The Great Expedition

Muslim Matters

The Great Expedition

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”

                                                  – Lance Armstrong

cyclist_jpg This has not exactly been the year for breaking endurance records that pit man against the forces of Mother Nature. The recent aborted around the world sailing bid by 16-year old American sailor Abby Sunderland, which ended with her boat being lost at sea and the young adventurer just barely escaping with her life, drives that message home quite effectively. However, since time eternal man has sought to push the limits and conquer feats that most humans would never dare try.

Call them adventure seekers, daredevils, or just plain crazy – there is something all too compelling about the risks some sports enthusiasts are willing to take simply to go down, hopefully not permanently, into the pages of history. And while some of the most daring adventurists have hailed from the United States and Europe, there are quite a few popping up from some of the most unlikely places.

One such thrill seeker is Lebanese cyclist Mohammad Al-Ali, who has resided in Kuwait for the past three years. Al-Ali plans to spend the summer cycling on his bicycle through countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Syria. Al-Ali has already received visas from all of the countries he plans to cycle though but is still waiting to hear from Libyan authorities. His aim in cycling through the Middle East and Europe is to show the world that there are not any real barriers to prevent peaceful coexistence between the neighboring countries of the world.

The entire journey is a daunting 11,000 kms. And Al-Ali will only have himself, his bike and a satellite camera to keep him company during the possibly precarious journey. He has already utilized the power of Google Earth to map out the course he will take from start to finish. His cycling endeavor will end in his homeland Lebanon, no doubt to a raucous homecoming from his countrymen.

In a recent interview, Al-Ali credited his isolated upbringing as helping him to adjust to being alone during the journey and only having himself to lean on. However, he will most likely have to rely partially upon the kindness of strangers in the countries that he is passing through to provide a home cooked meal or a decent night’s sleep. But, true to his loner nature, he will be taking along his tent just in case his only recourse is sleeping under the stars.

This is not the first time that Al-Ali has set off on a cycling adventure. In 2001, he cycled from Beirut to the Turkish capital of Istanbul. However, that trip only took a mere month while his latest undertaking wile last an expected five months.


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