Dubai resident aims to trek 340km through UAE desert in four days

An Italian adventurer is setting off for a trek through the UAE desert he claims has never been done before.

Italian Max Calderan begins his run from the Saudi Arabian border to Oman today, a distance of 340 kilometres. Courtesy Max Calderan
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ABU DHABI // As summer approaches and temperatures begin to climb beyond 30°C, an Italian adventurer is setting off for a trek through the UAE desert that he claims is the first such crossing to be attempted.

This morning, Dubai resident Max Calderan, 48, will begin his journey from the border of Saudi Arabia to Oman, following a route that traces the Tropic of Cancer.

He hoped to complete the 340-kilometre journey, without stopping, in only four days.

The self-described “extreme desert explorer” said he aimed to cover between 80 and 100 kilometres a day as he traversed thousands of sand dunes. He will cross only four main roads en route.

“Walking through unexplored desert is like opening a new chapter of a book. It’s like you’re a prehistoric man,” said Calderan, who first came to the Middle East 25 years ago before settling in the UAE a decade ago.

“Maybe somebody has already gone by car, but only when you enter on foot does it become the true meaning of exploration.”

While exposed to the elements and dealing with sleep deprivation and solitude, for sustenance, he said, he will drink only “a small quantity of water” – imported from Italy – during the day while rehydrating mostly at night.

For food, he will eat nuts, dried meats and dates.

“Basically, what the Bedouin eat in the desert,” he said.

A team of four “desert guys” will be providing assistance along the way, while to prepare he has support from a number of sponsors, including UAE-based companies.

Some of his previous feats included a 90-hour, 437km crossing of the Tropic of Cancer in Oman, and a 240km journey in 72 hours across the desert of the Sinai Peninsula while fasting during Ramadan.

The desire to undertake such challenges, he said, came at a young age.

“When I was seven years old, I discovered in an encyclopaedia that my mother bought for me that there was a big desert named the Empty Quarter,” he said. “It said it was impossible, even for Bedouin, to cross it.

“I said to my mum ‘when your son is older, he will become the first person to cross the desert’. This is the reason I am here.”

While his current expedition will cross only a fraction of the Empty Quarter, he hopes to conquer the full desert in the future.

He said his feats were not about finding lost treasures or finding breathtaking views, but were deeply personal journeys where he pushed himself to the limit.

“My expectation is not to find something or someone, except for myself,” he said.

“Once you’re able to push the limit of the human body you discover that the force within you is infinity, it is never ending.

“Maybe it can inspire other people to do something in other fields, in their jobs or in their lives.”

Calderan, a father of an eight-month-old son, said he had his wife’s backing for the Tropic of Cancer crossing.

“I have her full support,” he said. “You can’t have negative people around you, this is important not only in the desert but also in our ordinary lives.”