The Omani fitness coach challenging culture through handstands

He places his hands on the floor of the coffee shop, manoeuvres a little upside down to shift his balance, then slowly tenses his core and lifts his legs straight up into the air with grace and ease. “The handstand is very symbolic,” he tells me later. “It’s about seeing things from a new perspective, turning what you think you know on its head.”

Fahad Al Abri is an Omani-Yemeni fitness coach on a mission to handstand his way across the world, one city at a time. His Instagram account (@Cavemangram) is an impressive collection of photos of Fahad standing on his hands at various famous sites and monuments in Oman and beyond. His aim is to build a movement around the project that celebrates and promotes wellness, happiness and travelling.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 15.38.02Fahad Al Abri, taking standing up for what you believe in to a whole new level with #handstandeverycity

While most people would simply be impressed by his serious handstand skills, for Fahad, the handstand is a symbol of something much deeper that can be viewed through various different lenses – physical, aesthetic, artistic and cultural.

He sees the handstand as the best expression of both physical and mental strength. “The first barrier you face when attempting the handstand is psychological” Fahad says, “because you need to be motivated, focused and determined. Only then can you work on the physical movement itself.” He sees the handstand as the place where both physical and mental strength, or body and mind, come together.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 15.38.45Royal Opera House, Muscat, Oman

Fahad believes that the concept of the handstand holds an important cultural message about shifting your perspective and seeing things from a new angle. His project promotes the benefits of putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes and learning from different ideas and points of view. One of the ways Fahad argues you should do this is by travelling. In short, by travelling the world upside down Fahad wants to challenge cultural norms and stereotypes.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 15.39.21“Why do we honour certain aspects of our culture over time and not others?”

Another area in which Fahad wants to challenge the norm is fitness. Fahad has long been interested in fitness and movement and, as a fitness coach in the GCC, has been a part of what is a relatively new and growing industry in the region. He mentions the trend towards body building in the Gulf and around the world, arguing that people should not strive to be fit for superficial reasons, such as to achieve a certain image or to follow a trend, but instead for the way it makes you feel.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 15.38.25“I want to challenge the meaning of fitness. Fitness means something different to everybody. There are many ways you can be fit and many reasons you would want to.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 15.40.29“It’s not about wanting to feel fit, it’s about wanting to feel more alive.”

Fahad’s role model is Ido Portal, an Israeli fitness coach who focuses on health, aesthetics, performance and art and has built a movement around… well, movement. The fact that Portal is Israeli is controversial in itself given the negative sentiment towards Israel throughout much of the Middle East. Yet it is also quintessentially Fahad in that he sees Portal for his work and his contribution to the study of movement and wellness, rather than through the political prism that has become the cultural norm in the region.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 15.40.09You can find Fahad and #handstandeverycity on Instagram and Facebook 

 

If you enjoyed this, you might also like:

4 photographers who will change your perception of Iran

Oman: An uncertain future for “the Middle East’s most welcoming absolute monarchy”

The Best Cities to Study Arabic in the Middle East: Muscat

 

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