Dubai carpenter shows love for UAE in cross country walk

Dubai-based Pakistani Mohammed Malik walked 1,050 kilometres across the emirates while proudly carrying the UAE flag.

Mohammed Idrees ends his walk at Pakistani embassy in Abu Dhabi. Satish Kumar / The National
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ABU DHABI // When Mohammed Malik walked into the Pakistan embassy yesterday evening, he was given a hero’s welcome.

For it was no ordinary journey the Dubai-based Pakistani was completing. He arrived at his final destination after having walked the length of the country – taking in 13 cities in 12 days – covering 1,050 kilometres.

And it is not the first time the 55-year-old carpenter, who began the walk on National Day leaving from Hatta in Dubai, has carried out the arduous task.

“The first two years I covered 500km. This year I covered 1,050km,” said Mr Malik, who has lived in Dubai for a decade.

Setting off with nothing more than a sturdy pair of shoes and backpack filled with clothes and other basic necessities, it was, the Punjab native said, no easy feat.

“I used to walk every day for about 20 hours,” said Mr Malik, who slept on roadsides and showered at mosques or petrol stations.

“I had to tear off my joggers from the front to avoid sweating. I also kept one sponge pad in my shoes, but even then it was not comfortable.”

The mild weather helped, but also offered challenges of its own after sunset.

“I was OK during the day but walking and sleeping in the night was really difficult, especially when I was crossing mountainous regions.”

Despite the hardships, he had strong support every step of the way.

“Police were a great support. They not only provided me with security all the way, but also gave food and shelter.”

Others, too, showed their gratitude when they came across him carrying a UAE flag.

“Whoever saw me walking along with the UAE flag, they asked lots of questions. When I told them about my journey, it made them really happy. They took selfies with me, gave me food and money.”

Although the walk earned Mr Malik several scars, it was a journey full of positives.

“This morning, when I was crossing the Corniche Road in Abu Dhabi, a car stopped and an Emirati couple got out.

“They asked me why I was carrying the national flag in my hand. When I told them about my journey they became so happy. The husband hugged me and said the UAE was so proud of me. They also gave me food, which is the most delicious I ever had.

“I felt so good and proud with their love and honour that I started crying. No wonder the UAE and Pakistan are brother countries.”

Mr Malik’s compatriots were also proud of his accomplishments, said Asif Durrani, the Pakistani ambassador to the UAE, one of several officials who welcomed him at the end of his journey.

“Pakistanis living in the UAE are so proud of him. It reflects the strong relationship between the UAE and Pakistan.”

For Mr Malik, who spent Dh500 of his Dh3,000 monthly wage to finance the walk, it strengthened his love for the UAE.

“All the countries in the world should learn from the UAE and its people. This is the only country, perhaps, where I can walk freely all day and night and I wasn’t hurt by anyone.”

Mr Malik was thankful that his next journey would involve little walking as the Pakistani airline airblue gave him a free return ticket.

“Unfortunately, Pakistan is in the news mostly because of wrong reasons, which hurts its image worldwide,” said airblue official Abbas Dar.

“People like Mr Malik bring pride to the country. Such positive stories will help in improving the image of Pakistan.”