Unified Gulf visa: 2 UAE residents to drive across GCC to celebrate scheme

The duo plan to celebrate the proposed Schengen-style unified visa and hope to inspire people to explore more tourist locations in the region


Nasreen Abdulla

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Fri 13 Oct 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 15 Nov 2023, 4:51 PM

Two UAE-based travel enthusiasts are attempting to drive across the GCC in 24 hours to celebrate the proposed unified visit visa. Photographer-architect Shafi and entrepreneur Siyad are preparing to drive along the coast of all six GCC countries — starting from Kuwait — on October 19.

“We have been avid travellers since we first met almost 10 years ago,” said Siyad, speaking to Khaleej Times.

“We have driven across the GCC many times and we have always had to manage multiple visit visas for it. For us, the proposed unified GCC visit visa is the best thing that could have happened to encourage travel in the region. We are hoping that once it is launched, people will get inspired by us and explore more tourist locations in the GCC.”

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The men will start their journey in Kuwait and drive to Saudi Arabia, then to Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE — entering and exiting Saudi multiple times during the trip. They will end their trip at Musandam. “We don’t have time to drive all the way to Oman, so we are planning to go up to Kasab in Musandam,” said Shafi. “We are worried that we may not be able to pull it off in 24 hours, but we are going to give it our best shot.”

A Facebook friendship

It was in 2014 that the love of travel led Siyad and Shafi along with a group of other friends to set up a Facebook community titled Sanchari (traveller). At the time, Shafi was based in Kuwait. “When he moved to the UAE for work, we began catching up with each other more often and went on drives,” said Siyad.

When his photography assignments began taking him across the Gulf region, Siyad began tagging along with him. “Our trips are usually planned a day in advance and don’t involve any planning or packing,” laughed Siyad. “We usually end up going in Shafi’s vehicle. We have added some cabins to the SUV and we cook in it. This reduces our expenses while travelling. We sleep in our car, so we don’t spend on hotels either.”

The Facebook group they began is still going strong and today, the community is 756,000 members strong. “We have members from all over the world,” said Shafi. “So, whenever we go travelling like this, we will find one of our members where we are going. They invite us for tea or dinner, and we catch up with them. It is like having a big, fat family.”

Memorable trips

Out of all the trips they have been on together, their favourite one has been to Saudi Arabia earlier this year. “We covered over 6000 kilometres in a week,” said Siyad. “We visited several hidden gems in Saudi Arabia, and it is one of the most memorable trips of our lives.”

For Shafi, his top two spots to visit in the GCC are Rub’ Al Khali desert and Al Ula in Saudi. “At Al Ula, we visited the Maraya building,” he said. “People rarely get access to it but we were lucky enough to be able to go in there. Also, Rub’ Al Khali is really an empty quarter. We enjoyed the solitude of it. You see nothing but sand for kilometres all around it. So, we stopped our cars and just spent some time there to take in the mind-blowing beauty of it.”


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