Pedal for a cause

Pedal for a cause
Faiza Khan, Lubna Hoque and Nahla El Zein

UAE residents embarked on an exhilarating journey from Vietnam to Cambodia


Farhana Chowdhury

Published: Tue 3 Dec 2019, 3:54 PM

Last updated: Wed 11 Dec 2019, 5:57 PM

We all have an innate desire to do good things during our lifetime. In Faiza Khan's case, she decided to pay homage to her grandmother, whom she adored for her kindness and charitable acts in Pakistan.
Inspired by her role as a diligent benefactor and charity worker, Faiza signed up for a 450km cycling adventure as a UAE representative to raise funds for a non-profit organisation aimed to improve the welfare of women and girls around the world.
She was joined by two friends - Lubna Hoque, professional graphic designer and artist, and Nahla El Zein, a Dubai-based translator - who shared the same passion and determination towards the cause.
The charity bike ride, which comprised an all-female team from the UK, spanned over a period of 10 days and saw the cyclists pedal from Vietnam to Cambodia.
"This was possibly the most challenging thing we have ever done. The distance, the terrain, the heat and humidity, and the torrential downpours, we had been ill-equipped for all of that due to the limited training we had. The new and beautiful cycle tracks in Al Qudra and Nad Al Sheba did not prepare us for that," said Faiza, who is a chartered accountant by profession.
Besides neighbourhood rides and cycling tracks, this event was the first of such huge magnitude for the three ladies, but the Dubai residents, armed with grit and sheer will, understood that it's possible to challenge the impossible.
"There were many aspects of the trip that were physically daunting. Some of the broken and potholed pathways on which we cycled seemed treacherous to navigate. The pathways were often slippery from heavy downpours; sandy and muddy tracks were often boggy and difficult to manoeuvre through. But when you have no way of turning back, you gather together your faculties, focus, pray for God's help and venture forth. Rising to the challenge and navigating all of that has been empowering," she said.
The overall experience was an eye-opener for the UAE residents, as they pedalled across villages, farming communities, various roads, and at times, forests.
"Travelling through a country on bike for a start gives you such an intimate relationship with a country, unlike driving through at high speed where you feel very removed and far from the local people you are passing. As we cycled, we saw much of village life in Vietnam and Cambodia unfold in front of us," she said.
The journey reeled in wonders of the simple life - children walking to and from school, families tending to their plants and paddy fields, women preparing jute, drying rice and cooking various traditional foods for sale and for their families, families relaxing in the front areas of their house, etc.
"It has given me a profound affinity to the two countries that I had not anticipated. And seeing the hardships of village life has been a humbling experience," Faiza added.

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