A British-Lebanese man has cycled 4,200 kilometres from London to Beirut to raise money to support victims of the devastating blast that rocked the capital city.
Nearly 200 people were killed and 300,000 were left homeless after the 4 August explosion which could be felt as far away as Cyprus. Horrified at images from the scene, 38-year-old Eddie El-Lamaa felt compelled to do something to help.
The father of three, who moved to the UK from Lebanon with his parents in 1985, embarked on the challenge to cycle to Lebanon, a journey he completed in 40 days.
“It was like a mammoth of a task. Even professional cyclists were saying ‘look don’t do it.’ Even speaking to the people at the bike shop were looking at me like I was mad.”
El-Lamaa didn’t own a road bike prior to the challenge and had not cycled since he was a teen. However, he successfully pedalled 4,200 kilometres through nine countries in Europe including France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey, before taking a ferry to Tripoli, Lebanon, and reaching his final destination.
“I didn’t know how long it would take, how many miles it was. I didn’t even own a road bike at the time. I’m not a professional cyclist.”
So, the idea just came up on the back of what happened in Beirut otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing anything of that nature.
Once El-Lamaa reached Beirut, he saw first-hand the direct impact the blast had on people living in the city and the dire living standards because of the economic collapse and soaring inflation. Unemployment and poverty are on the rise across the country, with more than 55 per cent of the population struggling to obtain basic necessities, almost double last year’s rate.
“What you see on the TV, isn’t what you see down there and when you start entering that area and seeing the damage, it is a shock. The magnitude of it, the size of the impact is massive. It’s not about how I’m feeling, like my emotions going up and down, it’s not about that. It’s about the cause and trying to raise as much money as possible to help the people that obviously are suffering there.”
Donations are still being accepted, with El-Lamaa having already raised £56,500 ($73,000) of his £250,000 ($322,700) target in support of the Lebanese Red Cross.