French-Moroccan ultra runner to test his limits in aid of education in Yemen’s Socotra

Special French-Moroccan ultra runner to test his limits in aid of education in Yemen’s Socotra
Hichame Moubarak aims to complete the run around Socotra in nine days, running 40 km a day. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 July 2021

French-Moroccan ultra runner to test his limits in aid of education in Yemen’s Socotra

French-Moroccan ultra runner to test his limits in aid of education in Yemen’s Socotra
  • Ultra-runner Hichame Moubarak will test his limits on the Yemeni island of Socotra to raise funds for local schools

DUBAI: After running the world’s hottest desert in Namibia, the windiest in Mongolia, the driest in Chile and the coldest in Antarctica, Hichame Moubarak now has his sights set on becoming the first person to complete a run around Socotra in a bid to raise funds for schools on the Yemeni island.

The French-Moroccan ultra-runner currently based in Qatar said that he hopes to raise $10,000 for the five schools on Socotra.  

One of his biggest challenges, he said, will be to avoid injury on the sharp rockyand mountainious terrain.

“Running on Socotra is quite difficult because there are lots of rocks and you can get surface damage, so you always need to focus on the ground and where you place your feet,” he said.

Moubarak aims to complete this self-curated run in eight days, running 42 km a day, in November. He traveled to Socotra in May to plan his route with local guide Rafat Showqi.

“At one point when I was alone in the middle of nowhere, I thought to myself, if I put my feet here, I think the rock will collapse and it was a 10-meter drop. I was really looking at safety closely when I was there,” he said.

One of dangers of tackling such a challenge on Socotra is that the island lacks cellular network coverage, so Moubarak risks being stranded if injured.

When asked what led him to undertake extreme challenges, the ultra-runner said that he wants to test his limits, physically and mentally.

Socotra, described as the “Galapagos of the Middle East” and the “Jewel of Arabia,” is a Yemeni UNESCO World Heritage Site. While largely unaffected by the war that broke out in Yemen in 2015, the island suffers from economic depression, and education is one of many sectors in need of urgent funding.

Hichame Moubarak (R) speaks with speaks with the Education Office Manager about the needs of schools in Socotra. 

Moubarak said that funds raised for his run, which he has named The Jurassic Ultra Challenge, will cover IT eqquipment, a screen projector, and a one-year salary for a teacher for the five schools on the island. He hopes this will help schools develop a digital library to document the biodiversity of the island as well as its distinct flora and fauna.

“They live on an amazing island, and I thought to myself, maybe they don’t know everything about the island, and maybe they need to have tools to develop this library,” he said.

“So the idea at the beginning was to buy equipment and support them to create a database documenting the different species of trees, birds and insects,” he added.

Hichame Moubarak (C) tours a classroom of a local school in Socotra.

This is not Moubarak’s first effort to raise funds for a disadvantaged community. In 2018, his fundraiser for clean water access in Sierra Leone raised $25,000, and benefited 800 people. 

He said that running for a cause helps him get through the difficult moments of his challenges.

“Combining them with a cause creates more awareness and raises more money,” he said.

Hichame Moubarak (L) given a tour of a local school by teachers in Socotra.

As someone who has come from hardship, he said, completing charitable challenges is a way of “giving back.”

“I grew up in a very difficult environment; my parents had huge difficulties raising me and my siblings. I left home when I was 12 because I was obliged to change my environment drastically,” Moubarak said.

“Now I see myself and look at where I am and what I am doing. It’s like giving back, giving back to people, but also giving back to myself,” he added.

Hichame Moubarak (R) with his local guide Rafat Showqi (L).

Click here to reach the The Jurassic Ultra Challenge fundraiser.