Emirati sisters tackle 400km bike ride in four days for Gaza charity

Yasmin and Nadia Baker raised Dh40,000 for Palestine Children's Relief Fund with their cycle through Europe

Yasmin and Nadia Baker during the Gaza Charity Ride.  Yasmin Baker
Yasmin and Nadia Baker during the Gaza Charity Ride.  Yasmin Baker

400km, four countries, four days, four very tired legs ... Emirati sisters, Yasmin and Nadia Baker, have just returned from one of the hardest journeys of their lives.

But after cycling through Germany, Luxembourg, France and Belgium for charity, the self-titled "non-cyclists" said every bruise, blister and achy bone was worth it.

Yasmin, 28, and Nadia, 27, took part in the Cycling for Gaza initiative to raise funds for the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, which provides free treatment for children in Palestine and in a refugee camp in Lebanon. To date, PCRF has helped support the medical needs of more than 13,000 children.

The situation in Palestine has been the most constant one in our lives but the thing is it has become painfully normal

Yasmin Baker

Having set out to raise $5,000 (Dh18,300), the sisters more than doubled their initial target and secured more than $11,000.

"The situation in Palestine has been the most constant one in our lives but the thing is it has become painfully normal," said Yasmin, 28.

"We feel, and then we move on."

But by accepting this challenge, she said it was their time to actually do something about it.

"I fully anticipated how tough the physical side of the ride would be, but I didn't expect how emotionally draining it was going to be," Yasmin said.

"I am an absolute non-cyclist. Growing up in Dubai, the bike riding culture has never been that strong, so when I first started out training in July everything was new to me... the gears, bike suspension, everything."

Two months before the ride, the sisters trained for about four or five hours each week, taking spin classes and braving the Dubai summer heat with two outdoor cycle sessions a week.

"Literally on day one of the ride it dawned on us that we hadn't trained nearly enough," she said.

Yasmin, left, and Nadia Baker during the Gaza Charity Ride. The sisters trained for about five hours each week to prepare for the gruelling journey. Yasmin Baker
Yasmin Baker during the Gaza Charity Ride. Courtesy: Yasmin Baker

Joining a group of 51 riders in total, 10 of whom are based in the UAE, Yasmin and Nadia set off on the gruelling ride from Frankfurt in Germany on August 28.

On day two of the ride, the group entered Luxembourg, and on the third day they cycled through France into Belgium and concluded the ride in Brussels on day four, August 31, in front of the EU Parliament.

"Half the time we didn't know what country we were in and when," she said.

Split in to three groups, Yasmin and Nadia were part of the slower batch, and cycled on average six to seven hours per day.

"We were out on the road for about 12 hours each day in total, but what with breaks, pit stops, the full riding time was about seven hours."

Yasmin said the first two days were a shock to the system.

With winding roads, steep hills and moving traffic just metres from their bikes, she said no amount of training prepared her for how difficult it would be.

"I actually broke down and cried on the second day, not only because of the physical exhaustion but the mental realisation of knowing that we had a long way to go."

But with daily updates from Steve Sosebee, PCRF president, who was also part of the ride, Ms Yasmin said it put everything into perspective.

"He really spurred us on by sharing live updates from some of the medical volunteers from the organisation.

"On day one, we heard a young boy was transferred to the US for surgery ... it was overwhelming to hear."

On day four, with the end in sight, she said the last 5km of the ride was exhilarating.

"A bunch of other cyclists joined us for those last few kilometres and people were cheering, cars were honking, it was such a powerful scene when we finally pulled up in front of the EU Parliament building."

After returning to Dubai earlier this week, she said every bruise, sprain, ache and pain was worth it.

"Would I do it again? Absolutely. What we experienced is nothing in comparison to what these kids are subjected to through war, so I would encourage anyone thinking about doing it to bite the bullet and go for it."

Updated: September 14, 2019 05:26 PM

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