'I felt like a hero': KT reporter saddles up for UAE's famous Pink Caravan Ride

She has never sat on a horse before — but when offered the chance to join the nationwide ride, she grabbed it

Supplied photos
Supplied photos

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Sat 11 Feb 2023, 1:51 PM

Last updated: Sat 11 Feb 2023, 7:39 PM

Watching children receiving us with flowers and sweets, people parking their cars to take videos of us, and residents coming out of their homes and shops to wave at us, I felt like quite the hero riding as part of the Pink Caravan Ride (PCR).

The annual PCR, organised by the Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP), has at least 10 riders atop horses who travel across the seven emirates to raise awareness on the importance of early detection of breast cancer to tackle the disease. Khaleej Times' request to saddle up for the ride was granted. So off we trotted along with other knights in pink armour.

At certain locations in all the emirates, the FOCP organises free screenings and mammograms to encourage women to get themselves checked.

Along the ride, I am sure I made it to the social media accounts of at least 200 people. It also gave me an understanding why this ride was so important for FOCP. Whenever we passed by people on the street, every single one looked up at us. Many waved, some looked confused, and some came up to us, asking us what the ride was about. To each person, we explained the importance of early detection and shared where they could get free tests for themselves and the men and women in their families.

Starting off

When I was offered the chance to join the PCR as a rider, I jumped at it despite having never sat on a horse before.

Arriving at the Ras Al Khaimah Saqr hospital at 9am, I was given the PCR shirt, pink jacket and helmet to wear. I was then introduced to my horse of the day Rayhan and groom Nico. With smooth brown skin, inquisitive eyes and shiny brown man, Rayhan was quite a handsome horse.

Getting on Rayhan the first time was tricky. Nico advised me to put my leg into the stirrup and hoist myself up. It wasn’t easy but I did it. Luckily for me, Rayhan was a very well-behaved horse. The first step was to warm the horses up by walking around in circles for about 5-10 minutes. Without a warm up, the journey would be difficult for the horses.

Afterwards, we riders rode to the front of the hospital where PCR and FOCP organisers and representatives awaited us along with dozens of school children who waved enthusiastically on seeing us. After a group photo, the children brought up various kinds of chocolates, sweets and other offerings. “Please take some,” offered a sweet 6-year-old Fatema. “You need the energy when you go on the road.” I asked her whether she knew what we were doing. “Yes,” she said. “You are riding to tell people about cancer.” Clearly, the message was getting across.

This year, the ride which kicked off on February 4 to coincide with World Cancer Day, has been led by Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, PCR Special Envoy, who has been supporting the event since its inaugural session.


On the road

We then set off at 9:30am on our 10km journey from Al Saqr hospital to Cove Rotana, stopping briefly for snacks and refreshments. The one thing I noticed was that for every rider on the horse, there were at least eight volunteers on the ground making sure everything went without a hitch. From police officers to grooms and equine professionals to organisers and the media team, hundreds of volunteers work tirelessly to pull off the PCR.

The horses walked in a single file while a convoy of at least eight vehicles drove beside us. In several places, police cordoned off roads while in others, cars were able to drive past us. And in case, with all this if anyone still managed to miss us, at every couple of meters we would holler at the top of our voice “Alqafil Alwardia, Pink Caravan”.

Riding alongside me was Emirati Lathifa, an endurance horse rider who was participating in the PCR for the first time. On the other hand there was another participant called Hind who had ridden every year since the ride began in 2011.

In all my years in the UAE, I have never experienced something quite as magical as PCR. People waving out to me and kids jumping with joy, as we passed by. It was a great feeling to spread the word about something that is so essential and had the capability of ripping lives and families apart.


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