He's trained hard for months and now, having landed in Tanzania, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Al Thani hopes his hard work pays off. Along with his team of 12, among them his friend and climbing partner, Matt (also known as Masoud Mohammed), Sheikh Al Thani will climb Mount Kilimanjaro over seven days. They started yesterday. "There's an easier climb and a tougher one," Sheikh Al Thani explains while waiting for a connecting flight in Tanzania. "We're doing the tougher one."
Sheikh Al Thani likes to stay in shape and he is no stranger to adventure travel, but this climb is no relaxing holiday and the training he has done is all for solid, practical reasons. He will reach the 5,895-metres-above-sea-level summit to raise money for the Malaria Consortium, a non-profit organisation working to control malaria and other communicable diseases widespread throughout Africa and Asia.
A father himself, Sheikh Al Thani explains that he feels strongly about children who suffer from curable diseases. About 350 to 500 million cases of malaria are reported annually. Those most commonly affected are young African children. "Malaria is the number-one cause of death here; we're working towards saving lives of innocent children who fall victim to curable diseases due to lack of medical aid. I wanted to come and climb Kilimanjaro; it's for a good cause," Sheikh Al Thani says. "But I also have a list of things to do in life. And climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is on it."
This is not the first feat Sheikh Al Thani and Matt have undertaken together. They have also trekked in Nepal, participated in high-speed boating events and the famous Gumball 3000 rally race. Led by Zed al Refai, the first Arab man to climb Mount Everest and to complete the Seven Summits Challenge, the team includes European and Middle Eastern businessmen. Sheikh Al Thani is excited, but expects nothing but difficulty.
"High altitude, harsh environment. It will be rainy, snowy: you just don't know what will happen," he says. "On top of that we'll be camping outside. This won't be easy." The expedition will raise money, and probably Sheikh Al Thani's profile. A Facebook group has been established to promote the event ("A Journey with Moe n Matt") and already has 1,065 fans. He will post a personal diary of the climb of his website, www.moenmatt.com and on his travel company's website (www.musafir.com), and The National will follow his adventure over the next seven days.
Symptoms of malaria include fever and chills, a dry cough and swollen spleen. Humans can contract the disease through contact with mosquitos and some animals. Eradication of the disease in North America and Europe was largely a product of greatly shrinking mosquito populations by drying wetland breeding grounds and the use of pesticides. An effective vaccination for the disease has not yet been developed, so in many developing countries anti-malarial measures taken have included improving the efficiency with which symptoms of the disease are recognised and raising awareness about what small efforts can work towards reducing human contact with mosquitos - using nets, for example.
However, comic relief is expected to come when the team reaches the summit's peak, where Matt plans the highest ever performance of the chicken dance, as long as their Facebook page attracts 2,000 fans by the time they arrive. Donations can be made by logging onto www.moenmatt.com or www.musafir.com * Jessica Hume