|22 May, 2019

Two men cycle from India to UAE on their way to Makkah

The journey wasn't easy

Image used for illustrative purposes. Egyptian cyclist Helmy El Saeed, 27, prepares his bicycle and training equipment on the highway of El Ain El Sokhna, east of Cairo, Egypt July 19, 2017.

Image used for illustrative purposes. Egyptian cyclist Helmy El Saeed, 27, prepares his bicycle and training equipment on the highway of El Ain El Sokhna, east of Cairo, Egypt July 19, 2017.

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Three months ago, two men from Bangalore, India, set off on a six-month cycling adventure to go to Makkah in Saudi Arabia - and after pedalling for 3,800km across three countries, they made it to the UAE.

For 53-year-old Muhammed Saleem and his friend, 42-year-old Rizwan Ahmad Khan, the journey wasn't easy. They have been cycling under the sun while fasting - and on their way to the UAE, they even lost their bicycles.

"Our bicycles got lost on our ferry boat ride from Bandar Abbas to the UAE. I was a little frustrated because it was the first day of fasting and it was too hot," said Saleem.

"But people in Sharjah port went out of their way to help us find our bicycles."

Such acts of kindness and generosity have been, in fact, the highlights of their arduous journey so far. They have met a lot of friendly people, shared wonderful moments with them, and got a feel of different cultures.

"We experienced many different cultures, ate different foods and prayed in so many places," Saleem said.

Saleem and Khan pedalled almost 1,300km in India, 700 to 800 km in Oman, and 1,700 km in Iran. Originally, they planned to cycle their way through India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia with no other means of transportation.

However, getting the visas to Pakistan and Iraq was not easy, "we decided to pedal to Oman, fly to Tehran and pedal all the way to Bandar Abbas, and then go through the UAE to Saudi Arabia", Saleem said.

With the route revision, what was supposed to be a 9,000km trip was cut down to 6,300km. They are almost halfway through, with a total of 3,800km done.

The duo hope to reach Makkah by July 25, just in time for Hajj that will start on August 9.

"From here, we will go to the Saudi border. Then, we will go to Riyadh, to Madina, and then to Makkah. My dream is to travel in Ehram cloth to Makkah, that is why we are going to Madina first," he said.

Saleem has already performed Umrah thrice, but this will be his first time to go to Hajj.

"I am glad I took this trip, age does not matter. Courage and strong will drove me to go on this trip," he said.

Not the first journey

This isn't the first time that Saleem has embarked on such an adventure.

He has been cycling for 35 years now and he was a three-time state champion in India.

"I have cycled around Europe in 1989 and once pedalled from Kuwait to Dubai," he said.

And doing the 6,300km journey was his way of inspiring people to do good and follow their dreams. "During this trip is, I always say 'pray for me, my family and entire humanity for peace and harmony'," he said.

"My wife was concerned about my health, since it is such a long trip, but she was convinced that I can do it after proving it to her."

Going on such a long journey required plenty of training and preparation. The duo trained for six months prior to their trip.

"We have done as many preparations as we can about our health. But no matter how much you prepare you will face some hardships and that is part of the journey," he said.

Saleem and Khan have been pedalling 75 to 100 kilometres per day, depending on how smooth their route was. "We are planning to pedal 150km per night during our trip to Saudi," Saleem said.

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