New book: Social Situation Survival Guide!

Qazi and GHAZAL Farooqi: Motorbike Adventures

In Pakistan, most women don’t ride motorbikes. But with her father Qazi’s support, Ghazal Farooqi is changing the way people think about women bikers. Through their adventures, the pair is also changing how people think of their beloved country.

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls. It’s based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This story was produced by Haley Dapkus with sound design and mixing by Mumble Media. It was written by Gina Gotsill and edited by Haley Dapkus and Abby Sher. Fact-checking by Eliza Kirby. Narration by Amna Khan. Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi. Our executive producers were Joy Smith and Jes Wolfe. Thank you to the whole Rebel Girls team who make this podcast possible. Stay rebel!

Transcript

Ghazal Farooqi stretched in her sleeping bag, opening her eyes to a brand new day. 

She couldn’t wait to get back on her motorbike. The crisp air and open roads awaited her.
Ghazal unzipped her tent and emerged into the morning, the rock walls and teal blue waters of Pakistan’s Pir Ibrahim Waterfall shining all around her in the bright morning light. 

Ghazal’s father, Qazi, rustled in his tent nearby. Birds flew overhead as Ghazal pulled on her padded clothes and helmet, and secured her camping gear to her bike. She scanned her supplies. Water? Check. Food? check. Tire repair kit? Check! Lastly, Ghazal strapped on her camera, and prepared to record another day on the road. 

A lot of people on the internet didn’t know much about Pakistan. They’d heard that it was dangerous, unstable, or unwelcoming. But Ghazal knew the beauty and wonder that her country had to offer, and she wanted everyone else to experience it, too.

Side by side with her father, hands gripping the handlebars of her motorbike, Ghazal would soon show the world her beloved Pakistan. 

I’m Amna Khan. And this is Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. A fairy tale podcast about the real-life rebel women who inspire us. 

On this episode, Qazi and Ghazal Farooqi, a father-daughter motorbike adventure team that’s showing the world the beauty of Pakistan, AND that women can ride. 

Qazi Farooqi was always going… somewhere. England. Canada. Thailand. He loved to travel and experience new places. And when he was home in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, Qazi preferred zipping around on his free-wheeling motorbike rather than in the cramped quarters of a car. His daughter Ghazal gazed longingly as he zoomed away – surely there was no better way to see the world than on two wheels!   

Ghazal knew her family was different than many families in Pakistan. Here, it was often the men who worked, while the women stayed home to raise the children. Because of this, many girls in Pakistan did not go to school at all. 

But, luckily for Ghazal, her dad did not agree with these values. Qazi thought girls and boys should have the same opportunities. To study, work… and experience the world on a motorbike!

In fact, Qazi believed this so deeply, that on Ghazal’s fifteenth birthday, he surprised her with a very special gift. There, sparkling in the road before her, was an electric scooter! 

Sleek and speedy, the scooter became Ghazal’s favorite way to get around. There were so many places she wanted to explore. 

As she got older, Ghazal’s interest in riding grew. And when it came time for her to go to college, Qazi got her a more powerful scooter to zip around the busy city streets. Ghazal loved the independence, and the small joys it brought to days filled with difficult engineering classes. 

But then Ghazal heard the kinds of comments that make women doubt their abilities and dreams. Voices called out as she sped by: “Women shouldn’t ride scooters.” 

The voices bothered Ghazal. She felt eyes watching her as she rode through the streets, and could sense their disapproval. Sometimes she worried for her safety, and wondered if she’d get in trouble.

But Ghazal knew what she wanted, and had the support of her dad to encourage her. So you know what she did? She kept on riding! Not just to her classes, but also for fun. She started venturing into new neighborhoods and towns; learning the ins and outs of her home in ways she’d never known. It was exhilarating! 

In 2020, Ghazal took her riding to the next level – on a multi day bike trip with her dad!  Finally, she would see the natural splendor of Pakistan that her father always talked about. On this trip, they’d ride together so that Ghazal could learn the ways of the open road. Qazi loaded up his motorbike and Ghazal hopped on the back. Then, the two set out on their first big father-daughter adventure. 

Qazi steered through the Karachi streets. City lights gave way to majestic valleys and meadows, and evening skies teeming with stars. At night, Qazi and Ghazal set up their tents and tucked into sleeping bags, waking early the next morning to discover their next stunning landscape.

For 11 days, they wound their way up gravel roads and through tight passes, Qazi sitting in the front, and Ghazal riding in back, observing the way her father smoothly navigated the rough terrain. They pulled over often, gazing in awe at glistening mountain lakes and distant icy peaks. Ghazal and Qazi wished that others could experience this natural beauty with them! They dreamed of changing people’s negative perceptions of Pakistan, and showing just how magnificent the country could be.  

The following year, Ghazal officially traded her scooter for a bigger, more powerful motorbike. Riding with Qazi on his bike had taught her a lot about riding longer distances offroads. 

Handling a bigger motorbike was tricky at first. It was heavier, faster, and higher off the ground. A few times, she lost her balance and toppled over with the bike. But each time she gathered her courage, got back up and kept going. She focused on improving her technique, and learning how her wheels reacted to different gravel, dirt, and rocks. 

Ghazal and Qazi planned more adventures. They picked out new routes and found parts of the country they’d never seen. They had so much fun exploring, discovering, and even getting lost together sometimes! And then, something even more incredible happened! 

As they traveled across Pakistan, posting photos and videos online along the way, Ghazal and Qazi soon got tens of thousands of followers. Seeing Ghazal maneuver her motorbike up steep mountain passes, even hopping off to move heavy rocks and debris out of the way, challenged people’s narrow perceptions of women and what they were capable of. Ghazal was independent, strong, beautiful and comfortable in her own skin. 

And, the amazing landscapes they shared were showing a different side of their beloved country. With their fans cheering them on, and their bond stronger than ever, the Farooqis couldn’t have been happier.

Ghazal and Qazi continue to wake up each day with excitement and love for the open road. They are curious, kind, and thoughtful to each other, and to all the people they meet on their journeys. Rather than being held back by social rules or stereotypes, they encourage everyone to experience all that their country has to offer.

Because of her daring spirit, Ghazal is likely the first Pakistani woman to ever travel some of her country’s most exciting and dangerous routes on a motorbike. And together, their photos and videos have introduced their many followers to the natural splendor of Pakistan. 

Ghazal and Qazi challenge us to plan our next adventure, whether it’s winding or mountainous, over rocks or river crossings. 

We may fall, or people might tell us that it can’t be done. 

But when we get back up, despite it all, the world opens up before us. We can choose to follow our own paths, and leave doubt behind, just like the dust in our rearview mirrors. 

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls. It’s based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

This episode was narrated by ME, Amna Khan. It was produced and directed by Haley Dapkus, with sound design and mixing by Mumble Media. 

The story was written by Gina Gotsill and edited by Haley Dapkus and Abby Sher. Fact checking by Eliza Kirby. Our executive producers were Joy Smith and Jes Wolfe.

Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi.

A special thanks to Ghazal Farooqi and the whole Rebel Girls team, who made this podcast possible! Until next time, staaaay rebel!