It's been an idea for nearly 20 years since I served on secondment to the Sultan of Oman"s Armed Forces in Salalah in the 90s; taken 2 years of detailed planning with infinate challenges; and I'll only believe it's 100% happening when I mount my camel in 3 weeks' time, but the "Footsteps of Thesiger" expedition and project has finally been officially announced.
The expedition is a re-inaction of the journeys of late British Explorer Wilfred Thesiger, otherwise known as Mubarak Bin London, who crossed the Arabian Desert (Empty Quarter or Rub Al Khali) twice between 1945 and 1950 with his two Bedu companions, Salim bin Kabina and Salim bin Ghubaisha of the Rawashid tribe.
Our expedition will also comprise of one Brit and 2 x bedu - myself together with Saeed Al Mesafry and Ghafan Al Jabri, who were selected from a trawl of nominations in June.
We aim to closely follow the route of Thesiger's first crossing of the Empty Quarter, travellig by foot and camels from Salalah in Oman to Abu Dhabi in the UAE, via the Empty Quarter of Oman, Liwa and Al Ain - a distance of over 1500 kms, commencing 30th Oct 2011 and finishing approx 45 days later.
The expedition and accompanying TV documentary, filmed by award winning documentary makers TwoFour Productions from the UK, has 3 pillars as follows:
* A historical look at Thesiger and his travels
* The modern day re-inaction expedition’s journey and challenges
* The culture, heritage and changing lives of the Bedu of the deserts of Oman and the UAE.
There are no records, no longest, quickest, highest, furthest attempts on this journey and it's not even a first - Canadians Bruce Kirkby and Jamie and Leigh Clark admirably did this in 1999 with 3 Bedu guides and 12 camels for which I take my hat off for their even managing to even get to the start line! Our objective, not least mirrored in the make-up of the team, is to attempt the journey with a much smaller party and authentic means of travel integral to Thesiger's journey's as much as physically possible.
It is a totally different desert and World in 2011 than it was in the 1940s, of course and that is part of the objective of the documentary and book which I am presently writing.
And finally, on the subject of integrity, I am not claiming to do this for any charity, the environment or any other cause. It's a commercial historical re-inaction through and through which I both love doing and is part of my job. My quest and work on economic, social and environmental sustainability continues unabated, but this expedition isn't directly part of that cause.
Many thanks to Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage and Abu Dhabi Media Company for making this happen and to the Ministires of Tourism and Information Oman for their partnership on the project. More thanks and news to follow shortly.