Muslims from around the world usually travel by car or plane to perform religious pilgrimages in Saudi Arabia's Mecca, but for one Emirati academic, things were quite different.
Over the weekend, Dr. Khaled Jamal Al Suwaidi, the executive director of the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, reached Mecca on foot after undertaking a 1,850-kilometer run to the city all the way from Abu Dhabi.
The incredible 29-day journey saw the ultra-runner brave dust storms, heavy winds, and an injured foot. However, despite all the hardships, Al Suwaidi kept going until he arrived to the holy city on Friday.
On Saturday, he walked the final leg of his trip to perform Umrah.
Speaking to The National, the inspirational runner said he decided to go on this journey to "celebrate the close ties between the UAE and Saudi and inspire others to get 'out of their comfort zone.'"
He trained for an entire year before beginning his challenge last month. Upon arriving in the kingdom, he was thrilled that so many people who had heard of his journey were waiting to see him.
"What struck me was there were so many people waiting for me on the streets of Makkah. They wanted to take pictures with me. It was incredible," he said.
Speaking of his foot injury, Al Suwaidi stated that he used it to push himself even further.
"There is always a moment in a journey that changes the mentality of a situation. I think the fractured left foot is something that gave me fire in my belly, because I pushed my average from 54km a day to 70km over the last eight to nine days," he explained.
Late on Sunday, the 35-year-old was honored for his achievement at an event held in Mecca.
Al Suwaidi is no stranger to taking on a challenge
Al Suwaidi is no stranger to taking on challenges in a bid to inspire and motivate people. In 2015, the academic transformed his lifestyle and lost 53 kilos after doctors told him he was pre-diabetic.
He hopes his latest achievement will encourage young people across the region to take on challenges of their own.
"Whether it is learning a new language or trying to do better at school or just picking up something new, it will be uncomfortable. But once you get out of your comfort zone, that's when the growth happens," he said.
"If you really truly believe that you want to succeed or you want a goal or a target, then nothing should stand in your way of achieving that," he added.