Muscat: Nasr Al Jadhamy recently did what many considered impossible, single-handedly transporting 55 tonnes of aid provided by people in Oman to neighbours across the border in famine stricken Yemen.
Not only did Al Jadhamy collect goods such as rice, milk powder, diapers, blankets and clothing, he went all the way to the Yemeni town of Seiyoun in the ancient valley of Hadhramaut to ensure the items he’d so painstakingly collected reached those in dire need.
“When I saw the faces of the people suffering on TV because of the conflict in Yemen, I wondered if there was anything I could do to help them,” recalled Al Jadhamy, who’s often travelled to Tanzania over the last nine years, with a 20-foot container’s worth of donations for underprivileged people.
“One night, when I was sleeping, I had a dream of a Yemeni preacher named Habib Mohammed, who appeared to me and asked me why I wasn’t doing more to help my brothers,” he said, speaking exclusively to Times of Oman.
“I had never met him, and I told my wife about this and she said it was just a dream, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.”
Luck, however, favours the bold. “I was in Dar-Es-Salaam to provide aid, and there I met a Yemeni man,” he added. “God’s grace put us there and I told him about my dream. He had heard of Habib and he promised to contact him.
“I reached out to all my contacts and asked them for aid to take to Yemen,” said Al Jadhamy. “By day, I run my business, but by night, I collected donations, from Mabella to Amerat and everywhere in between. People I’d never heard of before donated goods for Yemen.”
Nasr accumulated about 23 tonnes of rice alone, and as the last of the donations poured in, his phone rang: Habib Mohammed was on the line.
“When he called, I knew it was a sign for me to proceed with my mission so I hired a truck to take all of the goods from Muscat to Salalah, and then into Yemen,” explained Al Jadhamy.
It was, however, a trip that was rife with problems: the goods were collected independently and didn’t come with a receipt the truck driver could produce at the border.
“I immediately made plans to take the first flight to Salalah, and then drove to Thumrait,” he said. “When we reached the Omani border post, the guards were so moved by what I was doing that they cleared me to go through immediately.”
But the Yemeni border guards weren’t so easily persuaded. “I remember reaching the border in the afternoon around 3pm, and they made me wait there till midnight,” recalled Nasr. “They just wouldn’t let my truck through, and there was nothing I could do about it because of the conflict.
Nasr waited for six days at the entrance to Yemen. With nowhere to shower, no toilets and nothing to eat, most people would’ve given up, but Nasr knew this was a test of his resolve.
“I finally told the border guards that I’d come all the way from Muscat to help the people of Yemen and if they weren’t going to let me in, I’d leave the truck here and go back, and finally, they relented after a call from the local government,” he said.
Entering Yemen, though, meant he was now reaching the most perilous part of his journey: the roads were pitted with craters caused by mortar fire, while gunfire could be continually heard in the distance as his truck – the only vehicle on the road – slowly picked its way past abandoned towns that had been relentlessly bombed during the war.
“I spent my first night in Yemen in a military camp, where the commandant told me I was very lucky to be alive, because all of the soldiers in the camp wanted to shoot me,” said Nasr. “They didn’t know what was in my truck.”
Finally, though, he reached Seiyoun, where Habib was waiting to receive him.
“The people who had been displaced because of the war were given provisions, and the wali of that region gave me a signed paper containing instant border clearance if I ever wanted to come back,” revealed Al Jadhamy. “They told me ‘we knew Omanis were helpful, but we never expected it to come in this form,’ and to hear that was truly touching.
“But I didn’t want to go back the same way I came, so the authorities there put me on a plane to Khartoum, which lands at the airport in Seiyoun – the country’s only functioning airport – every three weeks,” he added. “There were so many people who were going to hospitals outside the country, but they made sure I was first to board the plane.
From there, Nasr waited another day to board a connecting flight to Manama – an administrative mix-up saw him miss his first one – before finally landing in Muscat.
“I have plans to make another trip to Yemen before Ramadan, because the people there are suffering,” said the 43-year-old. “God-willing I will make it happen.”