From Riyadh to Abu Dhabi: How Saudi trekkers hope to mark UAE National Day
16 November, 2022
Two Saudi trekkers are looking to celebrate UAE National Day by making the long journey from their home country to the Emirates on foot.
Naif Shukri, 32, and his nephew Abdul Elah Shukri, 19, left Riyadh on November 3 and crossed the border into the UAE on Saturday.
He told The National that their painstaking walk across the desert will result in them reaching Abu Dhabi on December 1 in time for UAE National Day on December 2.
The intrepid pair are carrying a backpack, two tents and the Saudi Arabian and UAE flags on their 1,200km, 30-day walk.
The father of two said he wanted to document the Saudi landmarks and cities on their trip to his thousands of social media followers on TikTok and Snapchat and mark a specialoccasion at the same time. “I wanted to participate with my Emirati brothers in the celebration of their National Day," Naif told The National. "I have experience in such journeys inside the kingdom and set a plan to walk to Abu Dhabi and arrive by the beginning of December.
“There is a strong bond between the people of the two countries. It is like a historic journey to me that will make me proud for my lifetime.”
Naif Shukri's social media posts feature details of his daily search for a place to camp at night and the challenges he has faced during the trip.
Each day, the two men start walking shortly after sunrise, take a break for a few hours at midday, then resume in the afternoon.
Some days involve a longer stretch of walking than others due to limited phone reception or bad weather.
“There were some areas in Saudi Arabia where there was no phone connection and dusty weather,” Naif said. "We decided to cross these places quickly and sometimes we walked for 70km per day to avoid them. Usually we walk for about 30km per day."
Naif, who is using unpaid holidays from work for the trip, started by walking through the Saad area in Riyadh to Al Ahsa and Al Hufuf before arriving at the UAE border at the weekend.
“We crossed Al Batha borders on Saturday and continued walking,” he said. "We are 360km away from Abu Dhabi and hope to arrive within two weeks."
Despite the monumental challenge they've undertaken, Naif said they had managed to buy food at petrol stations along the way and never felt scared in deserted places.
“I’m not afraid walking in Saudi Arabia or the UAE,” he said. "Both counties are the safest in the world. People were cheering me on the road and my videos on social media gained thousands of views."
This is not the first time he has taken on such an ambitious challenge, as Naif has completed more than 4 billion steps over nine previous treks. Former destinations include Neom, Makkah, Madinah and AlUla.
For their grand arrival in Abu Dhabi, Naif said they have not yet decided on where the precise finish line will be.
“I didn’t decide yet which point to end my journey in Abu Dhabi," he said.
"My wish is to have a handshake with [President] Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and take a picture with them. I will be proud and thankful for the rest of my life if this happens."