Loud engines, huge men, and long beards; what do these things have in common? They’re what often pops into your mind when motorcycle clubs are mentioned. While this impression may have some truth behind it, it is actually a stereotype that misrepresents what a motorcycle club actually is.
Given their limited number and the negative connotations that frequently surround their reputation, motorcyle clubs in Egypt, as in most other countries, don’t gain much attention. Notwithstanding, many Egyptian rider-groups are bucking the negativity through their efficient organization, their solidarity, and their determination to serve their country. These groups aren’t a band of intimidators, as many people tend to believe. Rather, they are a chosen family of individuals who are united in their love of riding motorcycles. Through this simple, shared hobby, members develop strong bonds that wouldn’t have developed otherwise. As Sherif Hamouda, the president of the Alexandria-based Alex Cruisers, points out, “riding together is not just about the sense of joy or passion; it’s also about respect and support for one another.” With the passage of time, this solidarity often begins to serve as one of the main bedrocks of a member’s identity.
In the midst of busy work schedules, travelling to a different city during the weekend has arguably become the most effective tool to facilitate bonding among members. Despite the limited conversation time available during the commutes, the shared experience brings people together while allowing them to collectively and individually improve their riding skills. In the mind of Karim Magdy, the activity officer of Egypt Riders, “these trips foster a real sense of camaraderie among members while allowing them to fulfill their passions.” According to Magdy, along with the obvious advantage of having members spend more time together, experimenting with new, different roads further enhances a group’s experiences. He adds that, “when riders run into hazardous weather conditions they are required to reach a specific level of motorcycle handling that collectively improves the club’s solidarity both on and off the road.” Magdy’s sentiments are also echoed by Ahmed Fadel, the president of ElRakeeba, who affirms that his club understands the value of group trips, and attempts to have one every weekend. Fadel reiterates that for a group to “emphasize brotherhood and friendship among its members, then there is no better tool than travelling together.”
While motorcycle clubs in Egypt do differ somewhat from one another, the aim to serve the community is a common theme. For instance, one of Alex Cruisers’ main aims is to promote their conviction that it is safe and enjoyable to travel and discover the amazing beauty all across Egypt. Alex Cruisers have promoted this through group trips to South Sinai, Hurghada, North Coast, and Marsa Matrouh, among others, with plans to visit other areas soon. ElRakeeba, on the other hand, while similarly striving to improve tourism across the country, primarily focus their attention on charitable efforts to help the poor. “We seek to have at least four annual charitable events to help out the less fortunate,” stated the club’s Vice President, Islam Ibrahim. When asked to compare his club to international ones, Ibrahim enthused that ElRakeeba is very similar to motorcycle clubs throughout the world and that “bike clubs dealing in illegal activities represent just one percent of the entire biker population.”
Despite continued contributions to the community, motorcycle groups in Egypt complain that government restrictions often present a massive hindrance to their plans. These roadblocks, both literally and figuratively, are primarily motivated by the government’s aim to safeguard the country’s security. At the heart of the issue is the government’s suspicion of two-wheeled and four by four vehicles, which are considered to be suicide-bomber-friendly, so to speak. Ibrahim speculates that, “the government sees us as a small minority that could be abused for the greater protection of Egypt.” While understanding where the government is coming from, he notes that, “it is imperative for the government to draw a distinction between us and other less organized, or chaotic organizations in its fight against terrorism.”
Looking ahead, despite the hindrances, the future seems bright for motorcycle groups in Egypt. With the country’s biggest clubs having been established only in the last five years, new clubs continue to emerge at a rapid pace. The bigger groups are also not satisfied with what they’ve achieved so far, but want to expand and share their love of motorcycle riding all around the region. As evidence, both ElRakeeba and Egypt Riders currently have plans to expand to other countries within the next five years. Indeed, the enormous success that Egyptian motorcycle groups achieved in a short amount of time points towards endless possibilities down the road.