Wisdom and wanderlust at the 2016 Dubai Travelers Festival

“I think I was born as an adventuress,” says Capucine Trochet, one of 36 voyagers at the 2016 Dubai Travelers Festival. From circumnavigating the globe by foot to crossing Africa by camelback, Katie Boucher speaks to the most fascinating explorers at the event

Between them, the group of adventurers attending this year’s Dubai Travelers Festival have circumnavigated the globe around 20 times. There is the man from Yemen whose mode of transport was a camel; the couple from Germany and the Netherlands who comandeered an old fire engine; the Italian pounding across continents on foot (it took 19 months); and the Frenchwoman who sailed since 2011 in a tari tari, an engine-less Bangladeshi fishing boat made from jute fibre. What do you get when you gather all these people together in a single location? Well, the world’s best holiday slide show. That, and a chance to hear their stories of a life much less ordinary.

Now in its fifth year, the festival is hosting 36 adventurers, its biggest number yet. The main challenge, says Aref Al Suwaidi, vice president of the Emirates Travelers Club who are organising the event, is getting them there. “Some of them are in the middle of the jungle so we need to arrange three or four aeroplanes to get them to Dubai,” he says. Alongside the globe circumnavigators are skiers, mountain climbers, kite surfers, photographers and even a clown on a bicycle. “Some festivals are only for bikers or RV camps where everyone is travelling in a motorhome,” says Al Suwaidi, an adventurer himself (he has travelled to 65 countries by car and last year scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on a camel). “What is unique about the Dubai Travelers Festival is that it is the only festival in the world that combines different types of travelling experts.”

We look at the main draws of this year’s event:

Huda Zowayed and Maitha Mubarak (UAE)

The Emirati female duo travelled all across Asia, India, Oman and the UAE in a tuk tuk. “We wanted to show that the Emirati lady isn’t just about luxury items and brands,” says Zowayed, who, with Mubarak, also spent a week last year living with the famously introverted Mursi tribe in Ethiopia. “We took the tuk tuk to show people that she can hold down a job, be a mother and be an adventurer.”

Saaed Al Meamri (UAE)

Al Meamri was the first Emirati to climb Everest, and his since scaled all seven of the world’s highest summits. He has travelled to both the North and South Poles and is applying for the Guinness World Record for the longest drive trip, for which, in 2014, he dived continuously for 10 to 12 hours a day for nine days straight, travelling from Fujairah to Abu Dhabi.  

Ahmed Al Qasemi (Yemen) 

An incredible feat of endurance, Al Qasemi has travelled 50,000km around the world by camel, including the entire African continent. He has survived surprise predator attacks, hostile environments, and relied, for much of the time, on body language to communicate.

Nicolas Marino (Argentina)

A photographer and architect, Marino has travelled in 87 countries and cycled 88,000 km in four continents – all on his bicycle. He speaks six languages and previously lived and worked in China. He has crossed the Mongolian Steppe and reached the most remote parts of the Tibetan Plateau. His work has been published in China’s most popular adventure magazine, Huwai Tanxian. “I am able to relate very intimately to the places I visit,” he says, “thus spending most of the time in nature and with local people which is where I focus most of my interest.” 

Max Calderan (Italy)

From the age of seven years old Calderan knew he wanted to explore the UAE’s Empty Quarter. “I said to my mother, “I’ll be the first man able to discover what is inside this desert even if is written that also the Bedouins are scared of it,’” he says. He has since taken on several superhuman tasks, including running non-stop across 360km of Omani desert and 100km in UAE’s Liwa desert during summertime without drinking.

Capucine Trochet (France)

“I think I was born as an adventuress,” says Trochet, who has been travelling in her tari tari boat since 2011, and will soon resume her journey to reach the US. “with all the sadness of wars and economic crisis, people need to dream, to live strong human experiences and that is what travel allows.”

Alvaro Neil The Biciclown (Spain)

“I realised that if I didn’t do it now, then I was never going to achieve my dream of seeing the world,” says Alvaro Neil, a lawyer by trade who now travels the world by bicycle with his one-man clown act. “I wanted to do it for people who are suffering or disadvantaged, for refugees, hospitals and orphanages. My last show was in Greece for refugees from Syria. I want to make the world smile with my bicycle.”

The Dubai Travelers Festival is taking place at Mushrif Park in Dubai until Saturday 17th December, open daily from 4pm - 10pm