Egyptian adventurer aims to raise awareness about plastic pollution

“This swim can spread awareness about the problem of plastic waste,” El-Galla says of his next expedition. (Supplied)
Updated 23 November 2019

Egyptian adventurer aims to raise awareness about plastic pollution

  • Omar El-Galla had a successful career and a steady income, yet he never felt fulfilled
  • His shock at the level of plastic pollution set the goal for El-Galla's latest expedition

CAIRO: “I’m trying to experience life in a different way. I want to break away from the idea of needing money to be happy,” said Omar Khaled (also known as Omar El-Galla), referring to his perilous adventures.

This year has been quite extraordinary for El-Galla. First, he cycled around Egypt, pedalling more 6,500 km in 65 days. Then, a few months later, he ran the length of the country, completing a marathon every day and covering 1,500 km in a little over a month.

Both were solo adventures, undertaken without any support, but El-Galla has not always lived on the edge.
“I worked really hard for 10 years, and I was successful, but I was unhappy,” he told Arab News.
El-Galla had a successful career and a steady income, which is what most people want at his age, but he never felt fulfilled.
One day, he decided to quit his job and began following his passion for adventure.
The Egyptian adventurer faced harsh conditions on his cycling and running expeditions, sleeping on the roadside and dealing with uncertain weather conditions.

Omar El-Galla on the move. (Supplied photo)

Nevertheless, he loved every second of it. “During those trips, I experienced really special moments of clarity. Pushing yourself physically and mentally that much puts you in a state of mind one can rarely achieve otherwise,” he said.
Despite testing his own limits several times, El-Galla refuses to slow down. His next record-breaking effort includes a triathlon — swimming, biking and running — with a swim in the Red Sea from Taba to Shalateen.
He estimates that the 900 km distance will take three to four months to cover. But this time his adventure has another purpose.
“On my cycling journey, I knew when I was approaching a small town in the desert because I could see plastic bags and bottles everywhere,” he said.
“When I ran the length of Egypt, I used to see plastic strewn all over the Nile and farmland.”
His shock at the level of plastic pollution set the goal for his next expedition. “I want to shed light on plastic waste and its impact on the environment,” El-Galla said.
However, planning his environmental odyssey has been a logistical challenge, and he has had to change his plans several times.
Initially, a sailboat was to follow El-Galla for support, but a delay in gaining permits forced him to scrap the idea. Instead, he will swim along the shoreline. “I’m going to tie a buoy with food, water, a sleeping bag, a power bank and a satellite tracker around my waist while swimming,” he said.
The plan is to swim 12-15 km every day and then get out of the water to look for food and a campsite.
Logistics aside, the physical training has been beyond anything El-Galla has experienced.
“In the beginning, I spent a month swimming every day at Dahab and then went back to Cairo for daily swims in the pool,” he said. “It has taken every minute of my time for the past five months.”
El-Galla will undertake his swim in cooperation with “if,” an initiative launched by renowned Egyptian adventurers Omar Samra and Ahmed Gabr.
The project aims to provide sustainable alternatives to plastic.
“I’m going to create a map through this swim highlighting the locations along the Red Sea coast that are most affected by pollution,” El-Galla said.
The map will be used to organize clean-ups in those areas as well as raise awareness in surrounding towns about the damage caused by plastic.
Financing the expedition is also a challenge. El-Galla has launched a crowdfunding campaign, hoping this will help him finish what he describes as “a very important journey.”
“This swim can spread awareness about the problem of plastic waste. If only a few people started using less plastic, imagine the difference that would make. If I can create this kind of impact, I will be fulfilled,” El-Galla said.


• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.


Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

Updated 44 min 26 sec ago

Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

  • Military exercise near Libyan border a ‘warning shot,’ experts say

CAIRO: A major Egyptian army exercise near the border with Libya is being viewed by military and strategic experts as a message of deterrence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his backing for the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and supported by militia groups.

The combat exercise, codenamed “Hasm 2020” (Firmness 2020), was carried out by Egypt’s Western Region units together with armed forces formations and special troops, including paratroops and SEAL teams.

The drills included strategic incursions by land forces and land-sea operations by troops in coastal areas of the Western Region near the border with Libya. Other exercises focused on the threat from mercenary or terror groups.

Air defense and artillery maneuvers were also carried out during the exercises, which lasted several days. 

African affairs and national security expert Gen. Mohammed Abdel-Wahed said the Hasm 2020 exercise “carries many internal and external messages of assurance to our brothers in Libya and deterrence to some regional parties.”

The drill “was a message of deterrence to anyone who thinks he can threaten Egyptian national security” and “a simulation of war,” he added.

According to an army statement, the drill’s main phase was attended by Egyptian Minister of Defense Mohamed Zaki, and included live artillery and weapons fire.

Strategic expert Gen. Samir Farag said: “What happened was not an ordinary drill because the forces attacked mercenaries. Our army always fights a regular army. What is different about this drill is training to combat mercenaries. One of the training tasks is to carry out attacks to eliminate mercenaries in cooperation with the air force.”

Farag said the drill “is a message that we will operate on the coasts if they are under threat.”

He said the Egyptian air force succeeded in providing air supplies, “meaning that we have forces capable of going anywhere.”

Farag said that the Western Region had been carefully selected as a location for the exercises.

“We closely monitor any drill carried out by any of our enemies,” he said, adding that Hasm 2020 had been studied and followed up by some countries in the region. 

Egyptian MP and journalist Mustafa Bakry said that “every Egyptian should be proud of their armed forces and their extensive preparation to counter any attack on Egypt or threaten its national security.”

Bakry said that Hasm 2020 sent “a clear message to anyone who attempts to threaten Egypt or its people.”

The Libyan cities of Sirte and Al-Jufra are a red line, he said, adding that “Egypt will never leave Libya and its brotherly people as an easy prey to the Turkish invader.”