Dubai: His 2,000km mission to Makkah went briefly off track for a couple of days, but Emirati walker Jalal Bin Thaneya on Sunday resumed his journey with renewed hope and a new nickname — thanks to the generous help and support of the Acting Governor of Riyadh and UAE Embassy in Saudi Arabia.
Bin Thaneya, whose journey has been chronicled by Gulf News since he began his walk from Ruwais last month, had walked a few dozen kilometres out of the Saudi capital over the weekend when he was stopped by a Saudi police officer near Mazahmiyah and told he could not proceed any further.
"I showed him all my papers and the approval I had received from both Saudi and UAE governments, but he did not relent. I went to the police station and the next day came back to the UAE Embassy in Riyadh in a bid to find a solution," Bin Thaneya told Gulf News from his mobile phone yesterday, hours after resuming his walk.
At the embassy, he was received by Mohammad Saeed Al Daheri, the UAE Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. "Ambassador Al Daheri and the entire UAE diplomatic mission were extremely supportive of me and my cause. Since I had no place to stay, they were very kind to host me at the embassy," Bin Thaneya said.
On the advice of the embassy, he then wrote a letter addressed to the Acting Governor of Riyadh, requesting that he and his accompanying team member, Yahya Al Hooti, be allowed to proceed with the rest of the journey to Makkah. "I went to the Emir's Office in Riyadh only hoping to submit my petition. Instead, at the office, I was immediately ushered to the Majlis of the Acting Governor Prince Mohammad Bin Sa'ad Bin Abdul Aziz, who went through the petition and instantly understood our concern. He apologised to me and ordered his assistant: ‘Let him proceed and complete his journey,'" said Bin Thaneya.
According to him, the Acting Governor then issued a special order, asking police and military personnel throughout the province to allow Bin Thaneya unrestricted access during his journey to Makkah. "I was touched by his kindness, humbleness and easy access to him. The police immediately radioed all stations along my route relaying the order, so that there was no further interruption," he said. "Police all over the country are now referring to me as Al Rahhal [the traveller]," Bin Thaneya said.
After the hiatus of two days, Bin Thaneya is now firmly back on track.
As of yesterday, he had another 795km to cover before he sees the entrance to Makkah, the destination the 25-year-old Emirati has chosen to culminate his walk to raise awareness and funds for the Dubai Centre for Special Needs. He hopes to complete it in about 18 days. "I feel the mission has been rescued by Allah… The Emir of Riyadh and his office were very supportive, as were the entire UAE diplomatic mission."