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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Cyclists brave Norwegian outdoors to raise money for Gaza’s children

Among the 51 cyclists taking part is a Dubai-based Palestinian who had not been on a bicycle in 20 years before agreeing to take part in the 240km ride.
Twenty-two cyclists from the UAE are participating in this year’s Cycling4Gaza – an annual initiative that has so far raised Dh4.85 million since it kicked off in 2009. Satish Kumar/ The National
Twenty-two cyclists from the UAE are participating in this year’s Cycling4Gaza – an annual initiative that has so far raised Dh4.85 million since it kicked off in 2009. Satish Kumar/ The National

DUBAI // Mohammed Al Shukairy had not cycled in 20 years but he did not hesitate to join a 240-kilometre cycling mission in Norway in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

The 38-year-old Palestinian lawyer from Dubai and his wife will be among 22 cyclists from the UAE participating in this year’s Cycling4Gaza – an annual initiative that has so far raised Dh4.85 million since it kicked off in 2009 through seven rides around Europe, the Middle East and North America.

Its aim is to support organisations providing aid and projects for people in Gaza.

This year, funds collected by 51 cyclists from all around the world will go to Paces, a non-profit UK-based organisation that provides sports programmes for Palestinian children.

So far, more than Dh776,300 of the Dh1.2m target has been raised.

The cyclists will pedal from Gaustablikk east to the Norwegian capital, Oslo, between August 4 and 8. The UAE-based cyclists gathered on Friday at Flywheel, in Downtown Dubai, for their last training session before the trip.

“We chose Norway this year because Paces every year takes four teams from their children to [the] Norway Youth World Cup,” said Dina Dajani, a C4G committee member.

“Paces is presenting four teams, two boys and two girls. Many of us are going ahead of the ride to attend the games in Oslo and support the kids.”

Mr Al Shukairy said Palestine was on many minds. “I’m a big fan of sports and the important role sports has for youth,” he said. “It is hugely important for the children to have as normal a childhood as they can. It’s a combination – it is a chance for me and my wife to do something together.”

The couple practised on their recent three-week break in Italy.

“We cycled in Tuscany and the Alps, it was good training,” he said.

With each cyclist having to raise a minimum of Dh9,100 to participate, Mr Al Shukairy and his wife have managed to reach Dh58,770 so far.

“It is a small contribution but hopefully a meaningful one,” he said. “I’m excited to get through the challenges as a group.”

Lina Abou Chaaban and her husband Khaled Lababidi, who met through C4G, raised Dh17,000 this year.

“Whether it is for Palestine or the children, people are more generous than you think they are,” said Ms Abou Chaaban, 29. “This is my fourth year in C4G and I will never forget my first ride in Turkey, I was in tears.”

Although tough, the experience was too enriching to give up. “We were joined by people from all nationalities,” she said.

“You learn to break stereotypes and appreciate different backgrounds.”

Another Palestinian who joined them was a cancer survivor who had to cross borders from Gaza to receive treatment.

“He could not stop talking about how much he missed the sea in Gaza,” Ms Abou Chaaban added. “They are very positive and put positivity into you, so you learn from them.”

hdajani@thenational.ae