Cycling around the Gulf for a ‘special’ cause

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Updated 23 April 2014
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Cycling around the Gulf for a ‘special’ cause

Jalal Binthaneya is a 27-year-old Emirati who graduated with a degree in Human Resources. He currently works at Dubai Ports World and campaigns for the cause of special needs when time permits, through physical endeavors. Binthaneya has recently cycled around the GCC countries to raise money for children with special needs. Arab News got in touch with him to learn more about his interesting journey and other adventures.

Tell us about your experience of cycling across the GCC countries.
No one has cycled around the GCC countries in the past so I thought it would be a good idea to do it and rally a cause behind the effort. I am not a cyclist in general so when I started training I had to learn a lot of basics pertaining to fixing a bicycle, riding long distances on roads which include drivers that are not always friendly and other theories that go with cycling. I faced a lot of challenges, which included both physical challenges of crossing long desert highways with limited food and support (I only had one person accompanying me).
There were many times when the police even tried to stop the whole journey because they didn’t want to deal with following me and protecting me. This wasn’t always the case but it did happen on several occasions. Flat tires on roads where trucks were fast approaching were also a menace when I would be cycling, as one wrong turn by the driver or having him pass out and hit me would mean death.

What organization did you do it for?
I cycled for the Al-Jalila Foundation, which caters to children with special needs. My original plan was to visit special needs children and the centers that cater to their needs. The resources I had were not enough to do that.

Why did you choose this foundation specifically?
The foundation is relatively new and they needed the awareness. I knew the media would pick this up as I announced that I would cycle across the GCC for the cause of special needs.
What was the inspiration behind this adventure?
The inspiration came from understanding that this challenge had not been done before. Cycling is a new concept in the region and we have event such as the Tour de France and the Race Across America in the West. I envisioned the GCC cycling tour but perhaps this will happen in a 100 years when the region is united in more then just defense pacts.

What challenges did you face while on the road?
Dealing with people and police forces that were assigned to back me during the journey. Not all personnel were very nice and sometimes they hated what I was doing. I did meet a lot of great people though who appreciated the hard work that goes into long distance cycling.

What was the purpose of this expedition?
To raise awareness for special needs and to elevate cycling to a regional sport, as well as to document the journey on social media.

How safe is it traveling through deserted roads and towns?
There is a chance of death as the roads are very dangerous, especially at night. The police made me sign a paper on several occasions saying they do not want to take responsibility for my safety. I was in a rural town outside Riyadh and I was intentionally targeted by a person driving his car.

Which cities did you pass by? What was the experience?
I passed by all major cities in the GCC, including Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Bahrain, Kuwait, Riyadh, Madinah and Jeddah.

What was the reaction of people when you visited them and told your story?
It depended on the town I was visiting, the more rural the town was, the more variation I saw in people’s behavior.

Did you feel that the journey you took changed your life, health, mood or relationship with your community?
Yes of course, it did. It brought people together and I’m sure many saw it as a wake up call to support the cause of special needs.

Are there going to be any more expeditions in the future?
I want to initiate more challenges for the cause of special needs Insha’Allah. I need support and it takes time and money to actually conduct such challenges.

Do you think most people don’t know their physical and mental limits? Did you ever feel like giving up at any point during your journey?
I didn’t feel like giving up as we were stopped multiple times on the road by police and those who acted like they owned the road. The key to perseverance is faith.

Would you think of doing it for other foundations?
Of course. I wanted to do it for all special needs foundations in the GCC but I couldn’t achieve this due to red tape. I did manage to meet with my friends at the Qatar center for the blind and deaf. I wish we could have done this for other GCC states as well. It has motivated me.

What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started your journey?
I wouldn’t have done it any other way and I would like to thank everyone who supported special needs and myself on the journey.

Email: [email protected]


Sudan protests against Egyptian Ramadan TV series Abu Omar al-Masri 

A still image from the TV series Abu Omar al-Masri.
Updated 8 min 46 sec ago
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Sudan protests against Egyptian Ramadan TV series Abu Omar al-Masri 

  • The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Khartoum to protest against the series, starring Egyptian actor Ahmad Ezz. 
  • Khartoum is angered by the idea that Egyptian militants would find refuge in Sudan.

CAIRO: Sudan is officially angered by a new Egyptian drama series ‘Abu Omar al-Masri’ and is calling for banning it on television channels during Ramadan.  

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Khartoum to protest against the series, starring Egyptian actor Ahmad Ezz. 

The ministry said it had also filed a formal complaint with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry through its embassy in Cairo against the serial, which is based on a novel of the same name.

 

It accused the series of “fabricating and promoting a negative image” picturing Sudan as a state where Egyptian terrorist fugitives reside.

“Abu Amr Al-Masry shows that some Egyptians living in Sudan are involved in terrorism,” the Sudanese ministry said in a statement. “This is not true because there is no evidence against any Egyptian living in Sudan of being involved in terrorism.”

“The series sought to convince viewers that some areas of Sudan were the location of some scenes in the series, by using Sudanese car plate numbers, without obtaining the consent of Sudanese authorities,” the statement said.

The ministry said those Egyptians living in Sudan have come following a coordination between the authorities and security services of the two countries.

“This television serial is insulting Egyptians living in Sudan and destroying the confidence and relations between the people of the two countries,” the ministry said. “The ministry urges the Egyptian authorities to take suitable steps to stop these attempts at disturbing the interests and achievements of the two countries.”

Producers and cast of the television series replied in a press release that he events are fictional. 

"The series script was written based on the scriptwriter's imagination and does not contain scenes or hints against the Sudanese government or the Sudanese people,” the channel airing the drama said in statement quoted by Egypt Today. 

Diplomatic ties between Cairo and Khartoum have largely remained tense, particularly since last year after Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir accused Egyptian intelligence services of supporting opposition figures fighting his troops in the country’s conflict zones like Darfur.

Cairo accused Sudan of involvement in a 1995 assassination attempt by Egyptian militants against Egypt’s then-President Hosni Mubarak during a trip to Ethiopia. Sudan denied the allegations, and expelled bin Laden and other militants the following year.

Ties between the two were further strained after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Khartoum earlier this year.

Turkey and Egypt have had tense relations since the Egyptian military ousted President Muhammad Mursi in 2013, a close ally of Erdogan.

In recent months tension also rose between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over a controversial dam that Ethiopia is building along its share of the Nile. Cairo fears that once commissioned the dam will reduce water supplies from the Nile to Egypt. But on Wednesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said that a “breakthrough” had been reached in talks with Sudan and Ethiopia over the dam.