Meet the men cycling 655km to Egypt’s Cop27 in Sharm El Sheikh from Cairo

UAE-based German bike shop owner Wolfi will join three Egyptian cyclists in six-day expedition to raise awareness

Egyptian-German businessman Yusef Ahmed initiated the idea of the Cop27 bike ride to spread environmental awareness. Photo: Yusef Ahmed
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Three keen Egyptian cyclists and UAE-based German bike shop owner Wolfgang Hohmann will cycle from Cairo to Sharm El Sheikh, where the UN climate summit Cop27 will take place next month.

The goal of the six-day “Cop27 by bike” expedition that starts on Saturday is to spread awareness about environmental sustainability and build a bridge with Cop28 host UAE.

Egyptian-German organiser Yusef Ahmed, biking enthusiast Galal Zekri, retired ambassador Mohamed Elewa and Mr Hohmann ― known as Wolfi ― will cover approximately 655 kilometres on the cycling tour.

The group will set off from the German International University at the New Administrative Capital, about 35 kilometres east of central Cairo, and finish at Sharm El Sheikh’s International Convention Centre on October 27.

Cop27, which takes place from November 6 to 18, covers various climate-related topics with the main aim of implementing the Paris Agreement to limit global warming.

“Cop27 is about environmentally-friendly action,” Mr Ahmed, 47, tells The National.

He says the Cop27 by bike initiative has three main environmental awareness tags to promote.

“Number one tag would be ‘don’t litter'. Number two is ‘be active’. Number three would be, in general, creating awareness on resource efficiency,” he says.

Day one will cover 97km from the New Administrative Capital to the city of Suez on the Red Sea.

Day two will cover 109km to Ras Sedr on the eastern side of the Gulf of Suez, followed by 205km on day three, all the way to the St Catherine monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai.

The group will take a rest on day four, before cycling 132km on day five to Dahab on the Gulf of Aqaba and 94km on day six to the finish in Sharm El Sheikh.

Mr Ahmed, the founder of a Frankfurt-based consulting company, got the cycling bug after moving back to Egypt three years ago and doing triathlons. He met Mr Hohmann when he bought his bike at Wolfi’s in Dubai.

He got the idea for the Cop27 bike ride about six months ago and has his sights on creating an even larger event in the UAE for next year’s Cop28.

Mr Hohmann, who set up his famous bike shop two decades ago, tells The National he is happy to support the cause and “connect Cop27 with Cop28”.

He hopes to spread the messages of “trying to incorporate a more active lifestyle into your daily routine” and “instead of using fuel, you use your own body”.

“It’s not always up to the government to take actions. It’s us as individuals,” Mr Hohmann says. “If we really work together on this, I think we can make a tremendous difference.”

Mr Ahmed also recruited Mr Zekri, 29, one of Egypt’s most well-known cyclists. At age 21, he cycled across Egypt, clocking up 7,000km over five months.

Mr Zekri is the founder of NS Crossing, which organises an annual 1,000km cycling 12-day expedition from Marsa Matruh on Egypt’s North Coast to Shalateen on the Sudanese border.

He says 80 per cent of the people who join are novice riders who had never completed five kilometres on a bike before. He gives them tips and helps them complete two 100km training rides.

“If you think of the average human, anyone can walk 30km and anyone can ride 100km,” Mr Zekri tells The National.

He filmed 26 episodes for an adventure show on Egyptian station CBC TV highlighting a 1,800km ride from the Mediterranean coast to the Red Sea coast. The first episode aired earlier this month.

Tying in the message of caring for the environment with leading an active lifestyle, he says he witnessed first-hand people throwing rubbish in beautiful spots along the Red Sea.

“People think that someone will pick up after them … We have to start with the basics that we should not litter,” Mr Zekri says.

He is also producing an Arabic YouTube show called “Kilo90” that encourages Egyptian celebrities to try cycling 90km.

The third Egyptian member of the Cop27 bike ride, Mr Elewa, served as an ambassador for 30 years in Gabon, Switzerland, China and Jordan.

Mr Elewa, 54, has embarked on long-distance cycling expeditions since 2017. He has cycled 20,000km in 17 countries on three continents. He is known for using a reclining recumbent bike, but will use a “normal bike” for this ride.

The Cop27 bike ride is supported by several partners, including Mercedes, the German embassy in Cairo and the German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

With less than three weeks to go until the Cop27 summit, similar awareness campaigns combined with encouraging an active lifestyle are ramping up.

British-South African endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh started a 160km swim last week from Saudi Arabia’s Tiran Island to the Egyptian Red Sea city of Hurghada. He is urging world leaders to drastically cut emissions and protect coral reefs, which are at risk of extinction within this century.

Mr Pugh was joined by Saudi swimmer and humanitarian Mariam Binladen, making her the first Arab and woman to swim from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, and Egyptian swimmer Mostafa Said.

Egyptian world record holder Ali Abdo started his Ride to Cop27 on October 10 with the aim of covering 20,000km across Egypt on his electric motorcycle.

Finally, the world’s longest non-stop baton relay covering 7,800km from Glasgow to Sharm El Sheikh began on September 30 and will reach Egypt on November 4.

Updated: October 17, 2022, 2:22 PM