Sitting in his wheelchair and soaking in the rays of the morning sun in his dhow anchored at the Al Mouj Marina, Capt Mohammed bin Said al Hajri is waiting for his breakfast rendezvous. The captain of his dhow, he is on a ‘Journey of Love’ from the shores of Qatar to the neighbouring countries to raise awareness and funds for people with disability.
At his first stop - Oman - he was welcomed with arms wide open by the people and government officials alike. Capt Hajri was overwhelmed by the support he received on the very first leg of his journey. While in Muscat, he received at his floating abode H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Said bin Saif al Kalbani, Minister of Social Development, and several physically challenged people from the sultanate.
The captain invited them all for breakfast aboard his dhow, as he is in the habit of doing. “He invites everyone to join him for a meal,” said one of the crew members. The dhow’s crew consists of five people who help him oversee the smooth sailing of the vessel while at sea.
A Qatari army officer, Capt Hajri injured his spine in an accident 27 years ago. Since then, he has been confined to a wheelchair and realised the difficulties involved in it. “Life becomes expensive too,” said the captain , adding, “Sometimes it’s twice as expensive for a wheelchair-bound person than a normal person.”
For this precise reason, Capt Hajri is on a mission to appeal to governments around the world to promote the welfare of physically challenged people. “It’s a universal cause; it doesn’t matter which country you are from. The problems that we face are the same,” said capt Hajri. But at the same time, he also realised that a wheelchair-bound person’s prospects are not completely lost. They can achieve and accomplish anything they put their mind to. His own ‘journey’ proved this when a couple of years ago, he formulated, planned and set about designing and building the dhow. It took him a year and five months to complete building it.
In the sultanate, the captain was able to make a big impression on the physically challenged people with whom he interacted.
Midway through the morning, the dhow starts filling up with people who have come to bid farewell to the captain. Among the visitors is H E Ali bin Fahad al Hajri, Qatar’s Ambassador to the sultanate.
The ambassador is proud that his countryman is not limiting himself to the region but aims for a global impact. “He is looking at the whole international community and the plan is not just to help physically challenged people but include and make them a successful part of the global community.” Talking about the support received from the Omani people, the ambassador said, “Even though he didn’t plan and inform the people in Oman beforehand, the support that he received from the sultanate was tremendous; he’s made a lot of friends”.
As the dhow began to pull away from the Al Mouj Marina, there was a roar of salutations from the crowd that had gathered to wave him goodbye. The captain promised to return, next time for a longer duration to explore the vast coastline of the sultanate. After a brief halt at home port, the dhow will continue on its ‘Journey of Love’ to Kuwait.