Egyptian women take to the tracks for roller derby

Published 5:20 AM ET, Wed January 18, 2017
Egypt Roller DerbyEgypt Roller Derby
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This month, Egyptian roller derby team the CaiRollers will compete in the first regional match of its kind against Abu Dhabi. The Arab world may not be foremost on people's minds when they think of roller derby, but, 25 girls bound on female solidarity want to change all that.

Pictured: Sumer Abd El Nasser, a script writer has been a player at CaiRollers for over three years.
Courtesy Nermine Abi Aad
The group has more than doubled in size since its formation in 2012 by two American teachers. It is now almost exclusively made up of Egyptian women. A few wear hijabs, many cover up completely, but all skate wearing t-shirts branded with the CaiRollers logo - an image of the Egyptian goddess Isis on roller skates.

Pictured: Shimaa Samhan, a project coordinator has also been with the group for over three years. On track, her adopted name is 'Sheen Machine'.
Courtesy Nermine Abi Aad
CaiRollers consist of working women - teachers, social workers, engineers, architects, researchers, and even a pharmacist - all spend twice weekly evenings on the derby track. In line with tradition, the players adopt unique names that reflect their alter ego and on-track persona.

Pictured (from left): Heba El Kest, graphic designer; Lina El Gohary, pharmacist; Nouran El Kabbany, graphic designer; Stacey Gilmore, music teacher; Susan Nour, history teacher.
Courtesy Michael Glavanis
Roller derby first took off as a competitive sport in the United States in the 1930s. Since its 2001 revival on a flat, rather than oval track, roller derby has been experiencing something of a resurgence globally, and even more so in the unlikeliest of capitals - Shanghai, Beijing, Johannesburg, Dubai, Seoul and Daegu in South Korea - all boast teams.

Pictured: A few of CaiRoller's 25 strong team prior to practice.
Courtesy CaiRollers
"The CaiRollers specifically came into being at a time when things were really changing in Egypt and we definitely felt like we were in some small way a part of history," says Susan Nour, one of CaiRoller's founding players. Their first games were held after the revolution that brought down Mubarak's rule of almost 30 years. Courtesy CaiRollers
"We definitely felt like we were in some small way a part of history," says Nour. "That created a real feeling of sisterhood among the founding players, and even now as the people on the league have come and gone, that sisterhood remains."

Pictured: Nermine Abi Aad, jewelry designer; and Nouran El Kabbany, a graphic designer.
Courtesy Mahmoud Nasr