x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Bikers roll for wondrous Bu Tinah

Motorcycle enthusiasts ride around the capital to generate support for Bu Tinah as a new wonder of the world.

ABU DHABI // Saud Al Sheerani's sheriff's badge, bullet belt and black leather and studs are topped off nicely by the message on his shirt: "I'm the person your parents warned you about."

But yesterday Mr Al Sheerani, an Emirati biker, was spreading a less intimidating message.

The Dubai engineer was one of about 50 bikers who rode to the capital to promote the campaign for Bu Tinah, a small archipelago off Abu Dhabi, to be named one of the world's "new seven wonders nature".

"I think a lot of people have voted for Bu Tinah. I think we will get it," Mr Al Sheerani said.

The competition was organised by the New7Wonders Foundation, a non-profit organisation set up in Switzerland in 2001. Voting ends on November 11.

Bu Tinah is up against 28 other natural beauties but will do the country proud, said Mr Al Sheerani, who was referred to as "King Saudi" by similarly dressed volunteers.

And residents of other emirates should all get behind the campaign, he said.

"I am from Dubai but I am also from the UAE, and so I wanted to vote," Mr Al Sheerani said.

Bu Tinah, which lies 130 kilometres west of Abu Dhabi, is home to a variety of wildlife including dugong, osprey and the hawksbill turtle, one of the most endangered turtle species in the world.

Other contenders for the natural honour roll include the Maldives, the Dead Sea and the mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan.

Having the support of the UAE's biking community will strengthen Bu Tinah's chances, said Fozeya Al Mahmoud, the manager of the environment education and awareness section of the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), which has promoted the protected area in the competition.

"We call upon society to support this campaign and these 50 volunteers will attract the public to vote," Mrs Al Mahmoud said.

The bikers travelled around the city, stopping at five malls throughout the day to hand out leaflets and attract voters.

"What does this mean? [Taking part] is not only for the competition but shows a commitment to protecting Bu Tinah," Mrs Al Mahmoud said. "It is important to protect our natural heritage."

The whole world should know about the islands, she said. "It will take less than a minute [to vote by text] and costs Dh2."

Mrs Al Mahmoud said people should also visit the Bu Tinah dome on the Corniche. It provides a glimpse into the wildlife in the protected area and will serve as a temporary base for five hawksbill turtles until voting ends.

Bringing bikers together to support a national cause appealed to everyone involved, said Ali Makki, a solo rider who orchestrated yesterday's campaign event.

"When I brought the idea to the EAD they loved it," said Mr Makki, who sported a T-shirt directing people to the Bu Tinah campaign website and asking if they had voted.

The aim was a simple one, said the biker, who lives and works in Abu Dhabi.

"Firstly, the target is to gather as many votes as we can in one day," Mr Makki said.

"We are heading to the main malls in Abu Dhabi and talking to people and showing them we are supporting the campaign."

The public should also be made aware of how ecologically important Bu Tinah is, he added.

Spreading out across the first mall on their list, the group included several female riders and one young mascot whose father, Ismaeil Al Hosani, is a biker.

"It is a national cause and we have to support our country," said Mr Al Hosani, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi who was in charge of the Harley Owners Group (Hog) contingent.

"We [the UAE] have supported causes since the days of Sheikh Zayed, who used to love the environment. We love it too."