Nuri Funas: Around the world on foot

Friday March 21 2014

By GILBERT MWIJUKE

In 1999, Nuri Funas decided to do something only the sturdiest of men can do: Travel around the globe on foot to deliver a “message of peace and love” to the world.

Starting from Libya, his home country, he went through neighbouring Egypt, crossed over to Saudi Arabia and continued to Europe. Fifteen years later, Mr Funas is still walking.

“I had just completed high school when I started walking. Libya had just been declared a no-fly zone. Being a boy scout, I felt a burning desire to travel around the world to preach peace and love, and the cheapest and most effective way to do so was by walking on foot,” Mr Funas, 35, who has since travelled through 85 countries in Europe, Africa and South America, told Rwanda Today in Kigali last week en route to Uganda.

After hiking the Alps mountain range in Switzerland and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and walking alone through the Kalahari Desert, Mr Funas is still maintaining that burning desire to keep walking. From Uganda, he will continue to Kenya, South Sudan, Ethiopia and so on.

“I don’t know when I’ll stop (walking) Besides, I don’t know what else to do. Ah, and I don’t like routine – I like to keep moving. That way I am able to live a new life every other day. My life is fun!” he said.

Mr Funas gets financial support from the International Youth Hostel in Tripoli and Libya’s Ministry of Youth and Sports. He carries along with him a huge backpack, which contains everything he needs – a sleeping bag, a tent, a digital camera, a couple of clothes, a first aid kit, an assortment of eats, and water.

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Carrying all this on his back, he walks between 25-35 kilometres per day. “Sometimes I take a rest. I fly back to Libya after two or three years and rest for one or two months,” he said.

But in 2011, Mr Funas says he took a six-month break and joined the revolution that brought Col Muammar Gaddafi and his government to a bloody end.

On this walk, people invite him to their homes to sleep over, especially the Libyan community. But when sunset finds him in the wilderness, he sets up his tent and camps there till morning.

And luckily for him, Mr Funas has not encountered moments of danger during his adventure. He feels secure in most countries because most people he encounters along the way are friendly and usually give him support.

However, “Sometimes I have to set up my tent high up on a tree for fear of being devoured by wild animals,” he said.

He has suffered few physical pains or ailments. In 2006, for example, he suffered a bout of malaria in Bamako, Mali. But his worst experience was when he visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre.

“I couldn’t believe that’s what happened here 20 years ago. What I saw at the Genocide Memorial Centre was sickening. In fact, I spent two days in a trance!

“I fought in the revolution that ended Gaddafi’s government but for us we used to shoot our enemies from a distance. Here the victim had to come face-to-face with his or her killer. It’s unbelievable,” he said.

From such experiences, Mr Funas has written and published one book, Travelling Around the World: Hakuna Matata. Hakuna matata is Swahili for “no problem.” Exactly what the world should be: Peaceful.

Mr Funas’s 15-year adventure is still an epic demonstration of human endurance and courage. For now though, all he wants is to “complete my journey before a woman comes into my life.”