Jalal Bin Thaneya Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: Jalal Bin Thaneya, a 27-year-old Emirati, Sunday begins a 5,000km cycling expedition across six Gulf countries in support of children with special needs.

Bin Thaneya’s journey will take him across Oman, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

He begins the trip from Oman’s capital, Muscat.

Bin Thaneya expects to be on the road for three to four weeks, barring any problems or delays while passing through isolated areas.

According to Bin Thaneya, his solo expedition, which he calls the “Tour de GCC”, has — as far as he can determine — never been attempted.

“This has never been done before, people are scared to try this. [The region] is so empty. I’m anxious, but I’ve got to finish it. There’s no going back for me,” Bin Thaneya said.

He hopes to cycle roughly 10 hours a day to raise awareness for the Al Jalila Foundation, a Dubai-based non-profit organisation that supports medical treatment, education and research. Through his trip, Bin Thaneya will be highlighting the Foundation’s Ta’alouf (Harmony) course, which teaches parents about caring for children with special needs.

Previous challenges

Bin Thaneya has undertaken extreme challenges before to draw attention to issues facing children with disabilities.

He walked 2,000km from Abu Dhabi to Makkah, covered all seven emirates on foot, climbed the stairs of 100 Dubai skyscrapers and walked the desolate Empty Quarter desert.In January, Bin Thaneya won praise from His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who tweeted about his efforts.

Now, Bin Thaneya hopes to cycle at least 150km a day — roughly equal to the distance between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. His total covered distance could stretch anywhere between 5,000-6,000km, depending on the roads he is able to take.

“There are plans, and then there are contingency plans. We’ll tweak it when we need to,” he said.

For safety, a navigator and spotter — in a vehicle with safety lights — are accompanying Bin Thaneya. “The most dangerous part will be the roads in Saudi Arabia. It’s a very big and empty country. I could get hit by a truck in the dark. There’s no one there,” he said. “Out there, nature doesn’t care who or what you are.”


Bin Thaneya plans to occasionally update family and fans through posts on social media sites; the team is carrying mobile phones with satellite internet service.

The vehicle and other supplies have been provided by Bin Thaneya’s employer DP World, a Dubai-based international port operator with a portfolio of over 65 marine terminals on six continents.

“DP World is proud to support Jalal’s mission to cycle the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] to raise awareness of a vital community issue about children with special needs. At the same time, it is our aim to harness our employees’ passion and commitment by championing causes they care about,” the firm said.

“Jalal, who works in the Human Resources department of DP World-UAE Region, has demonstrated extraordinary initiative and compassion by undertaking this project.”

Gulf News followed his progress on previous journeys and also plans to cover his latest adventure from start to finish.