Nawaf al Suleimani knows the many challenges there is when travelling to a foreign land. Without an idea of the national language and exploring the country on foot makes it doubly hard as one’s communication skills is always put to the test. A simple wrong turn can be a very stressful situation but Nawaf is motivated to see Spain according to how he wanted to see it, on his reliable foot.
As of print time, Nawaf is celebrating his completion of his 118km. He walked from the scenic Sarria to vibrant Santiago completing the walk in six days. On his journey, he has to use all his faculties to understand where he is and in conversations when he asks for directions, he rely on body language so that he’d get the answer to his questions.
The last time he took a challenging walk was back here in the Sultanate when he participated in a walk for cause during the International Water Day. It was one of his passions and it was of the causes he truly believes, that water conservation is important most especially here in the Middle East. — conservation of water.
On his journey to Spain, he also has a message to convey.
“We must really think about teaching more than one language in our schools. It is not enough to learn Arabic and English. Let us give our youngsters the option of learning additional languages,” he said.
It was the core of his journey. Spain being one of the world’s most historic of places, existing even as early as the Middle Ages, is home to some of the world’s important events and people. But other than seeing the sites, meeting the people and exploring the historical places, his mission was also to challenge himself.
“I wanted to challenge myself in a different country with a different language. I wanted to find out how I would survive,” he shared.
“The language was the biggest challenge. I did not use any language applications simply because there was no internet while walking. So I was using hands to communicate,” he said.
“The good thing is, I learnt a lot and met many people from different countries who spoke other languages but had similar ideas, values and cultures. I talked to them about Oman. There were others who had learnt Spanish as a foreign language and were not experts but could communicate. I was proud of them,” he added.
Although Nawaf is fluent in English with Arabic being his mother tongue, Spanish is altogether different and even its vernaculars have different variations.
“Describing food was the most difficult because I had to describe the kind of food I did not eat,” he said.
“I asked the Camino authorities if there were other Omanis who has walked the route. In five years, I am the seventh to do so. I am extremely happy that I could complete this journey. It was more difficult than in Oman. It is dry in Oman and the terrain is accessible. Here, I walked through lot of different natural settings. There was a bit of climbing and different slopes. It was beautiful too,” he narrated.
Nawaf also met a lot of walkers who inspired him even more. There was one person who had walked 750 km.
“He shared his experience. He had a bigger challenge because he camped at the places he went to. My next challenge was my luggage. I carried it throughout the 118 km. The weight of luggage was eight kilos. I had to carry everything with me. I had to find places to stay as well. This is one of the biggest challenges I have ever done in my life,” he said.
At the end of the Camino, you can send the passport and get a certificate. And Nawaf is the proud recipient of the certificate. Although still in Spain forging his way to his next kilometres, his mind is already plotting the next challenge he wants to take.
His biggest take away so far, learning some Spanish words.
He shared, “I know the numbers. I know how to say hello, thank you and lot of other words you need to use on a daily basis.”
What is most important, he said, “I also learned the key words to survive.”