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Pedaling Hard with The Muslimahs of The Cape Town Cycle Tour

Nahida Esmail sails through the 109km cycle challenge finding another sister along the way.

The Cape Town Cycling Tour attracts thousands of participants from around the world every year. 34,000 cyclists take on the grueling 109km route and there are hardly any hijabis among them. I decided to take on the challenge. I mean, why not? Muslim women can take on these kind of challenges too, you know. It was my first time for such a cycling challenge and I had thrown myself in the deep-end. I asked my family and friends to make dua that I could complete the race in good time and with dignity! Many don’t complete the race.




My du’a was accepted. Allah (SWT) is the best of planners. The 109km route was reduced to a mere 47km, for the first time ever in its 38 years racing history. Yes! Really! So I did complete the race in good time! The strangest thing happened in Cape Town in the week leading to the race. Cape Town was on fire. Strong winds had turned a small spark into an out-of-control inferno, setting ablaze an extensive area of Chapman’s Peak, which is the route for the cycling tour. As one of my friends teased, “Nahida, Thousands of hectares of vegetation were burnt so you could complete the race in good time!”




The blaze was contained by courageous fire fighters. However, the organizers had no choice but to significantly shorten the route for the safety all the cyclists from every corner of the world. It was my first time and I can’t say that I was disappointed that a whole 60km were reduced. The 47km gave me a chance to practice better for next year. Of course, it’s sad that the fires destroyed so much. The challenge morphed into support for the brave men and women who risked their lives facing the wildfires, thus allowing me to take part in the historic, “Show You Care Solidarity Ride.”




Many people on along the route pointed towards me saying, “Look! A Muslim woman!”




And I had the opportunity to meet up with another Muslimah cyclist, the impressive Abeda Moerat. I asked Abeda to share a little about her self and cycling passion for SISTERS:




Nahida Esmail: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Abeda Moerat: I am 38 years old, married and a mother of seven children. I am an Islamic studies teacher in South Africa.




NE: What is the Cape Argus?

AM: It is a yearly cycling event on the world cycling calendar, now known as the Cape Town Cycling Tour.




NE: How many times have you done it before?

AM: This year was my 4th CT Cycling Tour.




NE: What are your reasons for being part of this event?

AM: At first it was just to do the great event, but now it’s all about the challenge, the beautiful scenery, great fun and to show the world that Islam doesn’t oppress women.




NE: What are your challenges as a Muslim woman?

AM: Four years ago when I started, I was one of the only Muslim woman cycling with an Islamic dressing style, but am surprisingly well accepted and respected.




NE: How do you train for the 108Km route?

AM: To cycle an event like the CT Cycling Tour, preparation is very important. I go to the gym and spinning classes at least twice a week and once a week respectively, my husband and I cycle around 4 – 60km. Closer to the event we increase our kilometers to about 80-100km.




NE: Do you do any other sport?

AM: I love running and do marathons occasionally.




NE: How do you manage to balance between your sports and your children?

AM: Luckily for me, my husband loves cycling and my kids enjoy us doing our sport, so if we go practice, we leave early in the morning to return when they wake up, and the elder ones help the younger ones.




NE: Would you like to see more Muslim women participate in the CT Cycling Tour?

AM: Yes! I love seeing more women doing the Argus!




NE:  Any tips for people interested in taking part?

AM: Yes, practice lots of hills, know the gears of your bike, have a good healthy diet plan and most importantly have fun, fun, fun!



I hope to see you on the road and ‘strong legs’ as we say in the cycling world.


Nahida Esmail grew up in DaresSalam, Tanzania and has lived in the UK, Egypt and South Africa. She enjoys reading, travelling, keeping fit and photography. She cycled 377km from Mount Kilimanjaro to Ngorongoro Crater to raise fund for access to clean water. Being a published writer for children’s and young adults books, she has won four Burt Awards. Her latest book is, “Living in the Shade: Aiming for the Summit”, which will be launched at the end of this month. She won the Tanzania Women’s Achievement Award for the education category in 2015.




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