JEDDAH: Nadima Abulaynain, 18, is setting the scene for women who are keen to cycle the streets of Jeddah.
“I’ve liked riding a bicycle since I was a child,” the high school student told Arab News. “Why not spread interest in the activity and help other try it?”
All she needed was a bicycle, a helmet and social media to start a cycling club. Abulaynain started with her family, encouraging them to start cycling around their house in Jeddah.
“In the beginning, people were surprised to see us on the road in the neighborhood. They then became more supportive.”
She started an Instagram page, posting photos of her family’s cycling. The page soon became popular, which “I didn’t expect,” Abulaynain said.
— خبر عاجل (@AjelNews24) July 19, 2017
She started a WhatsApp group for those interested in cycling to agree on a time and place to meet.
“We started meeting every Saturday and Wednesday for an hour or an hour and a half. We helped each other.”
She said some lacked the skills to ride a bicycle, but were interested in the activity. Abulaynain wears a helmet on top of her headscarf.
“Nothing in Islam forbids sports,” she said, adding that her school supports the activity she is trying to promote.
A few months after she started the club, she and her group had to stop because “it came to our attention that we needed to have permits to be able to keep our cycling group active.” They have applied for the permits, and are waiting to hear back from the governorate.
The group consists of 20 members, and is open to anyone who wishes to join. Her Instagram page is under Jeddah Woman Cyclist (@Jeddah_Woman), which directs those who are interested to a form they need to fill out in order to join. The form includes health and safety information.
Abulaynain and other young Saudi women have been increasingly proactive in introducing fitness into their daily lives in recent years.
Many women have even turned their passion for physical activity into home businesses, including zumba, Pilates, yoga and kickboxing classes.
A 2014 report by the National Health Information Center of the Saudi Health Ministry said only 29 percent of women in Saudi Arabia include physical activity in their daily lives. The report linked lack of physical activity to diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.