The Dakar Bedouin style
January 14 th 2020 - 12:37 [GMT + 3]
The rally community in Saudi Arabia is at its strongest in the region of Ha’il. Mohamad Al Twijri is one of its pillars: he is fond of the discipline’s spirit as much as the racing, somewhat like Nasser Al-Attiyah…
You can always try to find Nasser Al-Attiyah on the bivouac, but probably the best way is to meet him by chance when going to see Mohamad Al Twijri, who every day sets up a little zone almost like a Bedouin encampment next to his workshop. The title holder often comes to chat with his long-standing friends that he met on the Rally of Ha’il on his first participation in 2008: “They are more than friends, they are brothers,” insists Al-Attiyah. “I like to come and bask in this atmosphere. We talk about everything and anything, we tell each other stories… just simple, ordinary moments that do me good”. Indeed, the sound of tea being poured mingles with bursts of laughter and the evening continues with a big Mandi, the traditional lamb dish that Saudis share. What’s more, Al Twijri genuinely cultivates the idea that the rally, the taste for the desert and all its perks are more of a lifestyle than a sporting discipline. It is perhaps due to this particular aspect that car driver number 361 is so delighted about the arrival of the Dakar in Saudi Arabia: “People from abroad know little about the country, but it is starting to open up,” he explains. “The Dakar is a great way of welcoming people. What you see around this camp fire is a symbol: everybody is welcome to come and see us and enjoy tea with us”.
For all that, Mohamad is also a car enthusiast who has prepared and developed his 4x4 by himself over the last five years. He is especially proud to still be in the general standings and is putting up with the difficulties encountered along the way: “On the fourth stage between Neom and Al Ula, it was terrible. There was hardly any light left, we were still in the dunes and we reached the bivouac at 1 o’clock in the morning. Today, we finished sooner, but we still had problems with the transmission. In spite of it all, I still think we’re on the right track”. Al Twijri occupies 52nd place in the general standings and in any case he has forgotten about his ambitions in terms of results: “For the moment, I’m here to learn. I’m taking it easy and not attacking at all because I don’t have the right car for that and I’m just here with a group of friends – we aren’t a professional team. Nevertheless, in several years’ time, I hope that I’ll be able to compete for a place in the top 10”. But what does Nasser Al-Attiyah have to say about that? “Why not? He’s a great driver. With the right car he can go very fast and nobody needs to give him lessons about how to drive in the desert”.