For some people, to know their passion and what they want to do the most in life is one of the hardest question to answer. Following their dreams and doing what they want to do before dying is another tough challenge, that might not be fulfilled. But for Galal Chatila, he was lucky enough to know what he loves the most and do it.
Chatila is a 21-year-old university student who developed his growing passion of bicycles into a trip he decided to take around Egypt in four months.
He started his trip on 22 November aiming to promote domestic tourism, and to prove that Egypt is a still safe place to travel around. He also wanted to prove that Egypt has not been affected deeply by all of the political events occurring in the country.
“I wanted to show people that I can still go only on my own bicycle inside of most the governorates without any protection, and still be fine and alive,” Chatila said.
Now, after biking for 68 days on the road and covering 2,650 km across Egypt, Chatila recalls the main stops of the journey.
With only a little amount of food and water and his music, Chatila started his trip heading from Cairo to Hurghada. The four day trip covered areas along the Red Sea, including Ras Ghareb and Ain Sokhna.
“At the beginning of the trip I was so down due to the huge amount of pressure I was dealing with,” said Chatila. “I couldn’t stop thinking of how disappointed these people will be if I failed”.
After getting out of the city and staying away from people for a while, the pressure started slowly decreasing and he started focusing on the road which wasn’t easy to ride on.
“Biking on a highway full of trucks and lorries is one of the hardest things to do,” Chatilla said laughing. “We don’t have the culture of biking in Egypt, so you can easily get hit by car even though you’re on the side of the road.”
According to Chatilla, the turning point of the roadtrip was the minute someone passed by with his car shouting “Go Egyptian Go!”
After crossing more than 500km in 22 hours, he reached Hurghada to start the next phase.
The second stage was to cross Sinai through Sharm El-Sheikh, Dahab, Saint Catherine and several other stops.
“Sinai is peaceful. The moment I saw the wind, I forgot everything and remembered that I’m here for this feeling,” Chatila said, describing the mixture of happiness and excitement he had.
In Sinai, he crossed 670km in the company of the warm sun in the morning and the light of the stars at night.
“I would ride on my bike at night with only the light of the moon and the stars as if it’s a part of a magical film full of thrill, drama, horror and romance at the same time,” he said.
There were a few places where police refused to let Chatilla go on his own, due to its danger like “Wady Firan”, where there is no mobile signal, and he might face being attacked by thugs. “I refused to have a police car go on the road with me,” Chatilla insisted, “Why would anyone attack a peaceful guy walking on his own?”
The only way they let him move, was by his promise to keep going on his own responsibility “and I was right, no one annoyed me and the phase went peaceful”, he said.
Aside the obstacles of the road, he witnessed some other troubles as well.
In the first two phases, Chatilla faced some troubles due to the pains in his body because of his efforts over hills and wind coming across his way. He was also on his bicycle all day long, “but after a while, the pain has gone away and I started getting used to it by the third phase”.
Chatilla finished the third phase along the Suez Canal in three days, going through Ismailia, Port Said and other places covering almost 200km in 11 hours.
By the fourth stage, which took place in Delta governorates, Chatila had gained a reasonable amount of fame that led the people of Zagazig to celebrate him and warmly welcome him.
“My eyes enjoyed the green lands and the nice weather there and people were extremely nice,” he said.
Even though the road in the fourth stage was extremely hard to ride in the night, Chatilla managed to reach Alexandria safely to start the next stage.
“Alexandria in winter in like heaven, I took the whole Cornish road at night with the sea and the smell of light breeze, it was so inspiring,” he remembered.
But things were not easy throughout the full trip, as he was heading to Matruh in the fifth stage, along the north coast. His bicycle broke down five times in one day causing him to extend the journey to seven days as he fixed it by himself.
Even though this stage was one of the hardest for Chatilla, the support he got even from people that didn’t know him led his spirit to stay high.
“There was this one person who stopped me while driving to ask me what I’m doing, and when he knew my story he insisted on inviting me to lunch at his house with his family,” he said.
After crossing more than 540km, he finally reached Matruh safely to continue and start the next stage.
The sixth and current stage Chatila is undertaking is the Western Desert trip. That was from Matruh to Siwa. The air speed was very high in the opposite direction that Chatila was riding at.
“I barely kept on moving and hardly stopped myself from falling several times,” he said. “The road was real torture.”
After arriving Siwa, Chatilla is now waiting for the legal permission for 20 days to keep on going with his trip with as there are still three stages for him to complete the journey around Egypt.
“I can’t wait to keep on going with my journey, there’s so much I learned and can’t wait for the rest to come,” he said.