Dubai through the eyes of street workout enthusiast Hesham Kamel
Hype brings you an interview with a street workout teacher in Dubai, Hesham Kamel. Find out the best places for free running and Parkour in Dubai.
Where are you from? I’m from Egypt.
When did you come to Dubai? I spent eight years in Dubai, then I returned to Egypt, and then I came back here. So I’ve been here about ten or 12 years.
What do you do here? I’m a fitness instructor, teaching Parkour and Street Workout.
What is Street Workout and how does it differ to Parkour? Basically, Street Workour and Parkour all come under the category of ‘movement’. With Parkour, there’s more focus on the lower body, with speed, climbing, jumping and leaping. Street Workout is more about strength and stability. The two sports complement each other, really. People consider them two different sports, but I think they go with each other to give a full picture of movement.
Street Workout is not always outside; you can do it anywhere, and with anything you have. You can do it with a chair, a bar, even with the ground. If there’s an empty space, you can do it. But mainly we go outdoors to practice on bars. One of the best spots here is at Skydive Dubai, with bars, dips, monkey bars. We try to be creative as well, with whatever we have. We just find something to play with and be creative.
What sparked your interest in Street Workout? I come from a gymnastics and Muay Thai background but I hate rules, and I have too many ideas in my head. I like to be creative, so the first time I saw Street Workout and Parkour on Youtube I was totally interested. I fell in love with the sport. I tried the basics, and it wasn’t a massive challenge for me with my gymnastics background. Then I met some other people who were into Street Workout and we started pushing the sport.
With Against GraviTi, we try to spread awareness of what we do. Mainly, we try to let people know more about movement, and how to have fun with training. So it’s not all about physical progression, it’s more about having fun, so you can keep going on and on.
Are there many people into Street Workout here in the UAE? Since we started Against GraviTi, the scene here has grown – we started the team with just five guys. But I can see now the scene in Dubai has grown a lot. We have weekly jams and people come to join us from other emirates, and sometimes from different countries – Oman, Qatar. It’s not huge here, but it’s definitely growing.
Who’s the core team behind Against GraviTi? The core team now is four people. We all have different backgrounds. One of them is Ahmed – he’s a personal trainer as well. He’s into MMA and Parkour too. But we find people coming to us from different backgrounds and sharing the same experience. They find that Street Workout shares a basic element with all sports, which is strength. It’s something important for anyone doing any kind of sport. Whatever you’re doing, Street Workout can be useful.
You took part in the Street Workout World Championship in Russia this year. What was that like? Yes, I qualified for Kuwait and the Middle East, and then I qualified for the Moscow World Championship. Getting 70 athletes from 49 countries – the best athletes gathering together for three days and sharing their experience and skills – it was amazing. I didn’t actually care much about the ranking; I just wanted to learn from the others.
Hopefully, soon we can arrange some sort of championship here in the UAE. I’m not promising anything, but this is my vision, to grow the community here. In Moscow, on every street corner, there are bars. And people are training there at any time of the day. Everywhere you go, there are people training, and I wish we could bring that here to the UAE.
How can people get involved? Against GraviTi is still the only group here. Whoever wants to start can join us by coming to our weekly jams. Don’t waste time thinking, “Am I fit enough? Is it good for me?” Just come and try it out. Many people may think Street Workout isn’t their thing. They enjoy watching it, they say it looks beautiful, but they’ve never tried it. Once you try it, though, you can get addicted.
First impressions of Dubai? I like the culture so much, and the change that Dubai’s going through right now. It’s a city for people, for science. The progression in general is amazing. I love Dubai and hopefully soon we’ll see more sport here.
Favourite place to eat in Dubai? My meals are restricted because of my training. I can eat a lot of vegetables, fruit, fish, but no meat. My favourite places are sushi restaurants, I love any sushi restaurant.
Favourite place to catch up with friends? The bars at Skydive Dubai. Most of my friends and colleagues are athletes so we all meet up for a training session.
Favourite international DJ or band? I love trap music. There’s no specific band, but I love bands like Linkin Park. I like that kind of metal, as well as trap. I always listen to that when I’m training.
What do you do when you need some ‘me’ time? I love travelling so I’m always planning trips. I don’t even have to travel outside the UAE. Sometimes we go to the mountains and go climbing.
How would you sell Dubai to someone who has never visited the city? For someone who’s never been here, I’d recommend it. You can find every culture from around the world. Wherever you come from, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
What’s the secret to success here? Dedication. You have to love what you do. If you believe in yourself, just trust that feeling and go for what you love.
Top tip for getting the most out of Dubai? There are a lot of things to do. If you’re into extreme sports, I recommend places for bouldering and climbing, like Rock Republic, I love it there.
What’s next for you? Hopefully, I can make it to the World Cup in Oslo at the end of November.