With their hearts set on retracing the steps of their ancestors, and a goal to propagate a message for global peace, a group of five Omani friends show us how truly amazing things can happen when people unite.
Five friends voyaging across seven countries in a trip spanning 7,000kms – if that isn’t the makings of a modern-day epic journey, then we don’t know what is.
But, this month-long excursion from Muscat to Rwanda, Africa by road is far from a guileless sightseeing jaunt; it’s a mission for five Omani friends to put themselves in their ancestors’ shoes and empathise (to an extent) with what they experienced as they travelled across the hot desert sands in the early 1900s.
Much has changed since those early days of their forefathers. The five-strong crew will make the trip starting from Muscat in a heavily-modified Jeep Wrangler and Toyota Tundra pickup truck – both workhorses that can hold their own when the mercury plummets to the low zeroes and the road vanishes into sand.
The challenges will be immense, proclaims Sultan Abdullah al Namaani, the leader of the group, in a telephone call with Y from the UAE border.
He adds: “From the cold temperatures of Ethiopia, to the thunderstorms of Uganda and Kenya, and the politically-unstable Sudan, we have a lot to overcome as we progress through our journey.”
But the crew is prepped for the worst. From tents that can withstand the worst of climates, to safe routes mapped in case of an emergency, Sultan and his mates have thought every scenario through.
Abdulaziz al Zakwani, a crew member, elaborates: “The whole idea stemmed very quickly when we first sat down for coffee at Al Mouj. It was just a little idea when it was planted in our heads, but we quickly turned it into reality.
“Also, we didn’t want to do what everyone does and travel by flight – we wanted to make memories.
“The stories my grandfather would say of him travelling on a donkey from Oman to Africa was the real inspiration for our journey. That journey would take him six months to make. But today, technology has changed the way we travel.
“A trip to Rwanda will only take five hours by flight – and that’s barely an experience. So, by travelling by road, we will be at least taking a similar route to what our forefathers took –though, even this is considered a luxury today.”
The beginning of the 7,000kms-journey saw them travelling to UAE, from where they’ll then head to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia before venturing into Sudan.
That’s where the real challenge will begin, reiterates Abdulaziz.
“We’ve all seen the news and know how Sudan has been struggling. We understand the risks going there, but to be safe, we’ve booked three- and four-star hotels to stay in. We also have a policy to travel only during the day to be safe.”
All of this, he says, comes even after he was assured by his friends who have travelled to Sudan of how the political atmosphere has changed in recent times. This raises their budgets to RO770 per person (including insurance, visas, hotel stays, fuel for their cars, and other mechanical expenses) – but it’s one they’re happy to shell out for the hundreds of hours of experience they’ll share together.
They also run the added risks of mechanical works on their cars, as Sultan points out how much of their journey will be across gravel and sand.
But they aren’t letting that put a stop to their excitement. Sultan says: “I think one of the best parts of this journey is that we’ll all get to know each other better than ever before. This means we’ll see every side – from the good to the bad, and I think that will help our bond grow stronger.”
Forging ahead from Sudan, the quintet intends to enter Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and, their final stopover point, Rwanda… all in their SUV and truck that wears Omani plates – a foreign sight in these countries.
But it’s not just their cars that will steal attraction. Both Sultan and Abdulaziz have a plan to spread the message of love and peace they’ve experienced under the rule of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said.
Abdulaziz says: “As much excitement we carry forward to this trip, I think we’re all still bound by the mission to spread the message of peace across the places we visit. We aren’t planning anything elaborate, but we’ll be sharing our forefathers’ stories and our stories of Oman to those who are ready to lend us an ear.
“I think this is the greatest part of our journey – interacting with the people from these countries. Our forefathers built their families around the people from these very places – as Oman has a very strong history linked with Tanzania and Zanzibar – and I think it’s important for us to connect with our roots in this day and age that’s increasingly falling for technology.
“I don’t mean to say technology is bad – but it’s caused us to be disconnected from our purpose of being human beings. To talk, to laugh, to meet people…there’s just a lot that we’ve sacrificed in view of a virtual world.
“Our journey will showcase how amazing the world still is, and I can’t see any reason why our experience can’t help strengthen our belief in humanity, while breathing the air our forefathers breathed, and [following] the paths they took to get us to where we currently are.”
“That’s what makes this journey one to savour – the nostalgia, the friendship, and a unified approach towards peace. I can’t think of a better place to be than on this trip.”