For years, anyone who wanted to kite surf in Libya had a real challenge: beaches were under government control and many sports were outlawed. But now, 100 or so kite surfers in the country have reclaimed their turf, and even women are getting involved.
Jalal Elwalid is largely responsible for making kitesurfing such a popular sport in Libya, where the former regime outlawed certain sports, Brownbook Magazine reports.
He owns the country’s only dedicated kitesurfing shop in Gargaresh, an upscale Tripoli neighborhood, and recently arranged a gathering of some 30 surfers at Farwa Island.
One of our favorite Middle East beach getaways, this small strip of island in the Mediterranean is said to be great for kite surfers since there are wind and water conditions for everyone – from the trainee surfer to the most intrepid and veteran.
“It’s a great feeling,” Jasem Al Okez, a surfer from Zuwara, told Brownbook Magazine on a fishing boat packed with water sports enthusiasts. “We fought for such freedoms.”
Albeit predominantly a man’s sport in Libya, there were two women on the trip from Tripoli to Farwa Island that Elwalid arranged. One of them is an interior designer whose father disagrees with her hobby choice and a conceptual artist.
Apart from a lycra hijab, the women are virtually indistinguishable from the men in their wetsuits, and everybody is treated as equal in the group.
Surfing and kitesurfing have taken off in other parts of the Middle East as well, with small groups of water lovers popping up across the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.
In some cases, water sports are something of a tool for activists – not just for locals, but for foreigners as well. Grant Shilling surfed for peace last year, a mission he discussed in an interview with Green Prophet, and Irish surf extraordinaire Easkey Britton became the first woman to surf in Iran.
And then in Israel, a kite surfer developed solar technology using tricks from his favorite sport.
Formerly something of a “western” sport, kite surfing has definitely taken on its own personality and style throughout the Middle East and North Africa. And we love it.
Image via Naziha Arebi