He was losing water. Under very challenging desert condition made worst by the Middle Eastern temperature in the summer that can spike up to 50 degrees Celsius, it’s one of the hardest challenges he has to face in his life.
Yet Khaled al Shabibi cannot be deterred.
With his muscles aching and sweat running in his back, he was determined to finish the 1,700 km challenge he has posed for himself cycling from the comfort of his home in Al Mudaibi to the unknown roads of GCC countries like UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and UAE which led ultimately to the charming and welcoming arms of Kuwait.
His progress was slow, relying heavily on his leg muscles to propel his bike forward. His average speed does not exceed 50 km/hour and the dangers of the road, like reckless drivers, pose great risk and requiring alertness on his part.
This was in 2010. And Khaled would spend a total of 21 days on the road to complete what he was set out to do.
“It was a journey I dedicated to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. The 21 days it took to complete the whole length was the most difficult I have to do in my life and with intense temperature, unfamiliar surroundings and changing wind speed, I almost gave up,” Khaled shared.
But what motivated him to continue was something he often sees on the road.
“There was a terrible traffic accident and the victims included children and women. It could have been avoided but the driver was irresponsible driving at high speed. My journey was propelled by this strong sense of raising awareness of following traffic rules and observing road safety measures,” he said.
Khaled today is considered as an ambassador for traffic/road safety and a community leader.
His cycling from Oman to Kuwait is then followed by another, but this time, only covering Muscat going to Salalah.
“The last trip I did was from Muscat towards Dhofar Governorate. It took place during Khareef season that extends from the end of July to the beginning of September where it’s the best period to visit. I met many different nationalities on the road and some of them from neighbouring countries like KSA, UAE. Although the trip is not as challenging as that going to Kuwait, the mission remains the same,” he said.
Khaled was the first Omani to travel the Gulf and the Sultanate by bicycle on the occasion of the national day and the first person to tour all the wilayats of the country for a full year fulfilling a mandate of contributing to the needed discussion regarding road safety and accident prevention.
Data from Oman’s National Centre for Statistics and Information (NSCI) has shown that dozens of accidents happen in roads every day. These accidents are of varying degree, from minor ones that result in injury, to major ones that result in death not only of the drivers but to passengers as well including children.
The World Health Organisation has reported that “The Global status report on road safety 2015, reflecting information from 180 countries, indicates that worldwide the total number of road traffic deaths has plateaued at 1.25 million per year, with the highest road traffic fatality rates in low-income countries.”
These accidents leave behind orphans, permanently disabled citizens and broken families.
“From 2011 to 2012, I cycled and visited all wilayats in the Sultanate accompanied by some of my family members who were following me on the road with their cars,” he shared.
“For each of the destinations I go to, from fuel stations to some random safe parts of the roads, I knock on windows giving friendly advice and handing out leaflets. This is a small part of educating people on the road and although it can be an inconvenience to some, raising awareness is much better compared to not doing anything at all and see horrific crashes and accidents happening before your very eyes,” he said.
“Overspeeding, non-compliance with traffic rules, using a mobile phone while driving, driving while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs, challenging road infrastructure, faulty cars, and some weather conditions such as heavy fog that limits visibility, rain or ice on the road are some major reasons leading to accidents. If we can keep reminding people about the danger, hopefully, the numbers will drastically decrease,” Khaled said.
“My next plan is broadly focused on social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc which I think is very effective and allows the message to reach a large group of people in the society. The awareness drive should continue,” he said.
Mohammed Al shabibi & Titash chakraborty