UAE | General

Feat without equal

Jalal Bin Thaneya recalls the emotional journey of walking 2,000 kilometres to Makkah from Abu Dhabi — to raise funds for children with special needs

  • By Malavika Kamaraju, Associate Editor
  • Published: 00:00 March 2, 2012
  • Weekend Review

  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • These are my first steps into Saudi Arabia. The road from here on is very narrow — just 1.4 metres wide, so it is practically like walking in the middle of the desert. There is no fencing, nothing, just the tarmac and the sands of time. But I connected with the road immediately. I felt my feet adjust to the new terrain naturally. I had entered the real phase of my walk to Makkah and I was very happy about it. Even though it was only a few miles that side of the UAE border, the sand, the air, the heat suddenly felt different. It suddenly became very hot; there was not a shred of a cloud in the sky. The sense of change was immediate, dramatic. This is a road I was very close to in many ways — I slept alongside it, I ate my meals with this road in sight, I would often take off my boots and walk on it to feel its surface. To me a road is not just a road; it has a character and a purpose. I believe that you have to respect a road because you need to go along with it towards your destination. If you don’t, there is a price to pay.
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When he set out in December last year to raise funds for the children of the Dubai Centre for Special Needs, 25-year-old Emirati Jalal Bin Thaneya did what comes to him naturally — walk for a cause. He had already undertaken such endeavours thrice before: His first walk was across the seven Emirates in 2007. His second was a climbing tour de force of Emirates Towers in 2008 and then in 2009, he crossed the Rubh Al Khali (Empty Quarter) on foot.

Bin Thaneya’s feet have always lent him excellent support as he has powered on to raise funds for organisations supporting people with special needs. A graduate in business studies from the Middlesex University, Dubai, the campaigner in Bin Thaneya came to the fore in his college years. As he puts it, “The pursuit of academics alone raised the challenge of doing something else with my life.”
So he charted a course for himself that was inextricably linked with movement. Because, people with special needs — the section of society he is deeply concerned about — are the most challenged by the issues of movement and mobility, among other things.

Bin Thaneya’s endeavours are not for the faint-hearted. And when he accomplishes one, he raises the bar for the next. His recently concluded mission — a walk to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, from Ruwais, Abu Dhabi, over a staggering 2,000 kilometres — was yet another example of this young man’s indomitable spirit.

The journey of 2,000 kilometres was covered in 50 days (from December 11, 2011, to January 29, 2012), over varied terrain and in constantly changing physical and mental conditions. But in the end, it was worth it.
Back in Dubai, Bin Thaneya picks a few of the more memorable moments of his remarkable journey as captured in the photographs taken by his vehicular back-up man, Yahya Al Hoot.

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