The Yemeni Traveler Abdullah Otialah “I Have Crossed More Than 17 Countries By Bicycle” [Archives:1999/25/Sports]

June 21 1999

Abdullah Otialah, an ambitious young man of 30, has found a way of fulfilling his personal convictions on his belonging to the Arab nation in particular and to humanity at large in cruising around the Arab countries and their neighbors in the Middle East on his bicycle. Thus, at one time he would start his journey with the motto “Together to combat AIDS” and at another time under the motto “World efforts to keep the Environment clean.” One thing he was very careful to observe in all his journies in the world: To present a good image of his home country Yemen, a thing that many official ambassadors often fail to do.
The Yemen Times has met with Mr. Otailah. Here is the interview:
Q: Tell us about the beginning of your idea of traveling around the Arab Homeland?
A: The idea first grew in my mind in 1985. It was only a few years later that the idea took shape. So I sold my small car and bought a bicycle, by which I headed to Mokha. From there I crossed the Red Sea to the other side, Djibouti Africa. From there I started my first regional trip under the motto ” For a Cleaner Environment in the World.” I met with the Yemeni community in Djibouti and members of Yemen’s Embassy there. At the end of a week in Djibouti, I crossed the boarders to Ethiopia, Eritria and then to Sudan.
Q: What was the country that impressed you most during your first trip?
A: I think I had a wonderful time in Sudan. When I arrived there it was during Ramadhan. The Sudanese people are so friendly and very hospitable. At the time when they break their fasting, every one would bring his food in front of his house and invite the poor and/or the passers by to break their fast with him. Their life is also simple and natural. I had the chance to meet the Sudanese President Omer Al-Basheer.
Q: How about your other adventures? Were there risks along on your way?
A: After Sudan I moved up to the north, to Egypt, via Aswan and Al-Saeed. Here I gave a number of lectures on the issue of protecting the environment. My next destination was Libya. On my way to Benghazi a bunch of highway robbers intercepted me and tried to rob me of my bike. It was only my good luck that I was rescued by the highway police patrol. I remember that the kind police patrol asked me where I was from. When they heard that I was a Yemeni, they teased me smiling ” Oh! You are from the country where they chew Qat!”
From Benghazi I went to Tripoli. I spent fifteen days on the way, and when I arrived to Tripoli it was the day of Eid Al-Adh”ha. On my way to Tunis, I was detained for four days in a military camp for girls training because they were suspect of my real nationality. I look like a Syrian or a Lebanese, and that’s why they did not give credit to my Yemeni passport. However, their contacts with Yemen’s embassy in Tripoli ended my detention. I kept on biking to Tunis, Algeria and Morocco. From there I headed to Europe, starting with Spain, Greece, France and Turkey, where I was robbed off my bike and my money. So I had to set out on foot to Syria, where I was assisted by the Yemeni Embassy.
Q: Are you still thinking of repeating your trip?
A: Yes. My plan this time is to go to South East Asia. It will be carried out under the motto: Let Us Join Hands Against AIDS.