it for free as they love the sport and enjoy skating. “If you need anything, you will find it in skating,” said Hassan, who loves freestyle slalom skating which involves skating through a line of equally spaced cones.
Urban skating is what most skaters do in Egypt, often in Cairo districts like Zamalek and Heliopolis and at the Heliopolis park of Merryland. Though she has not used skating as a means of transportation yet, Hassan often skates when she is heading for Downtown Cairo.
Being a woman skater can be a challenge, however. “Sometimes people stare. Sometimes they admire you. Sometimes they harass you. You get different feelings and impressions from people whenever you hit the road,” Hassan said.
She suffered a bad knee injury when she started skating, which is why she advises all skaters to protect themselves and wear the right equipment of close-toed, slip-resistant shoes, wrist guards, knee pads, elbow pads, and goggles or glasses.
As a skater, she would like to see more skate parks, more trainers, more spare parts’ shops, and more affordable skates. She would like to see the government pay more attention to this exciting sport, which could transform many people’s lives.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 16 February, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly