How one Egyptian plans to rev up tourism
CAIRO — When software engineer Ali Abdo realized that Egypt’s tourism sector would likely suffer following the Russian plane crash in the Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31, he did not hesitate to put his hobby to use in a bid to help his homeland.
Abdo decided to launch a new installment of his “Around Egypt on Motorcycle” initiative, whereby he travels across the country on a 1993 model bike to visit and photograph interesting sites and raise awareness about tourist destinations. In his newest journey, launched Dec. 10, he aims to travel 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles) in the span of seven days. While he is well aware that his bike is relatively old, he insists on using it to lead his initiative.
It all started in 2013 when Abdo first launched “Around Egypt on Motorcycle.” At the time, the goal was to promote motorcycle tourism in Egypt. He then developed his initiative as he found that the tourism sector as a whole needed rejuvenation, so he launched the second phase of his initiative.
Over the past two years, Abdo has traveled across Egypt using his motorcycle and has become known on social networking sites, posting pictures of his travels and sharing information about tourist attractions in Egypt.
Thus, Abdo decided to turn his hobby into a global initiative aimed at promoting tourism in Egypt. According to Abdo, he has been in contact with Guinness World Records and hopes to have his trip across all of Egypt’s governorates in the span of a week recorded.
Not only does his initiative aim at achieving a record, but also to produce illustrated maps and design a touristic encyclopedia that will be translated into several languages, in a bid to attract tourists to Egypt and guide them throughout their journey.
In this context, Abdo noted that his initiative “is expanding its concept and objectives.”
In 2011, Egypt witnessed the launch of a similar project aimed at promoting tourism, the Cross Egypt Challenge. This is an annual motorcycle rally where participants — including Egyptians and foreigners — spend nine days traveling to various locations across the country, traveling 2,500 to 3,000 kilometers.
Abdo told Al-Monitor, “The aim of my initiative is to prove to the whole world that Egypt is a safe country. Throughout the trip, I do not carry a weapon or a means of self-defense. I travel through the desert at night without feeling fear.”
Abdo said that while he had difficulty learning to drive his motorcycle when he first bought it two years ago, he never gave up and insisted on getting trained. He then decided to take his motorcycle on his first three-day trip with his friends to the Bahariya oasis, 370 kilometers southwest of Cairo. He now dedicates two days a week for motorcycle traveling while spending the rest of the week at his job as an information systems specialist for IBM.
According to Abdo, this second phase is costing 30,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,834), an amount he is financing with his own money.
Asked about the second phase of the initiative, Abdo said, “The second phase goes in line with the Guinness World Records, according to which the trip should follow a complete itinerary. The trip starts from Cairo to Sohag, then goes from Sohag to Cairo and from Cairo to the Dakhla oasis. It then passes through the Baris oasis, Abu Simbel, Aswan, Halayeb, Shalateen, Marsa Alam, Hurghada, Ain Sokhna and Sinai. The trip then goes from Suez to Sharm, Dahab, Nuweiba, Taba, Ismailia, Port Said, Damietta, Alexandria and the Siwa oasis.”
Every time Abdo wants to go on a trip, he raises the Egyptian flag on the back of his bike and prepares his helmet. This helmet plays an important role in documenting his journey, as its task is not limited to protecting him from potential road accidents but to take photos of all tourist attractions. The helmet is equipped with a small high-resolution camera that takes pictures and shoots video as he drives.
The dream of the engineer has not gone beyond being a hobby, however, as he does not seek to make a profit, achieve fame or rise to power. Yet, he does dream of the day that he will go on a journey and achieve the world record for the longest distance traveled within the borders of a single state, by driving 40,000 kilometers and visiting every corner of Egypt.
Nevertheless, Abdo says that that would be a difficult journey requiring huge financial resources and support from the government.
Abdo has another dream, namely to design and produce an electronic map of Egypt. He wants this map to include complete information on all the touristic sites and the services they provide, such as gasoline, hotels and restaurants, among other things. His dream is to have this map translated into several languages in order for tourists to understand it and to help businessmen develop road projects.
Abdo spoke of the impact his travels have had on him. “Traveling puts you in direct contact with nature. You feel the warmth of the weather, and you get to see the details of the road. You feel like you are flying and you enjoy it so much that you forget the time and effort that you have put into the trip.”
Abdo uses social networking sites to communicate with tourists and show them pictures of the places he visits. He said those unfamiliar with Egypt frequently ask him: “How do you travel on a motorcycle without being stopped by insurgents and extremists?” Whenever someone asks this, he smiles and shows them pictures of Egyptian citizens who help him throughout his journey, either by filling up his bike with fuel or by giving him food. He uses these images to show potential tourists that Egypt is a safe place full of friendly people.