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Abu Dhabi desert cycling adventure to unwrap gifts for Nepalese children

DUBAI // A pair of daredevil cyclists have come up with a novel way to celebrate the festive season, while encouraging residents to give unwanted toys to children in Nepal as presents.

Dubai residents Olga Zolotova, 25, and Mohammad Khalaf, 29, are planning on cycling 300 kilometres on Christmas Eve across Abu Dhabi’s Liwa Desert in 24 hours. Their route will draw the outline of a gift box in the dunes.

“We will ‘draw’ the present with our route, using a GPS navigation system together with a mobile cycling application,” said Zolotova, a marketing manager from Russia. “Then we’ll share a picture of our completed route from the app on social media.”

The pair are using desert fatbikes, equipped with special rims and larger wheels, to scale Liwa’s epic dunes, which can reach up to 500 metres in height.

Zolotova is no stranger to gruelling physical challenges. In the past year, she has cycled 400km across seven Emirates in 24 hours, run 200km across Jumeirah Beach in 24 hours and run seven ultra-marathons in seven emirates in seven days.

In July, she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with Khalaf, an exports manager from Lebanon.

But on this adventure, the biggest challenge the pair will face is not physical, but navigational.

“Once we create the present box route on the map, we’ll have to follow it in real time without any stops or deviations because GPS will be recording every move,” she said. “If we face a lake we have to go through it, and if we face a vertical 500-metre dune, we’ll have to cross that too.”

By promoting the challenge, the pair hope to inspire people to donate any old toys they might have to Marwa Fayed’s Toy Run. The toy-giving initiative was set up last year by Omar Samra, a Dubai-based Egyptian entrepreneur, in memory of his late wife, Marwa Fayed, who distributed toys to Cairo’s orphanages.

Khalaf and Zolotova have made sure they are not breaking any of the UAE’s strict fundraising laws – as no money is changing hands they have been told their endeavour is legal. Courier company Aramex has agreed to ship 100 kilograms of toys to Nepal free of charge.

“We’re also cooperating with the Red Crescent to ensure no law is being breached,” Zolotova said. “We’re cycling because we love it. We just want people to see that there is a life beyond office walls and it’s a life we don’t all live sometimes.”

To donate unwanted toys to Marwa Fayed’s Toy Run, visit www.facebook.com/marwafayedstoyrun.

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The National