One of 20 volunteers for D-CAF's Urban Visions programme, Timmy Mowafi experienced downtown Cairo from a wheelchair. Here's what he found out...
I'm not sure why I get myself into these situations... I stood topless in an abandoned Downtown apartment with a woman who seemed like a mix between the parody police officers in Bowfinger and a film noir femme fatale behind a fabricated box office screaming at me for my identitification (I had to hand in my t-shirt for lack of a beta2a) before leading me into a dark room with a kidnapped man taped to a chair in a corner, and her no less surreal partner in crime screaming between French, English and Arabic whilst smacking his walking stick against the wall. Thankfully this was only the third or fourth time this happened to me so I was pretty calm about it. This was the first time, however, that it could be called 'performance art.'
The point of Mission Roosevelt, organised by the Tony Clifton circus from Italy, part of D-CAF's Urban Visions programme, which at first seems highly offensive, is to have 20 very much abled citizens volunteer to wheelchair around Downtown from point A, the old French Consulate, to point B, the GrEEK Campus. It's not offensive though, don't be so -politically correct. Was it fun? Yes, but the whole project was charitable, crowdfunding $2,600 which will be used to buy more wheelchairs which, alongside the wheelchairs used for the event (donated by The Hassan Foundation for Spinal Chord Injury) will be donated to those who need them. And it was altruistic, an eye-opening empathetic journey, down-right-Atticus-Finch-see-the-world-in-other-people's-shoes-shit. And let me tell; you the world for the physically challenged living in downtown Cairo is one obstacle course after another.
There is little to no accessibility for for the disabled not including the limited sidewalk space, constant cracks, potholes, bad drivers and deathly traffic. It sadly might be a reason why Egypt does so well at the Paralympics. After just five minutes of wheeling around the streets, I felt the strain, both physically and mentally. Whilst many of the passersby would just look on as if there was some kind of alien invasion, I was touched by the amount of Egyptians who felt the struggle, who ran up to push and help the other participants and I (which made me feel a tad guilty to be fair). I was especially surprised by security officials and police on the streets who, for once, became empathetic, often stopping traffic and giving us free range to proceed on our mission.
The event it seems was a success fulfilling their mission statement of "bringing to the stage the rareness, the anomaly; they want to make us laugh but also to hold it in," whilst giving participants an opportunity to "take a moment to reflect, to rethink disability and experience it in new ways.”
Watch Mission Roosevelt unfold below...
Keep up with the rest of D-CAF's Urban Vision programme here
Photography by Ali Bahr