There was a collective “HOORAY!” heard during Sunday night’s episode of 90 Day Fiance: The Other Way when Nicole Sherbiny’s husband Mahmoud met her new friend (and meditation instructor), Nouran.
Nouran is an Egyptian Muslim woman with slightly less conservative ideas about gender roles than Mahmoud, and she absolutely annihilated him in their brief table debate about Mohamed wanting to meet all of Nicole’s friends and what women should and shouldn’t wear according to the Qur’an.
As it turns out, Nouran may have been a bit of a ringer. In addition to teaching meditation and yoga, Nouran is highly educated and well traveled with an extensive resume that includes public speaker, pole dancer, art museum curator, non-profit founder, award-winning documentary subject, interior designer, retreat organizer, and “adventuresome warrior of freedom.”
According to her LinkedIn profile, Nouran Salah received her bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communication from Egypt’s Modern Sciences and Arts University in 2011. She later received a post-graduate diploma in Interior Design in 2013. In 2019, Nouran received a post-graduate diploma in social entrepreneurship from the Swedish Institute.
As far as a work history, Nouran was a project design coordinator for the Cairo Governorate from 2014 to 2018. After that, she got a job as events senior coordinator and art curator at TAM.gallery in Cairo.
The job that Nouran is most famous for is being the founder of Bel Bicycle and the Cairo Cycling Geckos. To explain what Bel Bicycle is, check out Nouran’s bio from when she was named one of “16 groundbreakers making a positive impact on Egypt” by Cairo Scene in 2016:
Her story inundated media channels, in Egypt and beyond. This carefree, nonconformist changemaker shocked the entire nation when she set off to cycle the unfriendly streets of Cairo to distribute free meals during Ramadan in an all-women caravan. “I never imagined I could do all these things in one project; helping the poor, supporting refugee families, and empowering women by breaking unjustified social taboos, condensing so many messages in one endeavour,” she says. “I felt the country really needed this; I felt Egyptians would really do anything to help better our society.”
Setting off every day before breaking her fast, Nouran Salah took on the daunting streets of Cairo’s slums, cycling through traffic-laden bridges and roads engulfed in garbage, as she lead her all-female caravan to distribute meals for underprivileged people in Ramadan. And its ripple – from Turkish women messaging her, to international media channels following her journey, sparked a whirlwind of uplifting energy that outlived the Islamic holy month.
“I was really impressed by how brave women are. I felt they were waiting for this chance; they would come every day for every event, with their empty stomachs and unbeatable energy, to face sexual harassment, scary roads, and everything people would say, but actually nothing ever happened to us,” she says, looking back.
As the summer faded away, her project Bel Bicycle turned into an all-encompassing initiative that organises weekly discovery rides and charity rides. “Everybody asked for me not to stop after Ramadan. And why would I? Women want this, sponsors want it, and the poor need it. This is not a trend; it’s something that needs to keep going on and on,” she says.
Nouran was featured in the 2023 documentary film Big Little Women. Here’s a synopsis of the film from the director’s website, followed by a trailer:
Three generations of women rebel against patriarchal prohibitions. In this cinematic letter, Swiss-Egyptian film director Nadia Fares pays tribute to her father as she recounts 75 years of women’s struggles both in Egypt, her father’s country, and in Switzerland, her mother’s country, where she grew up.
Nouran shared a Big Little Women movie poster on Instagram in early March. “I am so grateful that I have been chosen by @nadiafares.films to take a big role in this documentary,” Nouran wrote in the caption, “to be an image for women who are fighting wholeheartedly to change the unjustified social taboos in this country and alongside changing the deeply rooted toxic cultural beliefs.”
Soon after sharing the movie poster, Nouran attended the Aswan Film Festival where Big Little Women took home three awards! Here’s a gallery of photos from the festival shared by Nouran on Instagram, including a photo of her holding one of the film’s awards:
Mahmoud responds to Nouran scene
The 90 Day Fiance Instagram account posted a preview clip of the scene with Nicole, Mahmoud and Nouran on Sunday. Mahmoud responded in the comments explaining why he felt he should meet Nicole’s friends. I will include his comment unedited (as re-posted by Mahmoud) and then an edited version that is a little easier to read.
This is exactly what happened with Nouran. She asked me, “Why do you want to meet your wife’s friends? Do you not trust her?”
I said, “No, I trust her more than you think, but Nicole doesn’t speak Arabic. She doesn’t know how to cross the street in Egypt. And this is the first time she’s had friends in Egypt. This is why I would love to know who my wife is hanging out with.”
Nicole has a lot of friends in the USA. If I get a chance to be there with her, I would never ask to meet her friends there. She speaks the same language as they do, and she knows how everything works there.
Of course, there is still an issue about women covering up their bodies. In Islam it’s something we believe, and as a Muslim you have to believe in it. If you don’t do it, it’s back to you.
I can’t only believe the things about the religion that I’m comfortable with, and not believe the things I’m not comfortable with or don’t like to do. I can’t say that those rules aren’t there just to make myself comfortable or make myself right.
As a Muslim, I do a lot of things that are not right to do. I would never say that the rules against those things aren’t there because I’m human and no one is perfect and of course you are right about what you do.
I will conclude this article with more Nouran awesomeness:
Asa Hawks is a writer and editor for Starcasm. You can contact Asa via Twitter, Facebook, or email at starcasmtips(at)yahoo.com