Ghafan Mohammed Al Jabry: “The final few weeks were amazing; we have felt the spirit of the desert talking to us again.”
Image by Wouter Kingma courtesy Adrian Hayes, SOURCE
Completing the expedition in Abu Dabi.
courtesy Adrian Hayes, SOURCE
Adrian Hayes and two Emiratis complete journey across Arabian Desert

Posted: Jan 04, 2012 04:22 pm EST
(Newsdesk) You might remember him from the interview we ran with him during the Egypt uprising. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the situations in Egypt and Tunisia should inspire other governments in the Middle East to enact reforms and ExplorersWeb checked in with UAE based former Gurkha Officer and Special Forces Adrian Hayes.

Known at ExWeb for doing the Three Poles in record time and for the Emirates NBD Greenland Quest, when he set out on his next expedition he expected the biggest challenge to be the sensitivities and politics in the region he told ExplorersWeb in an interview.

After 1600km across the Rub’ al Khali, Adrian Hayes, and his two Emirati team mates have now successfully completed their ‘Footsteps of Thesiger’ expedition.

Hayes told ExplorersWeb, “This was never about doing a longest/fastest/hardest etc. journey, nor was it meant to be a re-enaction, because it’s simply impossible to do that across the desert in 2011. Rather, a journey following in Thesiger’s [1940s] footsteps and seeing what we discovered. And despite numerous challenges, frustrations and some disappointments, what we did discover and experienced in the end was, "utterly unique, a very, very special experience.”

Here goes the debrief/press release:

The expedition started at Salalah, Oman. After 44 days the British explorer, along with Saeed Rashid Al Mesafry and Ghafan Mohammed Al Jabry, rode through Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital, to complete their epic adventure.

Travelling on camels and on foot across the Arabian Desert and tackling some of most inhospitable and barren desert on Earth, Hayes closely followed the route taken in 1947 by the legendary British explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger. The expedition team left the tropical forests of Salalah, Oman, in late October, before successfully navigating one of the biggest bodies of sand on earth, the Rub’ al Khali or ‘the Empty Quarter’.

Relying on map, compass and local knowledge, together with basic provisions and Bedouin hospitality, the team passed through a number of key historical sites that Thesiger visited during his Arabian travels, including Shisr once known for its frankincense trail. In Mugshin the team spent the night in the same lodging as Thesiger did, before moving towards Umm As Samim, the dangerous quick sand area on the eastern edge of the Rub’ Al Khali.

Hayes, the former British Army Gurkha Officer and UAE resident, who has set two Guinness World records for polar expeditions, commented: “I feel incredibly privileged to have undertaken such a special experience. It is a lot different from 65 years ago when ‘Mubarak Bin London’ visited Arabia, but I have so much respect for the journey he undertook.”

“The Arabic hospitality has been overwhelming. We knew we would be welcomed but the hospitality we have received along the way was incredible. I am lucky to see sights that only few people get to experience – the real Arabic culture and true Bedouin traditions.”

The team overcame a number of challenges including commencing the trek in tropical cyclone Keila, crossing flooded wadis and coping with limited food supplies. Often trekking in excess of 11 hours per day, covering distances of 40 to 45km, the team crossed some of the toughest desert terrains, where sand dunes can reach more than 250 meters in height and the hyper-arid environment temperatures can reach more than 50 °C.

Humbled by the traditional hospitality the team received along the route, Emirati team member Saeed Rashed Al Mesafry, commented: “This expedition made us feel like brothers, we faced so many obstacles together and we learned from each other’s experiences. Finally we are home, I am very happy to make it that far, but I feel some sadness as I am missing the desert but I am also looking forward for the celebrations.”

Ghafan Mohammed Al Jabry, added, “Our journey went well, we are feeling tired but full of happiness. The final few weeks were amazing; we have felt the spirit of the desert talking to us again.”

The Footsteps of Thesiger expedition would not be possible without the support of the Patron and Presenting Partner - ADACH. Official Expedition Partners include the UAE Armed Forces, Abu Dhabi Police, Abu Dhabi Municipality, Oman Ministry of Tourism, Motivate Publishing, holders of the Thesiger archives; Abu Dhabi Media; Twofour Arabia; Thuraya and Xtralink.

SEVENXP, the lifestyle marketing division of Professional Sports Group, will be coordinating the media platform of the expedition which will deliver international PR coverage worldwide. ENDS

About Wilfred Thesiger

The great explorer, “Mubarak Bin London” (Wilfred Thesiger), crossed the desert of the Empty Quarter (Rub Al Khali) twice between 1945 and 1950 with his two Bedu companions, Salim bin Kabina and Salim bin Ghubaisha of the Rawashid tribe.

Thesiger’s travels took him through the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, via the southern oasis of Liwa, through the capital city, and to Al Ain. It was in Al Ain, whilst hunting for a month with HH Sheikh Zayed that he formed and enduring friendship with the “father” and first President of the United Arab Emirates.

Expedition Details

Team: 3 men, Adrian Hayes, Saeed Rashid Al Mesafry and Ghafan Mohammed Al Jabry and 7 camels
Nationality: 1 x British and 2 x Emirati,
Route: Salalah, Mughshin, UmmZamoul, Liwa, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi
Total Distance: 1,500 km
Daily Distance: 35 km
Start: Salalah late October 2011
Finish: Abu Dhabi 12th December 2011
Transit: Approx 40 days desert transit
Dress: Traditional

About Adrian Hayes

Adrian Hayes is the British, UAE based, record-breaking adventurer, speaker, corporate coach and sustainability ambassador. He set a Guinness World Record in 2007 for reaching the Earth's "3 Poles" - walking all the way to the North Pole, South Pole and summiting Mt Everest - in the then shortest period of time in history, becoming only the 15th person ever to achieve the feat. He holds a second Guinness World Record along with Canadian teammates Devon McDiarmid and Derek Crowe, for the Arctic’s longest unsupported kite-skiing expedition in history, the 2009 vertical crossing of the Greenland ice cap.

A former Gurkha Officer and Special Forces reservist in the British Army, Adrian, an Arabic speaker, is a highly experienced desert operator having served in the deserts of Southern Oman during his military career.


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