The TEDTalks obsessed Indji Ghattas learned independence earlier than most, at the age of 12 where she got her first job and realized that there’s more to life than depending on your parents for support. She runs the Harley Davidson dealership by morning and turns badass by night. Her friends often joke that if they opened up her blood vessels, they would find motorcycles moving around. But there’s more to Ghattas than Harleys, read more to find out!
1- You run a Harley-Davidson dealership in Egypt, a country fueled by gender inequality, so what are some of the hardest moments you had to go through to defy stereotypes?
I didn’t experience a lot of inequality in my line of work. On the contrary, I think it was a big plus – me being a woman conquering a man’s world. When we’re on the road, I get a lot of thumbs up from men and women for riding a Harley. I honestly can’t say that I felt unequal, but the riders usually try to make sure I’m safe; it’s not inequality, it’s them being gentlemen.
2- Do you ever feel like you’re being undermined/disrespected as a woman in your field?
In the beginning, I felt undermined, but not disrespected. When people would walk into the store, they would ask, “Is there a guy we can talk to?” because they would think ‘ugh, another woman, what would she know’ because it’s all bikes and oils and chroming which is supposed to be manly machines. But after a while, I established a name for myself and proved that I’m just as a capable as any man in my field.
3- How often do you get to ride?
On some weekends, we ride to Sokhna or halfway to Sahrawy, but my favorite rides are the long ones. I rode to Luxor and Lebanon once and to Jordan four times. The road to Lebanon and Jordan is quiet laid back as we get to relax and take snack, bathroom and coffee breaks. It’s only hectic because of the borders and because the region is difficult. We usually go on the course of two days unlike riding to Luxor, which is much tougher because we drive 760 kilometers a day and take no stops.
4- How does riding make you feel?
I say this a lot but the closest feeling you’ll get to flying is riding. You feel like a bird with everything levitating you off the floor.
5- When did you first start developing your passion towards Harleys?
I was with my father in the US and we were coming out of the hotel when he told me, “Indji come, let me show you this bike.” I remember very well that it was an Ultra. I was so obsessed with the idea that I can ride on that and not fall. My father is not into riding, but I remained obsessing over the idea of how can I get on that bike. Then it totally went away and I never had the passion again until we took over the brand. The truth is that Harleys either grow on you or not, and over the years, it grew on me too much and no one or anything could ever make me leave Harley Davidson.
6- Do you know any of the other few women who ride Harleys in Egypt?
In 2016, we got together for at least five or six times. We did a women’s only ride and had a one day photo session, one day for breast cancer awareness and one day for violence against women. On the day for the UN Women Against Violence, I led the formation which consisted of 90 bikes in total, 12 women and the rest men. I led the way with the women behind me while the men followed. This marked the first time for Egypt to have a woman lead the formation. The men were there to support us and our causes.
7- How did your family’s support make a difference throughout your journey to get to where you are now?
My mother & father were scared and worried as parents, but my mom always pushed me to go and try things. I’d tell her I’m going for 2 weeks to ride my bike on an adventure and she’d go like ‘Ok’, but of course with a hint of worry in her tone.
8- Do you see any difference in Egyptians’ muddled perception towards women tapping into fields that were culturally associated with men, from when you first started and now?
I don’t like the idea that there are fields for men and others for women. Human beings, history and culture developed the discriminations that we’re all fighting against now, but the world initially wasn’t meant to be this way. On all levels, whether it’s politics, business or medicine, I see women breaking grounds very strongly lately.
9- What do you think women should do to be perceived as equal to men?
Women will never be perceived as equal to men and I don’t think they should be. There are rights I believe I should have equally to men such as being offered the same opportunities, getting the same promotions and salary, but men will be men and women will be women. There are some aspects where men and women shouldn’t be equal because each has a different role to play.
10- Who would you say is your role model?
Every woman who goes after her dreams and never gives up is a role model to me. Also, my grandfather who was a handcrafting man who did everything with his hands and opened up for me many doors.
11- What would you advise young girls and boys?
I would advise them not to waste their time. It makes me so sad that the new generation is wasting so much time on this technology-infested world. I now find myself wishing that I had read more and had done more when I had the luxury of time. I’m fortunate to say that I did everything I can with it. My advice to them is that if they had to get bored then get bored of doing too many things, but not because you’re doing nothing with your time. Every child born is born with a talent, but parents don’t invest much time in learning what their child’s talent is. They should help develop it because without these talents, the world will suffer. Lastly, I urge parents to let their children explore. Stop telling little boys not to play with dolls and little girls to stick to them. I played with dolls all my life. I was the doll of all dolls and had the full Barbie collection, and now I grew up to become someone who likes guns, knives and motorcycles.
12- What are your plans for your future?
For Harley, I really hope that people would understand that riding motorcycles is pure pleasure and I would like to put emphasis on pure as it has nothing to do with status. I took over Porsche about 6 months ago, because I was starting to get too laid-back. Sticking with the same brand for too long makes you lazy as you fall into a routine and I’m a person who works well under pressure and I need to be really intimidated to work well. Also, cooking is a passion of mine, so hopefully I’ll get to travel to France and take the cooking course I’ve been enthusiastic about for so long now. I wish my dog, Sky, and my owl, Sugar to stay happy and healthy. I wish I could go on at least one trip abroad to Croatia, Tibet, St. Petersburg or Tanzania. My intuition tells me it’s going to be a super year.