United Arab Emirates – Km 72,435
When I was cycling through Iran on my way to India I had to choose between to keep cycling toward Pakistan with the option of visiting the countries of the old Soviet Union (the route which is taken for almost all the cyclist travellers heading for Asia) or to come to the Persian gulf facing the heat of the desert and then to fly toward Pakistan; because I knew that through the Iranian and Pakistani Baluchistan I could not go.
But I chose to venture through the Persian Gulf, because this is a place where almost any traveller by bicycle comes.
The objective of this part of the trip was to know a little more about the Arabs, since only I had been related with them in poor countries, and also to take advantage of my visit to look for some sponsors and to finance the coming stage of the trip; Asia.
During my first 5 months in the gulf I visited Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and I was lucky, because in spite of the economic crisis I got some sponsors, but it was not easy. But when I crossed the border Saudi Arabia – Emirates I had a lot of expectation, because according to people’s comments along the gulf, Dubai would be where I would get the best sponsors for my trip, for its fame of rich and enterprising emirate. Also for the contacts that I had, which I was getting along my cycle in the area.
From the border to Abu Dhabi there is almost 400 km and very few options on the road where to stop, because everything is a desert; for this I organized the cycle to do it in three days. The first night I stopped in Ruwais, in the house of a Belgian guy and the second at one of the few petrol stations that there are on the route. But for it I had to face very long days of cycling, 130 or 140 km per day, cycling around 7 or 8 hours daily, with a strong lateral wind and with all the heat of the noon since I didn’t have place to rest; a real madness. And how hard was to stop after a puncture to change the inner tube exactly when I felt that the sun was splitting open my head.
When I arrived to Abu Dhabi I was received by Silvana and her family, an Argentinean girl who had written me on my website a couple of years ago. She hosted me as if I were one of her family, I ate a lot of dulce de leche, I met several Argentineans and she took me to know the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, which is really impressive. The mosque is the six biggest in the Islamic world and among its curiosities it possesses the biggest carpet in the world that has more than 5000 m2.
I also visited the Argentinean embassy, where its ambassador Ruben Caro and its Consul Gabriel Jorquera treated me very well.
To reach Dubai I had to cycle another 170 km, for this I preferred to leave from Abu Dhabi on the afternoon, to camp on the route and to arrive on the following day. That night I slept in the garden of a mansion, its security guards who were from Nepal served me something of food and they allowed me to put my tent under some trees, in secret. On the following day I arrived to Dubai at noon, the clocks marked 43º of temperature, and because of I had to wait some hours to meet Carlos, the Panamanian guy who would receive me in his house, I waited him in a stop of buses that incredibly are closed and have air condition, like in a fable, as Dubai is.
During my stay in Dubai talking with people I was interested about the history of the country and its development. According they explained to me in the middle of the XIX century, after the Ottoman period, the Britons took the charge of the military protection of the territory, for this, then they guaranteed the monopoly of the trade and the exploitation of the resources which lasted up to 1971 when the called Trucial States became independent forming the United Arab Emirates.
At the present time the United Arab Emirates are a monarchy composed of seven emirates; in that each one preserves certain political, judicial and economic autonomy. The wealth of the United Arab Emirates is in great measure based on the exploitation of petroleum and natural gas. From 1973 the country has suffered a great transformation, passing of being an impoverished region of small principalities to a modern state with high standards of life. But in the recent years, the government has looked for the diversification of his entrance sources to diminish his dependence in the limited reservations of petroleum being guided to the sector services and the tourism. This has caused that the construction is more profitable, what has been translated in a real estate boom in 2004-2006. The construction to great scale has made of Dubai one of the cities with bigger growth of the world. This building boom is centred in great measure in megaprojects, as the Burj Dubai that will have 800 meters high, and it will be the highest sky-scraper in the world, the Palm Islands that are a group of three artificial islands with commercial and residential infrastructure, and which are also already the biggest in the world or inclusive another group of 300 islands artificial calls “The World” because of all together they make the form of the world. Each island will be a property and depending on its size, the proprietors will be able to build a residence in it. According to the rumours Michael Schumacher, Brad Pitt and David Beckham have already bought an island.
Looking for sponsors
I stayed in Dubai for 3 weeks, and I didn’t even stop one day. And as a business-man, in spite of the heat I got dressed with long pant and shirt and moving by taxi I attended to as many meetings as I could. I met some Emiratis managers, an Egyptian and a Palestinian who managing European enterprises in Dubai; I also met with Europeans, Iranians and Indians; but I got nothing, in spite of the fact that more than one promised me to support me economically. It was the case of the Iranians, of Aal Mir Group. Its Sales Director Asghar Esmaeili after a long meeting promised me to do a donation but then he avoided me until my fatigue. Sometimes I prefer to be naive and to insist than to realize with who I deal.
Something similar happened me when I met the Executive, Media & Advertising team of Dubai Tourism and its Deputy Director Inward Mission; but in spite of a couple of meetings, they never answered me.
My work of looking for funds also took me to the Arab Tourism Trade and to meet Dr Ahmed Al Sharif, the General Secretary of Dubai Sport Council who received me very nice in front of the television cameras, but when I asked him about some economic support he changed his face. It was the same when I met the responsible for marketing of the National Olympic Committee who only was interested to call the media to meet them together; this time I had requested him only for some contacts with the companies with they have relationship, but after few minutes of chat I understood that the guy only thought on his side, so I preferred to leave; but when I shook hands with him he held me and tells me:“if you get some money, or who is interested on sponsor you, bring us the proposal that we negotiate for you”; truly I found him as a viper.
But luckily, a couple of days before leaving the city was an Argentinean guy who gave me the ok to don’t leave the country with my empty hands. Ricardo Capria of the Argentinean Company “Tenaris” decided to make a donation for the project: “to complete the ride around the world by bicycle”.
During the last days in Dubai I had to go 7 times to the India Consulate and 4 times to the Pakistan Consulate, to get my visas. Incredible!!!!
I also went several times to watch the Pakistani wresting in the street, the most different thing for these latitudes and that it is really worth.
If there is something that I learned in Dubai, it is about to do not create expectations for my future countries, or rather, to don’t let that someone make me to create them.