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Rikshaw adventure.

Three Bahrainis are setting off to India next month on what some would consider the mother of all adventures to raise funds for World Diabetes Day (WDD).

The Blue Camels, made up of Hisham Shehabi, 24, Tariq Al Olaimy, 23, and Hisham Fadhul, 22, will be joining 39 teams from around the world on a Rickshaw Run from September 11. They will be driving a 150cc 'glorified lawnmower' over thousands of miles of Indian terrain in around two weeks.

These three-wheeled single engine vehicles are the most common mode of transport on Indian roads and can be called a 'poor man's taxi'. They are also used to transport goods.

The idea to participate in the Rickshaw Run was the brainchild of Shehabi, an analyst with Bahrain's Economic Development Board. He was inspired after watching the Mongol Rally on the National Geographic channel. The race required participants to drive a 1,000cc vehicle from London to Mongolia.

After researching online, Shehabi found that the same group which organised the rally, called The Adventurists, also created the Rickshaw Run. He said: "The Run is the most stupid and probably the best thing you could possibly do in two weeks with a rickshaw. It is a once in a lifetime adventure with good friends. It is also a great conversation starter to kill the awkwardness of elevator rides in tall buildings.

"None of us has ever driven a rickshaw before. But before making our way on the vehicle we will be given a couple of days to get the hang of it."

Not only are the intrepid Bahrainis the first Arabs to take part in such a feat, they are also making the journey for a worthy cause.

Al Olaimy, a social entrepreneur and co-founder of 3BL Associates, said: "Our aim, aside from enjoying the trip of our lives, is to raise money for the 2011 World Diabetes Day campaign on November 14.

"This day is aimed at engaging the grassroots diabetic community and showcasing global unity for diabetes advocacy and awareness.

"There are over 300 million diabetics worldwide. If nothing is done, this will rise to 500 million within a generation. All nations, rich and poor, are suffering the impact of the disease.

"It is a neglected issue. Only a fraction of aid money for low and middle-income countries is devoted to it. People are dying from diabetes not because we can't treat them, but because the world has not yet made the political commitment to save them."

The Bahrain boys have already surpassed the Au1,000 target (around BD600) set for The Adventurists and now their goal is to raise BD2,000 which will be given to various diabetes charities.

The Blue Camels will document their visits to the diabetes centres and their interaction with the people they meet in a video called 'How well do we know diabetes'?

Al Olaimy added: "The reason behind the documentaries is to build bridges and highlight the need for greater collaboration between India and the GCC to create solutions for diabetes-related issues."

The concept of the run is pretty simple. With no preparation and even less luggage, The Blue Camels will fly to the Indian Subcontinent, where The Adventurists have a rickshaw waiting for them at the starting line and will provide a beginning and an end point, roughly 5,000km apart, but whatever happens in the middle is entirely up to the teams.

The Himalayas, dirt tracks, tropical jungle, monsoons, massive deserts and many other obstacles await the participants. Each Rickshaw Run begins and ends with a party and ceremony followed by a game of cricket or football against the locals.

The Blue Camels will start their trip in Shillong, a hill station in Meghalaya state known as 'the Scotland of the East', because of its mountainous and impressive vistas.

Their mission is to drive through the plateau of mountain forests, departing from the capital of Meghalaya, all the way to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, which stands on a ridge of sandstone and is aptly nicknamed 'The Golden City'.

Fadhul, an insurance broker at Patrick York Ireland, said: "We are packing light rucksacks and only taking the essentials in terms of emergency and medical equipment.

"We will be spending four days before the race meeting the teams, testing the rickshaw, playing a football match against a local club and then enjoying a parade around the city of Meghalaya where it will all begin.

"However, once we set off on the actual trip C* The Adventurists rule of 'you are on your own' applies."

The Bahraini adventurers have been warned that the event is highly dangerous and they risk both their health and lives by participating in it.

According to the organisers, if a team takes part in this experience they should be aware that they are actually on an adventure, not a guided tour and will receive no support. That means if a team's vehicle gets stuck it's up to them to find a way to free it.

The Blue Camels have been undergoing intensive training for this excursion. Al Olaimy explained: "We trained and received our motorcycle licenses, got our vaccinations, watched countless YouTube videos of past rickshaw runs and, of course, have been eating lots of spicy food.

"There really is nothing you can do to properly prepare yourself for a trip like this."

The Blue Camels are being supported by gold sponsors Nonoo Exchange and platinum sponsors Standard Chartered Bank Bahrain.

A Nonoo representative said: "We are always looking for ways to give back to the community. The Blue Camel team has shown enthusiasm and commitment to the cause of education and prevention of diabetes in Bahrain, and we support that cause."

This also fits in well with Standard Chartered's corporate social responsibility. Nimmi Kamal, head of corporate affairs at the bank, said: "We are proud to support The Blue Camels choice of charity. It fits with our global intitative 'Seeing is Believing', an initiative to help tackle avoidable blindness. Diabetes is a leading cause of diabetic retinopathy which is a major cause of blindness."

The Camels urge others to follow suit in raising awareness by organising WDD events themselves.

Shehabi said: "There are countless initiatives around the world commemorating this day. You can find more information and ideas on the official WDD website:

"You can donate through us as well. Just visit and the money will go to different diabetes projects in Bahrain." For more information on The Blue Camels email, or visit their Facebook page or Twitter @thebluecamels.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Aug 24, 2011
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