There are so many ways to enjoy time outside. This is one of many unique stories we’re sharing as part of our effort to highlight the Limitless Sides to Outside.
Outside is where I shine the brightest. It’s where I go to unwind and relax. Whether I’m arm deep in dirt from gardening, riding my bike, riding a horse, swimming, playing tennis or running, the fresh air relaxes me. I’m also what one would call a pluviophile: a lover of rain. I love the feel of the raindrops upon my skin. It’s refreshing and soul cleansing. When I’m outside, I slow down to enjoy nature. I become ecstatic when I spot groundhogs, chipmunks, foxes, beautiful flowers or oddly shaped trees. Walks, runs or rides around creeks are sedative to me. I’m able to unwind and decompress in those environments.
As a child, I would cruise the neighborhood on my bike. I’d ride from my grandmother’s house to my mother’s house, which were on opposite sides of the city. They lived about 7 to 8 miles apart. Back then, we didn’t have bike lanes. I just knew how to maneuver alongside traffic. I was never afraid. I’d move as one with the vehicles, staying where drivers could easily see me and vice versa.
I picked cycling up again at the age of 29 to help me become more active. I purchased a used bike and I’d ride to the market, doctor’s office and the library. It felt so exhilarating. I would often ride my bike to a park and have lunch. It’s a different experience traveling by foot than by bike. Biking is my preferred outside activity.
In 2015, I took my riding to a different level. I purchased my first road bike and joined Pedal Posse Divas and Women Bike Philadelphia. In 2017, I joined Women Bike PHL-Devo, a beginner’s race team. It was designed to encourage women and those who identified themselves as a female to enter the sport of cycling as racers. My first year of racing was amazing. I was able to try out a new sport and push myself to limits I did not realize I had the potential to reach.
In 2020, my daughters and I decided to host a weekly cycling clinic to encourage women to ride and to promote safe riding. While road biking is my favorite type of biking, I also enjoy mountain biking. To me, the thrill I get from cruising over tree roots and dirt paths is better than a roller coaster. I can often be found riding with my family, friends or cycling groups throughout the city and suburbs.
Representation means a lot to me in my community. I want to be seen in the community by women and girls. I want to spark an interest in them to go out and get a bike to ride. I want husbands and sons to say, “Hey, I saw this Muslim woman riding a bike today.” I want people to see my family and I and say, “Oh, that looks like fun” and go out and get bikes to ride as a family.
There was a time when I didn’t see women riding a bike, much less women of color riding bikes. Shoot, I use to get laughed at for riding. It was totally unheard of for a Muslim woman to ride a bike. But nowadays, I see plenty of both riding and I shout inside and call out to them “I see you sister gal”! It’s very important to me to represent the Muslim woman in a manner outside of what society thinks of them. It’s important to me to represent the Muslim woman engaging in a sport that is deemed “taboo” by many because it displays too much of one’s modesty. I show Muslim women how one can dress and still be modest while exercising. I want woman to feel empowered and realize they are able and capable to do whatever they choose to do.