In Middle East, "Parkour" Highlights People and Territories © Spee505
These young and intrepid people are unstoppable while they perform their series of running, climbing or jumping over the various obstacles that the urban space offers them. Organized into clubs, these “tracers” from Parkour Egypt or Tunisia Explore share their passion for parkour with all their fellow citizens in Egypt, Tunisia and the world and use this discipline to claim their rights and showcase their territories.
They discovered this discipline, which comes from France, in the early 2000s through movies like Yamakasi or Banlieue 13. These have started to publicize the urban obstacle course, usually called parkour or PK. The “tracers”, the one who practice it, have first started as autodidactes. They usually evolve in perform in groups by mixing dangerous jumps, acrobatics and vertiginous ascents in the urban space. There, they aren’t really seen with favorable eyes by the authorities and residents. However they are often greeted and applauded by onlookers and tourists. This discipline is like a celebration of freedom for them, as well as a means of expression and metaphor for life, where obstacles have to be overcome in order to move forward. Besides, parkour is first and foremost, for them, a way to get free from the shackles the society imposes, to claim the rights of local people over their environment and to promote these territories to inhabitants and tourists. And two collectives of “tracers”, from Egypt and Tunisia, are handling these acrobatics twice spectacular.
In Egypt, challenging the social shackles weighing on women
A group of ten young women meeting once a week in an abandoned park of Cairo’s suburb… They climb the walls, jumps from buildings to buildings by brighten up their obstacle course with some acrobatics. This quite an unusual picture for an urban setting, especially in Egypt.
Under the wise guidance of their coach and under the banner of their club, Parkour Egypt, which they wear with pride, these young girls dream of breaking with the outdated opinion that street is not an appropriate place for women and that sport is exclusively for men. With this as perilous as spectacular discipline, they have found a source of freedom and a way of expression that free them from these social yokes. It is now more and more common to find groups of Egyptian women crisscrossing in a flash Cairo streets or darting from the top of a building to reach the opposite wall. They even go on to train their own women’s or mixed groups. Thus, they are totally part of the discipline’s booming democratization.
In Tunisia, highlighting the country’s territories
Taher Nouiri and Anis Boukhris are barely 25 years olds and are already known throughout Tunisia as the “springs on legs”. They started their “parkour” in 2016 by launching Tunisia Explore and using the “art du déplacement” to show Tunisia from a different point of view, a modern, artistic and sensational one at the same time. With sublime postcard landscapes, they travel the whole country to unveil the richness of its geographical and historical heritage while performing spectacular acrobatics.
They kill two birds with one stone. By popularizing the discipline, they invite Tunisians and tourists to rediscover a country that has lost none of its beauty. They achieved, therefore, a feat, that the #MoveFortTunisia campaign of the National Tourist Office, featuring Yamakasi, couldn’t do with such a success in Decembre 2015.
A common passion for challenge and freedom
Given that the discipline is already a challenge in itself, these “tracers” from the Maghreb and the Middle East can be proud of achieving a double feat! Including that one of going against what received ideas and social rules are imposing. Indeed, parkour remains globally considered as a transgression since it calls the usual uses of the public space into question. These freerunners, as they are also called, claim instead that they intend to regain control of the street, which they consider as a common good.
The dangerous aspect of the practice is often opposed to them as an argument to slow down their intrepid races, while they double their strength, gather and organize themselves in clubs or associations in order to share their passion through friendly trainings, for all ages. They are also continuously advocating for infrastructure and sports hall where they can train and prepare their teams for the outdoor environment.
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The discipline is still very new and not really recognized throughout the world, Britain being the first country to officially recognize parkour as a sport, these very committed young tracers appear as pioneers. They deeply feel free liberated when they practice their urban art, so they are above all driven by the desire to share their passion with the greatest number.