Not many people manage to follow their passion. But when someone actually does, the sense of achievement is exhilarating and suddenly everything seems possible! Hamsa Mansour is one of those lucky few. She had a dream of cycling solo around Egypt and she fulfilled her dream against many odds. Ignoring societal taboos against a woman travelling alone, let alone on a bike, Mansour became Egypt’s first ever solo woman cyclist. In fulfilling the promise she had made to herself when she was 17 years old, she also paved the way for other females to follow their own passions. eniGma’s Nayera Yasser sat with the cyclist to know the details of her journey.
When she was 17 years old, Hamsa Mansour was heading from Cairo to Ain El Sokhna by car with her parents, when she spotted a cyclist heading in the same direction. In that fleeting moment, Mansour made a mental note to herself to one day follow that cyclist’s example and to cycle solo around Egypt herself. Though she kept it to herself, she never let go of that dream and of her sense of adventure. Which is why, after completing her studies in business administration, she did not seek a job in her specialisation, but rather went to work for the adventure company, Wild Guanabana. “Shortly after I started my new job, I met a cyclist who had roamed Egypt on his bike. The encounter with him reminded me of my dream to own a bike, and I instantly went out and bought one,” says Mansour.
Suddenly, having her own bike made Mansour’s old dream to cycle to Ain Sokhna attainable, and she even began toying with the wilder goal of cycling around the country, a trip that would take three to five months. She quickly decided, however, that it would be more realistic to start with a relatively shorter trip around the Red Sea. This seemed more reasonable, not least since she was about to get married. Fortunately for Mansour, her passion for cycling was also shared by her future husband, Nour El Din, who had himself roamed Egypt solo on his bike. So, two months after their wedding, with her husband’s, and her mother’s, unconditional support, she packed a few essential gadgets and headed east on her bike, alone. Nour El Din shared the knowledge he gained from his own cycling experience with his wife, and followed her journey on his computer, keeping track of her coordinates while she cycled from Cairo, to Hurghada, Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab and Nueiba.
On the road, Mansour faced several mental and physical challenges. Despite her research on weather conditions, she was surprised to find herself cycling against the wind due to an unexpected change in the wind’s direction. While this was a minor variable, it nonetheless meant that she had to exert more effort. “I had to reduce my speed to 28 km per hour, which made me reach El Sokhna in eleven hours instead of seven, and the next day I woke up with several injuries, aches and pains. I felt depressed and thought I was going to fail at reaching my goal, but I still did not back down,” Mansour recounts. Today, the cyclist is very happy that she did not turn back at that point. Instead, she went on to rediscover her favourite local destinations and to meet people she cherishes to this day. “At the end of each day, when I reached a new city I would spend the night at the nearest available motel. Along the way, people were extra helpful and friendly to me. They would come up to me and start a conversation about my trip, and they even invited me to their houses,” says the solo cyclist.
According to Mansour, facing nature for 10 days alone was not an easy challenge to face. “I was worried that the roads which I knew like the back of my hand could turn into something foreboding. Would I get so upset and want to call it quits? But, despite my worries, I knew that I wanted to test my limits,” says Mansour. She would also remember how a friend had warned her that no other woman had done what she was about to embark on, and that only strengthened her resolve. “If this was something that others were afraid of doing, then I wanted to prove that it was doable. After the trip, many girls sent me messages telling me that they wanted to follow my lead,” Mansour adds.
Currently, Mansour is gearing up for a full trip around the country starting around December 2019. Cycling solo over the course of 100 days, she plans to experiment with filming a documentary, in the form of weekly episodes of her journey around Egypt.