An Emirati man and his friend have completed an epic road journey from Abu Dhabi to London in just over four weeks, crossing 15 countries on two continents.
Sultan Al Nahdi, 28, started planning his extraordinary expedition two years ago with a goal of connecting cultures and promoting a message of friendship between nations.
Equipped with his trusty 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser pick-up, he embarked on the once-in-a-lifetime road trip of nearly 9,000km with his friend Thiyab Al Mansoori, 30.
Mr Al Nahdi told The National it took him nearly 32 days to reach London after he left his home in Abu Dhabi on May 31 in his orange truck that has a picture of UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan on the bonnet.
The journey took the pair across vast deserts, up winding mountainous roads, through bustling cities and tranquil countryside in the Middle East and Europe.
“This journey was a dream come true. I wanted to experience the diverse cultures, meet new people and appreciate the beauty of our world first-hand,” Mr Al Nahdi told The National.
Their journey took them through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and the UK.
“I did a major maintenance for the car to avoid breakdowns on the roads. I planned for this trip very well by checking what requirements I would need to cross the land borders in each country. It was a thrilling experience,” he added.
He said he had planned the trip for just before the Covid-19 outbreak, which forced him to postpone it until this year.
“Despite the hard trip and cost, I was determined to complete the journey," Mr Al Nahdi said.
"I was wearing the Emirati traditional dress and was telling people that we are from the UAE.
"We managed to give a positive image about our country throughout all countries we visited.”
Throughout the journey, they encountered numerous challenges, from harsh weather to navigating foreign terrain.
“At the Turkey-Iraq border, we had to wait for seven hours at the Ibrahim Al Khalil crossing point. However, we met a Turkish man who facilitated the entry and invited us to his house 50km from the border. We met his family and spent a lovely time.
"It was not just a physical journey but also a journey of the heart, connecting with people from different backgrounds.”
His expedition garnered widespread attention and support on social media platforms, with people following his updates and supporting him every step of the way.
“People were thrilled to see the beautiful car with an Abu Dhabi licence plate and drawing of the late Sheikh Zayed on the body of the car,” Mr Al Nahdi said. "They were taking pictures with the car and with us. It was a joy to watch people's attention."
After reaching their destination in London, they drove back to France and visited Paris before driving to the Netherlands and parking the car at a friend's house in a village near Amsterdam. They returned to the UAE on a flight but plan to resume the road journey in the coming weeks.
“I will go back to the car after two weeks to continue the journey across Europe. My plan is to go to Scandinavian countries and then will travel to all European countries. It might take time but I will do it,” Mr Al Nahdi said.
"The joy is not when you reach your destination or final point, it is in the journey.”
Mr Al Nahdi said he would eventually drive back to Turkey and cross into Iraq and complete the journey back to Abu Dhabi.
He praised the power of the UAE passport which he said enabled them to cross the borders into various countries without problems.
“I was proud of our country's passport as it enabled us to enter many countries without a visa. The Emirati passport made our trip easier thanks to our wise leadership,” he said.
He said his best moments were in Iraq where he was overcome by hospitality from the moment they crossed the borders in Basra, on to Baghdad and all the way to Erbil in the north.
“Iraqi people were very kind to us on the trip. They are the most hospitable nation we met. They were welcoming us as soon as they saw the Emirati national dress and knew that we are from UAE,” Mr Al Nahdi said.
“They were inviting us to their homes for lunch or dinner and they even refused to collect money for the fuel in the petrol stations once they knew that we are Emiratis. Such generosity is only to be seen in Iraq.”