He has conquered 42 countries out of his target. But globetrotting Maher al Barwani is not done yet. He wants to experience the world including setting the record of being the first Omani to conquer as many different countries as he can solo on his trusted bike.
While he still has a few countries to check out off his list, Maher who is on a short break right now and is back in Oman has already done something that has not been done by any Omani in the past— to be the first Omani to travel alone through different continents and in Africa to reach Cape Agulhas.
Asked where his bike was during an interview, he shared that the vehicle that has taken him places “is in South Africa.”The challenge of which he put himself to has opened Maher to different experiences one of which is campaign wherever the road took him.
The journey has not been easy but Maher is looking forward to more of the action. He started his journey in 2014 inspired by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos’ principles in spreading peace and understanding between nations and cultures. Maher had been going through culture shocks too as he embarked on his journey but he was quick to understand the way of living of the people he meet on the way.
“I wanted to live with people in their natural settings, in their traditional manner and it has been an eye-opener. The lifestyle and diet are all so different. We are used to sleeping in comfort knowing you are well secured but in some of the villages, they were just out there,” he shared.
He added, “In some places, it was difficult to find clean water and in some other areas, they did not know what a mobile phone was. We take all of this for granted. What was intriguing was I found myself in this one village where they did not practice any faith. They just lived like that. There is no concept of praying in one particular village.”
Maher appreciated the hospitality he has been receiving from Omani ambassadors, ministers of the countries he visited and the general public. He was officially honoured and named as Tourism Ambassador of Tanzania, Zanzibar and Botswana. At many places, Maher was asked to speak and share his experiences.
“My journey is about creating relationships between Oman and the countries. I want to carry the message of Oman to the world,” explained Maher. What started as a hobby became this important journey.
“I am grateful Petroleum Development Oman, Ministry of Sports extended their support in addition to my family and friends who ensure I have the best biking gear. My family has been my support, especially my wife who believes in my goal. Throughout the journey, Ambassadors of Oman and officials in the respective countries I was travelling through have been extending their hospitality towards me and I am very grateful for that. Omanis have always travelled in the past with boats and camels we are now doing it motorbikes,” he noted.
Maher started his journey from Oman to the other GCC countries, Jordan, Egypt, and moved to Europe through Iran and Turkey. Then it was the call from the African Continent.“
Most people discouraged me saying it could be dangerous. I wanted to challenge myself and see what the danger is. I was sure with the grace of the Almighty I would be fine,” he said.
But nothing can prepare one from surprises and that is exactly what happened when he had an encounter with bandits.
“They are known to cut down trees to block the road but luckily I was not driving a car which would have meant I would have gotten stuck. Instead, I was on a bike and was able to escape through a gap. I was robbed off my mobile phone but I was able to track it down and the government officials made sure I got back my phone. These small incidents do not represent a country. It is just some people’s circumstances,” he rationalised.
There are other challenging experiences too. Nothing prepared him of how much the wait can be to get a visa to enter the next country. “If one is to die in this place, no one would take responsibility. Your own country would have to do the needful. But this is where the truckers park as they wait for clearance to travel,” Maher said.
For nine days he was stranded in the land between two countries where he had to depend on rainwater and food that was cooked that was all new to him. That was not all — what was even scarier were the snakes and scorpions.
“There were too many snakes. We just had to make sure the bed was free from snakes. You cannot kill there are far too many.
When you are sitting relaxed you will suddenly see one straight there in front of you. The snakes love bikers’ boots. What I find most dangerous are the small snakes because they are hard to spot” warned Maher.
“My friends remind me that I wanted all this. They are right and I am looking forward to continue my journey further,” said Maher excitedly.
In two weeks’ time Maher will continue his journey where he left off for the break and where his bike is waiting — South Africa. From Cape Town, he plans to head to Namibia, Angola, Congo, to Morocco and to Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt and then come back to Oman.
“Then, of course, there is North Europe and the Americas to explore on a bike!”
The journey continues.