The concept hit Abdullah Alsulmi earlier this 12 months, whereas he was watching a tv present during which a senior Qatari official promised an “distinctive” expertise on the upcoming World Cup.
His pleasure constructing, the 33-year-old Saudi trekker recollects considering: “I’ll go to Doha it doesn’t matter what, even when I’ve to stroll!”
It was an unlikely starting to what has change into an audacious journey dismissed by a few of Alsulmi’s relations as “loopy”: a two-month, 1,600-kilometre (1,000-mile) solo trek from his native Jeddah to the Qatari capital.
Alsulmi says the journey, faithfully documented for his 1000’s of Snapchat followers, is supposed to focus on regional enthusiasm for the primary World Cup within the Center East – which Saudi officers have pitched as a milestone “for all Arabs”.
“We wish to help the World Cup,” Alsulmi stated final week as he sheltered from the noon solar close to roadside shrubs within the city of al-Khasrah, 340 kilometres southwest of Riyadh.
Carrying a wide-brim hat and a backpack to which he has affixed Saudi Arabian and Qatari flags, he stated: “I think about myself like a Qatari who may be very on this World Cup and its success.”
Solar and scorpions
Alsulmi has expertise with prolonged treks in Canada and Australia, the place he used to reside, but these pale compared to the rigours of traversing the Arabian Peninsula.
He sometimes units out at dawn and walks till 10 or 10:30am, however then the warmth forces him to interrupt for a couple of hours earlier than resuming within the afternoon and persevering with till sunset.
Often he walks at night time to take care of his purpose of round 35 kilometres per day.
To maintain his load mild, Alsulmi subsists on meals he should purchase at petrol stations, typically hen and rice, whereas showering and washing his garments at mosques.
His social media posts seize particulars of life on the path, from the mundane to the menacing: his nightly seek for a spot to sleep, and the time he eyed a scorpion dozing dangerously near his tent.
He additionally information conversations with Saudis he meets alongside the way in which, a lot of whom supply snacks and juice to maintain him going.
“There are moments of ups and downs, however once I meet individuals and listen to these candy phrases – ‘We are going to comply with you in your account and help you’ – this encourages me to complete,” he stated.
Straying from the primary roads as typically as he can, he says he has been rewarded with a style of the numerous surroundings on supply within the kingdom – one thing he didn’t absolutely respect earlier than.
“Strolling from Jeddah to Doha, each 100 kilometres is completely different. I imply, the primary 100 kilometres there are sand dunes, then mountains, after which comes empty land, then farms,” he stated.
“I’m going by all terrains in a single nation in two months. It is a stunning factor.”
A ‘easy’ sport
Alsulmi hopes that by posting about his expertise, he can encourage different Saudis to think about trekking by their homeland.
“Once I do that, I wish to convey to folks that mountain climbing and strolling is a lovely sport, even when the climate is troublesome right here in Saudi Arabia, even when the terrain is troublesome. We are able to do it,” he stated.
“It’s a sport for easy individuals. You solely want a bag and some easy issues, and a tent and nature.”
If all goes in response to plan, Alsulmi will arrive in Doha in time for Saudi Arabia’s opening showdown in opposition to Argentina on November 22.
It is going to be a second of divided loyalty, since Argentina is his favorite staff.
4 days later, he has a ticket for the Inexperienced Falcons’ match in opposition to Poland.
His hopes are excessive for a Saudi squad that has now certified for six World Cups however superior to the knockout stage simply as soon as, throughout its 1994 debut.
“This 12 months we’ve got good gamers. The coach is the good French coach [Herve] Renard,” he stated.
“We anticipate and hope that this 12 months the staff will ship an distinctive efficiency.”