A Slow Boat Around the Persian Gulf

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A Slow Boat Around the Persian Gulf

Hello, Salam, Marhaban. After completing a paddle down two of India’s most famous and holiest rivers – the Ganges and the Yamuna – the slow boat will now paddle down one of the most historic regions of the world – the Persian Gulf.

Some of the greatest civilisations in the world are arguably the Romans, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Chinese, the British, the Islamic Empire, the Mongols, the Persians, the Mayans, Aztecs and the Incas, the Cholas, the Mughals, the Ottoman Empire, the Phoenicians, the Assyrians, the Carthaginians, the Mesopotamians, the Babylonians, and the Sumerians. Many of them were in and around the Persian Gulf, or on its fringes. The area along the Nile and the geography between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers saw some of the oldest, fiercest and mightiest civilisations in the ancient world. The famous Silk Route travelled between the area now known as the Middle East, to India, via China, areas that comprised pretty much what was referred to then as the known world.

The region around the Persian Gulf has hosted some of the oldest, greatest and mightiest civilisations in the world. Largely, the Persian and Arab regions are on two sides of the Persian Gulf, the former to the north of the Gulf and the latter to its South. One thing to remember is that Persia is NOT Arabia and Persians are not Arabs. Each have their own distinct identity which is fiercely protected.

Indeed, this piece of geography in our little blue planet is full of history, of valour, of conquest, of empires rising and then disintegrating. It is the history of the evolution of the modern world as we know it today.

The water crisis

One major problem in the region is the diminishing amount of water resources. Despite having the majority of oil reserves in the world, the harsh terrain and climate is resulting in increased desertification.

The Middle East and North Africa is the world's most water-scarce region, with 17 countries below the water poverty line set by the United Nations. With 6% of the world’s population, the MENA region has only 1% of fresh water resources. The demand is more than the supply. In fact six of the eight countries bordering the Persian Gulf ... except Iran and Iraq, are categorised as being under absolute water scarcity.

The aquifers are depleting, rainfall is inadequate to recharge the aquifers, and desalination is the way people get access to drinking water. In fact, most of the world’s desalination plants are located in the MENA countries. This is further affecting the environment by increasing the salinity of the water due to the brine after desalination being released into the waters of the Gulf.

There is a current fresh water problem and it will only get worse in the future if steps are not taken to preserve the available resources by better water management. Water scarcity is a global problem, but it is imminent in the Persian Gulf region. If we do not something right away to change water usage and management, it might be too late, too soon.

And this is the region where I will take my slow boat and paddle it around the Persian Gulf.

I will be touching the shores of the eight countries that border the Gulf, starting from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, stopping over in Oman’s Musandam exclave for some time before paddling across the famous Strait of Hormuz into Iran, then paddle along the Iranian coast, cross the Iraqi coast along the Shatt al Arab (the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers), cross over to Kuwait and then paddle along the shores of Saudi Arabia. Before entering the United Arab Emirates again to end the paddle in Dubai, I will stop over in Bahrain and Qatar.

A journey of over 3,000 km along not only a historic piece of geography, but one that has seen a lot of conflict over the centuries for control of the passage through the Gulf into the open oceans into India and beyond. One of the most conflicted zones in the world today, the Persian Gulf is also the region that has control of the world’s largest single source of petroleum. The countries that border the Gulf produce 25% of the world's oil, hold nearly two-thirds of the world's crude oil reserves, and about 35% of the world's natural gas reserves.

The Route

The tentative daily itinerary

This is not only a first for me, it is not only a first for an Indian or an Asian, it is the first for anyone in the world. This is a world’s first and I am proud to be making the attempt. Wish me luck and wish me God speed.

Shukran jazilan. Kheili mamnoon. See you in the Persian Gulf.