Discovering truth about human spirit in the desert

Bin Thaneya has covered almost half the distance to Makkah

  • Jalal Bin Thaneya
    Jalal Bin Thaneya Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
  • Jalal Bin Thaneya
    Jalal Bin Thaneya Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
  • Jalal Bin Thaneya
    Image Credit: ©Gulf News
10 Gulf News

Dubai: Jalal Bin Thaneya will make no new year's resolutions tonight because he is already living out the most important resolution of his 25-year-old life — his fund-raising walk from Abu Dhabi to Makkah.

The wind is howling all around him as he takes a break to allow Gulf News to catch up with him. It had been a very clear and calm day all along until the evening arrived, he says, which led to a finely choreographed dance between the wind and the sand. He is watching the performance as he speaks, pitching his voice just a bit above that of nature's drama. "It's been a good journey so far. We are getting there," he says. A slight hesitation later, he says, "But what is bothering me is the smell of fertilisers all around."

He is smack in the middle of land that is being nurtured for a dairy farm. "As far as the eye can see, we have dairy cultivation here and the smell of fertilisers can be a total distraction." He is trying to make it past this stretch as quickly as he can. But the same stretch has also given him an extraordinary sight to remember — a freight train.

‘Thundering apparition'

"Two days back, I saw a blur of a motion in the landscape straight ahead of me. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I realised I was seeing a train receding into the distance but that thought slid off my mind. And then last night, suddenly, through the darkness of the desert came this thundering apparition. The whole desert seemed to shake with the weight of it as it charged through the night, its lights cutting through the dark like huge lasers. It turned out to be a two-kilometre long train."

Only after his body and mind were wired by the sound and sight of it did he remember that he had seen two straight lines cutting through the desert. "I did see the tracks back there but then they were not exactly like tracks, more like two parallel metal embeds in the sand that sometimes nearly get covered by it."

He is still, he confesses, amazed by the sight. The train has left tracks in his mind. "A train in a desert," he murmurs to himself, unable to leave the thought behind.

Bin Thaneya is about 1,100 kilometres away from Makkah. Put that way, it sounds like he is very far off but the truth is he has covered almost half the distance in the 21 days that he has been on this mission.

Still along the Al Harad highway, he aims to reach Riyadh Saturday or Sunday.

In all these days, he has met just three people. In the last six days, he has come across another person.

‘Able to connect'

These stunningly bare meetings are however working to reiterate what he has come to believe every time he undertakes a mission — the less you own in life, the richer your evolution as an individual. "Look at these people," he says. "They don't have much material stuff. They live in extremely demanding surroundings. They don't have access to most of the stuff city dwellers do. And yet, they are so generous, genuine and able to connect with a stranger."

The single biggest truth he encounters in these minimal surroundings is that the basic human spirit is thriving. "I find innocence is alive. I see simplicity being lived out in front of my own eyes. In all that we are losing, we are also able to preserve something at least."

Of course the days are tumbling into one another, time is flying and the miles are food for his feet, but physical motion and mental acceleration do part ways at times — especially when it is time to eat. The familiar rustle of grains, dates and cereal — his staple diet on this mission — in a plastic bowl is not music to his ears all the time. "My rations are not satisfying on some days," he confesses. "The sacrifice is taking its toll." Dreaming about delicious foods, of course, is not a choice either given his circumstances.

That kind of mental debilitation is something he will not subject himself to as there is too much at stake. "But yes, sometimes, it can be an issue when you have not eaten hot food for days or you can't even cook a simple hot meal because the wind puts out any fire you want to start."

Right now, he is short on water and hasn't been able to wash his clothes for two days because of it. But the tribulation is an old one. He has been there before.

He is looking forward to reaching Riyadh because beyond that he will be taking on an entirely different terrain — rocky mountainous paths that change their mood after every step.

He may be a 1,000km away from Makkah but as he puts it, "it's always in my heart. I am never too far from it." It's a thought he will hold close for comfort tonight as he sleeps and the night segues into a new year.




  • Irfan Khan

    Dec 31, 2011 5:28

    May ALLAH Bless him and success him in his mission.

  • MU

    Dec 31, 2011 4:17

    May ALLAH Bless him, accept his deed, protect him, and give him strength to accomplish his mission Ameen

  • Abdul Mujeeb

    Dec 31, 2011 3:50

    Wallah By God, i want to meet this guy..i shall set off soon in my car on the track that he had walked... trying to trace's hard but i think i can at least meet him.

  • Saleh Al Balooshi

    Dec 31, 2011 1:41

    May Almighty give him success and may he achieve his goal...

  • Shahabas

    Dec 31, 2011 1:27

    Great vision, Great effort, especially in this tough weather! May Almighty make his way easy. Keep up the good work. Note: I think it needs more media coverage...

  • Rina

    Dec 31, 2011 12:21

    I am proud of your spirit. A youngster with a strong will, and yet found value of life during journey.....God protects you wherever you are...

  • Khurshid Qazi

    Dec 31, 2011 12:21

    Noble country, noble citizen and noble cause. May God always bless UAE and it's residents.

  • Zeeshan

    Dec 31, 2011 12:12

    Great man with a great mission. The hardships that he is facing on way will all be paid off when he will see Kabbah first time. The joy he will get there will be a memorable one. I am looking forward to listen to his comments on entering Makkah...

  • Mohammad

    Dec 31, 2011 10:48

    We wish him all the success for this noble cause, Allah may protect him and give him strength to accomplish his mission and to serve the mankind.

  • Jahir Abbas

    Dec 31, 2011 9:38

    May allah bless him and accept his deed... ameen

Latest Comment

May ALLAH Bless him and success him in his mission.

Irfan Khan

31 December 2011 17:45 jump to comments