x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Bumpy times on the Silk Road

Dubai-based motorcyclist raised Dh700,000 for the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund Paediatric Cancer Centre in the West Bank - but was jailed twice and was lucky to survive the Gobi desert.

Wissam Al Jayoussi had six accidents, was jailed twice and almost died once in his 50,000 km 145 day trip across the Silk Route.
Wissam Al Jayoussi had six accidents, was jailed twice and almost died once in his 50,000 km 145 day trip across the Silk Route.

DUBAI // The going was pretty rugged, but a Dubai man has managed to raise more than Dh700,000 for a Palestinian children's hospital after motorcycling more than 50,000 kilometres across 21 countries.

Wissam Al Jayyoussi, a 37-year-old Jordanian, said: "I had six accidents and was jailed twice."

There were also trips to police stations and a four-day hunger strike when the authorities did not let him travel between different Pakistani provinces without proper permits.

"It was risky, challenging and there were lots of problems," said Mr Al Jayyoussi, who returned to the UAE last week.

The biker, who runs his own IT company in Dubai, began his 145-day "goodwill journey" on May 12 from Sharjah where he took a boat across the Gulf to Iran.

As part of his trip, Mr Al Jayyoussi, who has a Palestinian background, rode his BMW R1200GS Adventure motorcycle along the historic Silk Road.

From Iran he rode through Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, China, Mongolia, Russia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, and finished his arduous Asian tour in Singapore.

Mr Al Jayyoussi, who undertook the trip to buy medical equipment for the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund Paediatric Cancer Centre in the West Bank, explained that it was no easy riding.

He was detained by authorities in Pakistan's Balochistan who said he did not hold a no-objection certificate from the interior ministry to pass through the area. When he brought the appropriate papers, officials still refused to let him pass.

"I decided to go on a hunger strike for four days. The Pakistani media got wind of it and, after they wrote about my situation, I was allowed to leave."

The entrepreneur was then questioned by officials in New Delhi for possessing a type of satellite phone banned in India.

"Six people from intelligence knocked on my hotel door and asked me if I had a satellite phone," Mr Al Jayyoussi said. "I was interrogated by officials for eight hours and they went through my laptop. They let me go at midnight. I had to get the Jordanian Embassy involved."

Mr Al Jayyoussi said he was refused entry at several borders for various reasons including bureaucratic procedures, corrupt officials and proper documentation.

"It was very different to my previous trip through Europe," he said.

"In Europe when you cross between different countries, you don't realise. Asia is the complete opposite of that."

Mr Al Jayyoussi said the drastic changes in weather and the poor road conditions also took a severe toll on him and his heavily modified BMW bike.

"I expected bad roads but in places like Mongolia, there were no tracks. I went days without seeing humans.

"The temperature changes were also drastic. I went from 50°C to minus 10°C. In South-East Asia there was the monsoons and the weather was not helpful at all."

He said his Indian leg of his tour was the most challenging as he had to share the road with lorries, buses, tuk-tuks, cows, sheep and other vehicles. He also had a few accidents when his bike was damaged by rash Indian truckers.

Mr Al Jayyoussi said that it was in Mongolia's Gobi desert that he almost gave up.

"There were no roads and my bike kept getting stuck in the sand," he said. "Mongolia is the only place I thought I would die, that I would not make it.

"I had to dismantle parts of the bike and reassemble it at least 50 times, which is very exhausting."

Bikers in different countries accompanied him when he rode their cities and helped raise awareness on the plight of Palestinians and his cause. The five-month Asian tour cost the IT entrepreneur about US$50,000, (Dh183,000) which he paid for out of his own pocket.

He hopes that the Gulf Bike Week event, which runs from October 18 to 20, will see more donors contribute generously to the children's hospital and help achieve their target of Dh1 million.

This is Al Jayyoussi's second trip to raise money for Palestine, which he has never visited.

About two years ago he rode through 36 countries in Middle East and Europe in 60 days.

His next plan is to ride from Dubai to Alaska in 2014. Contributions to the hospital can be made online at goodwilljourney.org.

 

pkannan@thenational.ae