By Sebastian Meyer – CAIRO — A law recently passed in Egypt makes it illegal for groups of more than 10 people to gather. However, every Friday a group of young men meets on the outskirts of Cairo, not to protest, but to practice a sport called Parkour that is sweeping the country.
It’s Friday morning in the suburbs of Cairo. A dozen young men meet to practice Parkour, the urban gymnastics craze that’s swept the world.
Come rain or shine, the group called PKE – or Parkour Egypt – meets every week to work on moves.
The few onlookers seem impressed, although Ahmed Nasser Saif says they’re not always appreciated.
“They call me crazy man or they don’t know what I do. So I’m strange for that life. Why I run? Why I climb some buildings?” – said Nasser Saif.
But the sport may have advantages in today’s Egypt where crime is on the rise. Some of these men say they’ve used Parkour to chase down criminals.
Mustafa Kosha, one of the coaches, says he nabbed a pickpocket a few months ago.
“A guy stole something from a girl and he ran. We ran after him. Because of Parkour we could choose the shortest way to run. He was moving behind the cars. We jumped over the cars. We can do anything like that. So we caught [him] and he’s in a police station right now,” said Kosha.
Parkour has also been useful for Egypt’s film and TV industry. Companies like Mobinil and Jeep use it for stunts in their commercials.
As with all sports, Parkour builds self-confidence, says Ahmed Mohammed Munir.
“Parkour gives me a very big self-confidence. I can jump. I can go. I can run. So this give me very high self-confidence,” said Munir.
But, in a country where the streets are better known for tear gas and battles than gymnastics, Parkour, said coach Kosha, encourages camaraderie.
“Parkour brings people together. I saw people, they are now my best friends. We go out together. We train together. It’s a different lifestyle. I love Parkour because of that,” said Kosha.
As Egypt continues to fracture, nothing stops these young men from training. Not divisive politics, nor bad weather.