x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Stranded schoolboy going home in style on epic roadtrip from UAE

Fear-of-flying schoolboy Joe Thompson now has clearance to drive through Saudi Arabia and could do so in a convoy of Volkswagens by next week.

Joe Thompson,11, who recently came down with a debilitating fear of flying and has been unable to leave the UAE.
Joe Thompson,11, who recently came down with a debilitating fear of flying and has been unable to leave the UAE.

DUBAI // Fear-of-flying schoolboy Joe Thompson could be heading home in style in a convoy of Volkswagens by next week following a meeting between his father and officials from the car giant.

Joe, 11, who is from the UK, has been stranded in the UAE for more than a month after developing an acute aversion to flying.

The two sides discussed the situation in Dubai yesterday, and as Joe's father, Tony, made his way home to Al Ain afterwards he said: "We had a good meeting. It'll probably take them a couple of days before they come up with the final route. They've got quite a lot of detail to do - they've got to sort out the drivers, the servicing and all that sort of thing. Logistically they want it to work."

The likely route would take the Thompsons across Saudi Arabia to the Red Sea port of Jeddah, from where they would travel on by boat, making their way via Egypt to Europe and on to the UK.

The Saudi embassy in Abu Dhabi previously declined the Thompsons' application for visas, but following the intervention of the Saudi ambassador to London they have been told that the documents will now be issued. However the route will have to be finalised and submitted to the Abu Dhabi embassy before the visas are supplied.

"All the Saudis are waiting for now is for me to turn up and say, 'this is where we want to go, into Saudi, along this way'," added Mr Thompson. "We'll be able to look at a start date once I've got the visas.

"I think it's going to be next week before we get on the move, but at least we're heading in the right direction."

Joe's family are returning to the UK after living in Al Ain for several years. His mother Pauline and sister Chloé, 16, are already back home in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, but he has had to stay behind with his father.

Volkswagen contacted Mr Thompson after reading about Joe's predicament in The National.