Lotfia El-Nady, who would have been 107 this year, was the first Arab woman to pilot a plane. El-Nady, who died in 2002, obtained her licence in 1933 then flew from Cairo to Alexandria at the age of 26, to become the second female pilot in the world.
“I learned to fly because I love to be free,” said El-Nady in “Take Off from the Sand”, a documentary that was made about her life in 1996.
El-Nadi explained how she rebelled against her father’s “omnipotence,” which made her “suffocate”.
“It was a revolution from me, despite of me,” she said.
The young woman attended flying lessons without her father knowing, according to the documentary. Before receiving her licence, El-Nady worked at Cairo Airport to cover her tuition fees.
To try the feeling of flying, El-Nady hid in a two-seater plane without informing the pilot about her presence until the plane took off, according to the documentary.
“As soon as I took off I felt the plane was light and I owned the whole world,” she says. “Freedom. The freedom you always dreamt of, Lotfia, well here it is, you got it.”
At some point, she persuaded the director of the Institute of Aviation to let her work, free of charge, as his secretary, in exchange for flying lessons.
“I said, okay, why wouldn’t I build myself on my own?” she says, “If I want something that I believe is good, I must continue.”