From Morocco to Dubai on cycle: Explorers arrive in UAE after crossing 11 countries on solar-powered machine

The men cycled through several European and Gulf countries for 106 days before arriving in the Emirates just in time for COP28

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Yousef El Haouass and Salim Rhandi with their bycylcle. Photos: Shihab
Yousef El Haouass and Salim Rhandi with their bycylcle. Photos: Shihab

Published: Wed 29 Nov 2023, 8:31 AM

Last updated: Wed 29 Nov 2023, 2:33 PM

Two cyclists have arrived in Dubai on Wednesday after completing their 13,000km trip across the world on a solar-powered quadricycle. Yousef El Haouass and Salim Rhandi were inspired by renowned explorer Ibn Battuta to embark on a unique journey cycling from Morocco to Dubai, solely using their own feet and solar energy.

The men cycled through several European and Gulf countries for 106 days before arriving in the UAE on Wednesday just in time for COP28.

Having participated in the first solar bicycle rally in 2018, Yousef was the one to come up with plan of cycling to Dubai. In an interview with Khaleej Times, en route to Dubai, Yousef explained his idea.

“Given the strong ties that bind Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, I thought of the challenge that links the city of Laayoune to Dubai, passing through several cities where previous COPs were held,” he said. “I wanted to cover 11 countries, using only solar and muscle power.”

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Yousef explained that he wanted to highlight solar energy as a way to protect the environment. He shared the idea with his friend Salim and the duo began looking for sponsors. They found help from Veolia, a French company that designs solutions for water, waste and energy management.

They were welcomed by the company’s UAE team at the Biogas-to-Energy plant at the Warsan Sewage Treatment Plant in Dubai- a first of its kind project in the city.

Route

Setting off from Laayoune, in Moroco, the men traveled almost 1,500 km to cross the Straits of Gibraltar. “We travelled through Spain, where we stopped at Veolia Barcelona, and then France,” he said. They then travelled through Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Iran, before finally reaching Dubai.

Yousef and Salim made it a point to ride through the day. “Our days start at sunrise to make the most of the sun's energy,” said Yousef. “We have travelled all day, stopping just before sunset. We didn't travel at night.”

They carried tents with them to camp in case they were unable to find hotels. However, they were lucky to be able to find accommodation on most nights. Salim added that having the quadricycle was very convenient. “It serves as a halfway house between a car and a bike,” he said. “It represents a new imagination and reflection on our methods of transport- a solution that preserves the environment and eliminates any excuse for not exercising.”

Challenges

According to Yousef, the biggest challenge the men faces was to manage how much power they used in a day. “We had to optimise the production of the solar panels and manage the power consumption of the electric motors in order to cover the maximum number of kilometres per day,” he said.

Solar energy provided almost 90 per cent of the energy needed for the entire journey. “Without solar energy, such a feat would be impossible,” said Yousef. “The bike, including all its loads, weighs over 300 kg. It would be impossible to move it by muscle power alone.”

He said the men also made it a point to leave a s good trail by talking to people about their journey and the importance of green energy.

Observations

Yousef said the men made several observations during their trip that began in August. “From a climactic point of view, it's worrying that we haven't had any rain since we left, despite the fact that we've passed through northern European countries,” he said. “From a technical point of view, we realized that it is possible to make very long journeys with light, non-polluting and reliable vehicles.”

However, the biggest takeaway the men had was about the beauty of community. “The world is very beautiful,” he said. “We were always welcomed very warmly by the inhabitants of the countries we crossed.”

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