By Hubert Vaz
Life is not just about going around the world, it’s also about taking along a message, says Omani globetrotter
Maher al Barwani, who began his motorbike journey around the world a decade ago, believes that this journey may not have an end, after all, and hopes to continue crisscrossing the globe all his life.
The one-man, self-styled, self-funded mission, which began as a hobby in 2009, has now become an obsession for Barwani, who visits Oman only for a few days in a year before getting back on the road to another country. With little backing, but robust determination and a never-say-die attitude, Barwani has taken upon himself the task of creating awareness about Oman and introducing his ‘peaceful, friendly country’ to the people he meets in different countries, most of whom, he says, are totally unaware about the geographic location of the sultanate.
With years of determined riding behind him, and having visited most of Europe, besides parts of Africa and Asia, Barwani is undeterred by the little support he has received from a only few quarters in Oman (especially from PDO and the Ministry of Sports). He is still hopeful that corporates and individuals would come forward to fund his future adventures that are designed primarily to popularise Oman, its culture and its friendly populace.
In 2017, Barwani began his Africa sojourn, but has completed visiting only half of the continent’s countries. Barwani faced many a hardship in some African nations, but blended himself in the local culture, ate local food, stayed in the houses of locals and spread his message against all odds. He hopes to complete the rest of Africa this year and then move on to parts of Asia which he hasn’t visited yet.
Barwani, who used to be a driving instructor some years ago, doesn’t have a job to fall back on now. In pursuit of his adventures, he spent all his savings, sold his property, his car and other assets and made arrangements to finance the needs of his wife and children as well as take care of his own travel expenses.
“People said I was crazy to continue my adventures around the world and ruin my future. But did not bother me. I have a mission to travel around the world and take the message of peace from Oman to wherever I go. I know this journey will go down in history someday,” he says, adding, “Fortunately, I have great support from my family. My wife misses me a lot, but supports my journey and even joins me on some of my trips.”
Calling his wife the ‘man of our house’, Barwani says she is a strong woman and handles everything on her own to enable him to follow his dream. In fact, he recently returned home from Cape Town, South Africa after a gap of seven months. “My wife has sacrificed a lot for me, she has been struggling all alone but still supports me. My parents and friends, too, have supported me a lot, also financially.”
On learning about his mission, people in different countries, too, have supported Barwani in many ways – by providing food and shelter as well as maintenance for his bike or helping him with local procedures for travel/visas etc. He says he has discovered good, friendly people in every country he has travelled to.
“I’ve had good times, problems as well as challenging situations in all countries, but by and large the atmosphere has been good in most countries,” Barwani says, highlighting issues of safety and security in some nations, but has always managed to wriggle out of tricky situations by keeping a cool mind.
Barwani exhorts all youths in Oman to get out of their comfort zones and go out and discover not just the world, but also their own potential. He asserts that the world is not as it is made out to be in books or newspapers/news channels and periodicals.
Every country is filled with splendor and good citizens; one just needs to go out and meet them, have cultural exchanges and experience each other’s lifestyles, he says.
Patience is one of the many lessons Barwani has learnt from his adventures.
“You cannot be a traveler if you do not have any patience.” He says one also needs to be determined, be prepared to rough it out, have new/difficult experiences in every country and learn from different people everywhere.
Barwani hopes to someday document his entire journey in the form of book and a documentary film. For this purpose, he has already begun compiling video clips, photographs, as well as jotting down experiences he’s had over the years. That may not be sometime soon, as he is still not clear when he would complete his journey around the world.