Last Friday, while returning to his home town Cairo after completing 7,000km on the road with his beloved bicycle, as part of the Cairo Half Marathon, cheers from the participants welcomed Galal Zekri-Chatilla, who had just ended his journey around Egypt.
While trying to promote domestic tourism, Zekri-Chatilla, who hit the road five months ago with only the basic needs for survival, never thought that the day he returned from his journey would see so many people waiting and celebrating his success.
“I never thought I would find this huge amount of interaction from people,” he said. Being stopped every now and then in the middle of the marathon for a selfie or people screaming his name out loud, were all new experiences for him. “It was like I’m a celebrity!” he laughed.
Recalling the start of his 145 days away from home, he assured that he would never have changed anything he went through.
Zekri-Chatilla wanted to prove to people that Egypt is safe, and that all the terrorism people hear about from is far away from the nature of “pure-hearted Egyptians”. It was also a trip for him to also follow a dream that he always believed was impossible to achieve.
“We have a lot of breath-taking places at Egypt, that normal people don’t get to see every day,” Zekri-Chatilla continued. “I wanted to show people these places through my camera while going after my dream.”
As for the lessons he learned from the journey, overcoming obstacles with a high spirit was on the top of the list.
“There were days when I would wake up at the morning forcing myself to ride the bicycle without feeling the spirit of doing anything, but going back to sleep in the middle of nowhere, the temperature would be extremely high and my muscles would be sore. But reminding myself of my goal and the success waiting for me would always keep my legs moving on the pedal,” he said.
Also, he remembers the day a severe sand storm hit his path, at a speed of 70km/h leaving him struggling just to complete 1km.
“We face challenges, sometimes they are really tough, but as long as you’re moving, you’ll reach somewhere,” he said.
The obstacles he faced changed the way Zekri-Chatilla thinks about a lot of things; another benefit of the trip from his point of view. “Now I know for sure that I can’t change what’s happening around me, but I can change the way I look and deal with it,” he added.
“No matter how hard it got, I never gave up on my goal or my dream,” he mentioned.
Moreover, the time spent with one’s self is precious, and a must have for everyone, in his point of view.
On the happy moments of his trip, he spoke of the moment he reached his destination every day, and realise he had accomplished the mission of that day, and the number of sunrises and sunsets he had the chance to witness every day.
Zekri-Chatilla considers the things he gained from the trip to be priceless. “People master their working fields, and that trip was my master at the thing I love the most, which is travelling and adventure,” he said.
Galal is now compiling the scenes and pictures he took from the trip into a movie and writing a book about the gains from living such an experience.
His next plan is to look for another trip, “but [which] definitely includes, adventure, travelling and film making,” he concluded.