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Q&A with fundraising biker Wissam Al Jayyoussi

Dubai-based IT entrepreneur Wissam Al Jayyoussi embarks on a solo journey this month that will see him ride a motorbike across Asia in a bid to support the Palestine Children's Relief Fund's paediatric cancer centre in the West Bank. The 37-year-old aims to cross 22 countries on a 132-day trip. Craig Hawes catches up with him.

Image Credit: Supplied picture
Wissam hopes to raise Dh1 million for the Palestine Children's Relief Fund.
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You're doing this to support a paediatric cancer centre in the West Bank. How close are your links with the project?

In my heart I am a lot closer to this project than anyone although I have never actually been to Palestine due to the occupation. The cancer centre itself is being built by the PCRF (Palestine Children's Relief Fund) and I am closely associated with them; we meet on a weekly basis. The centre needs critical medical equipment, and the funds raised from the ride will go to the PCRF to help them complete the centre.

How much money do you hope to raise for the PCRF?

As much as we can, but for now we are looking to raise at least Dh1 million.

How long have you been a biker?

Riding has been my passion for 13 years.

There is obviously a lot of support for the Palestinian people across the Middle East. Are you warmly received by people when you tell them you're Palestinian?

Sometimes it is a warm welcome and other times not. However when I visit places I talk to the locals about humanity and charity. This trip is for a humanitarian cause only, it is not religious or political and everybody welcomes that. So I always talk to people about the humanitarian side of the trip and how it can help, then the subject gradually moves to Palestine and we talk about the suffering and hardship the people there are going through, but only in a humanitarian context. I don't involve politics in this.

How do you go about fixing your bike if it needs repairs? Do you rely on local mechanics or do you carry spare parts?

Most of my luggage is spare parts and a tool kit. Most of these roads are remote with no shops or mechanics in sight, so I have to do it all myself. I do most of the work on my bike anyway and I have very good experience with bike mechanics and repairs.

What country are you most looking forward to visiting, and how many of these countries are you visiting for the first time?

I'm most looking forward to visiting Mongolia and China. There are 18 countries I am visiting for the first time. The only countries I have been to are Pakistan, Afghanistan, Thailand and Singapore.

Is it a lonely journey?

Well, I am doing the journey all alone, however I will be meeting some bikers in certain countries who will drive with me in their country. These bikers will help us deliver our message. There is potential for someone joining me in China but I don't have confirmation of that yet.

You made a similar trip in 2010 across the Middle East and Europe, right?

Yes, but this one will be a lot more difficult than the previous ride. The previous trip was mostly on highways and developed road networks with accurate maps for the GPS. This trip is more of the National Geographic slogan "let's get lost". Maps are not very accurate on GPS, I am using conventional paper maps. The roads are very old and poorly maintained, and most of them are dirt roads and desserts. Mongolia for example has almost no road network. Siberia, China, Vietnam… the list goes on.

Debrief Q&A

  • If I wasn't doing this...I would be really lost.
  • A person who's had a big influence on my life is...my father.
  • A fictional character after my own heart is...King Aragorn of Middle Earth - from The Lord of the Rings.
  • A word or expression that I use a lot don't worry...I will fix it.
  • Stuff that I always travel with duct tape...a tool kit and plastic straps. 

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