New Yorker to cycle for 300km to honour Sheikh Zayed in UAE
Mooney's project began in July this year when he biked 402km for four days across New York City.
Donning the UAE's Pan-Arab colours of red, green, white and black, visiting New Yorker Don Victor Mooney on Wednesday embarked on a four-day, 300km bike ride - starting from Dubai to Al Ain and to Abu Dhabi - to complete his Zayed Mile project.
Mooney's project began in July this year when he biked 402km for four days across New York City in commemoration of the Year of Zayed and as a tribute to the UAE's founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Pedalling his way across the two emirates, Mooney is also carrying on his bike trailer seven ghaf trees (Prosopis cineraria), the UAE's national tree, that will be planted at the Capital to conclude his journey on Sunday, coinciding with the 47th UAE National Day. He will also be presenting to the Year of Zayed organisers the citations he received from the presidents of the Borough of Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn.
"This journey is my tribute to Sheikh Zayed, who I call 'Champion of Earth', for the legacies he has left for the present and future generations, including environmental protection, wildlife conservation, agriculture, aforestation and preserving the biodiversity in the UAE and beyond," Mooney told Khaleej Times.
After checking that all his gears were in place; the ghaf trees were secured; and the flags of the UAE, USA and Equatorial Guinea were mounted, Mooney began his UAE tour on Wednesday morning from the historic building and former residential quarters of Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, former ruler of Dubai.
He is travelling relatively light, carrying only essential items including energy food packs and drinks, two sets of cycling apparel, an emergency medical kit, an extra pair of bike tubes and rim, his Equatorial Guinea national costume and a sleeping bag.
There will be no hotel layover in between his trip - only short pit stops at petrol stations across the highway and quick meals and rest under the trees. At night, he will be sleeping under the stars.
"It's like I will be living the life of a Bedouin but on a bike," said Mooney, who turned 53 last October 19.
The weather is in Mooney's favour, with forecast over the next four days set at fair to partly cloudy in general, and temperatures ranging from 13-19 degrees Celsius at night and 26-29 degrees during the day.
His first destination will be Qasr Al Ain (Al Ain Palace), a museum showcasing the everyday life of Sheikh Zayed and his family who lived in the palace prior to 1966. Then from Al Ain, he will continue his journey for another 149km to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, where he will be planting the ghaf trees - donated through the 'Give a Ghaf Tree-planting Programme' - representing the seven emirates.
"In a way, my work has helped strengthen the relations between the USA and the UAE by forging better understanding through cultural awareness between the two countries," Mooney said.
After his Zayed Mile project, he is hoping to raise fund and awareness for his initiative called 'The Spirit of Malabo Fund for Economic Development and Innovation', which operates in the USA and Equatorial Guinea for job development, entrepreneurship and cultural exchange.
The public can follow Mooney's journey in the UAE by checking his social media account @TheZayedMile. He said he will be able to reply to some comments during his breaks.
WHY MOONEY LOVES SHEIKH ZAYED
Don Victor Mooney, 53, is a dual citizen of the USA and Equatorial Guinea. His affinity to Sheikh Zayed and the UAE began almost two decades ago; when in 2002, he sought the help of the UAE mission to the United Nations (UN) for a humanitarian project that involved collecting sand and soil from UN member states.
He told Khaleej Times: "I began researching on Sheikh Zayed and found him to be an amazing person. I was inspired by his type of leadership and dedication for the environment. The peace, stability, innovation and coexistence are leading factors that continue to make the UAE a model for humanity,"
Prior to his present trip, Mooney has been to the UAE twice. First in June 2006, when he did an eight-day bike run across the seven emirates. "I ended my bike ride at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I was wearing a hard hat back then because it was still under construction," he said.
Then he was back in October 2006 to get support for his trans-Atlantic boat ride. Mooney named his first rowboat in honour of Sheikh Zayed and designed his second and third boats in UAE colours and emblazoned them with 'Spirit of Zayed' and 'Never Give Up', respectively.
Mooney is married to Su-ping and they have a son named Jun-jie.
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