Dubai – Even for 4am, Dubai’s 14-lane Sheikh Zayed Road was eerily quiet. The scene was reminiscent of how the highway looked in March, when Dubai entered a three-week lockdown to try and quell the coronavirus pandemic.
But this wasn’t a lockdown. The “Dubai Ride” event on November 20 saw the usually busy stretch of road empty of cars to make way for mask-wearing cyclists taking part in a 14-kilometer community ride. It was part of the Dubai Fitness Challenge — an annual month-long initiative launched in 2017, that encourages residents to do half an hour of physical activity each day.
During November, Dubai hosted daily virtual workouts and citywide events, from yoga and mindfulness sessions to cycling, swimming and running. This year, nearly every event took place outdoors, observing social distancing measures.
‘A breath of fresh air’
Among the cyclists was 37-year-old Shaikha al Shaiba, who traveled from Bahrain to take part. The city opened its doors to international travelers in July and requires that all visitors test negative for Covid-19 before departure.
Emirates offers a free hotel stay with your Dubai layover Al Shaiba had an arm amputated at 18 months old after being diagnosed with cancer, and has competed all over the world in fitness and endurance challenges. She said she missed events like this during the pandemic. “The weather’s amazing … the vibes are good. You can see everyone is happy,” she said.
The fitness challenge is all about creating a “fitness-focused mindset,” according to the campaign — something that Al Shaiba excels at. “I only compete within myself and challenge my abilities,” she said. “I don’t look at anyone and try to compete with anybody … that’s what makes me want to get stronger every time.”