How the Danish embassy delayed the Saga!
Day 1,716 since October 10th 2013: 147 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
Nothing happened. Everything happened.
I can say many wonderful things about the Ramadan. And I have already said many wonderful things about the Ramadan in the past. From an administrative point of view the Muslim holy month is not good for progress. The Eid even less so.
The Eid is a three day celebration at the end of the Ramadan. It’s a time when people go to visit family and celebrate love and life. It is accompanied with good food but let’s face it…everything in the Arab world is accompanied by food in one way or the other. Good food, outstanding hospitality, football and praying five times a day would already describe a lot about the Arab world. Equally I could describe the characteristics of Danes in a similar fashion although you could replace the daily prayer with complaining ;) I think I mentioned last week (or the week before) that the Ramadan had turned the daily rhythm upside down. Instead of getting up in the morning we would get out of bed around 4-5pm. And it wasn’t uncommon for me to go to sleep around 9-10am. As the fasting came to an end, and we could once more eat and drink under the sun, my rhythm was still off balance. So I decided to turn it around by not going to bed at all and then passing out the following evening like Sleeping Beauty. That worked well. So now my day is once again bright and my nights are dark.
We had a little dust storm come our way. Best to stay indoors that day.
My days could be brighter though. So is it now the Dane within me which is about to complain or do I actually have reason to be upset? Well you decide. For nearly five years I have publically been promoting the best of the world and showing you that there is a different side to life than the sinister one which is often portrayed in media. I’m proud of being Danish and this project positively reflects back on my own nation through social media and interviews. In the event that the Saga is completed I will become the only person in history who has reached every country completely without flying. Upon completion it is my wish to continue my life as a motivation speaker and grow my online presence further. I hope to have a life where I can publically advocate for the much larger side of humanity which is mostly uncovered. That’s the part of life where people are just people and everyone is trying to carve out a small piece of the world for themselves and the ones they love. That is the part of life where people go to work, study, care for children, listen to music, play sports, watch videos, get stuck in traffic, take selfies, meet up with friends, drink coffee etc. That is in my opinion the true image of our world but what do I know? I have only traveled 194,000 km (125,500 mi) over land and sea and visited 147 countries now…I could be wrong about the rest…
Alrai TV published this interview yesterday. Click HERE to see it or directly on the photo.
The Saga has been featured in media across 100 nations. Can you wrap your mind around that?!? I cannot! How did a young Danish boy grow up to be worthy of all of that attention? Well I might not be? I figure that I was just bold enough to believe that I could do what no man has ever done before and then people across the world ensured my path to success. At least so far. Somewhere along the line Maersk Line stepped in and began to support. This is relevant because now we need to talk Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a country with a mind of its own and the power to live like they please. Geographically it is a massive country and it dwarfs all other countries in the region. Saudi is very wealthy and is furthermore a powerful ally of the United States of America. So you can only imagine. Recently the world has been able to report on a few changes taking place within the country. Now women have been allowed to drive. Also cinemas are opening up for the first time since they were banned in 1983. Take a moment to think about what life would be like if your wife, sister or mother couldn’t drive to work because the law prohibited her to get behind the wheel? And what would your society be like without cinemas? Saudi is also a “business and religion only” kind of country. As such there are no tourism visas in existence and I can’t find any online reference to that there has ever been? In November 2017 it was announced that Saudi Arabia would begin issuing tourist visas and online application in 2018 and it was expected to take place from April 1st. That was HUGE news from an otherwise very closed country. In fact it still is! We are now well into June and the Saudi tourism visa is still not a reality. However the deputy head at the Danish Embassy in Saudi Arabia seems to think otherwise? I’ll get back to that in a moment.
Mohammed and Ahlam are wonderful hosts. Mohammed recently told me that he is already sad that I will someday leave. He calls me his brother. Ahlam calls me her son although I'm older than her :)
As I mentioned before, Maersk has been and continues to be a great friend of the Saga. I credit that to many things but more than anything else because Maersk identifies with the demanding logistical challenges of the Saga, being a leading global player already. Furthermore Maersk is a company which has always been a few steps ahead of everyone with a permanent grasp on the future. And although I often reference Maersk, it’s not because they are an official partner or sponsor…it’s merely because Maersk has global presence and has often been there when I needed a helping hand. As such Maersk in Saudi Arabia has been happy to issue an official invite for a visit in the Arabian Kingdom. And while I was in Lebanon we tried to arrange for a business visa (Jan/Feb 2018). This was a rather complicated voyage across a sea of bureaucracy. You are fortunate enough to be able to skip all that nonsense and just get the result: I cannot get a business visa without returning home to Denmark and it is furthermore required that I fly into Saudi Arabia. The flying part can probably be negotiated at a land border and it wouldn’t be the first time I was permitted to apply for a visa without being a resident. All we needed was for the Saudi authorities to permit that I applied for the visa in Lebanon. So we got in touch with the Danish embassy in Saudi Arabia and asked if they could help with the request? This was quickly shot down as the Danish embassy did not want to ask for any favors. Something I can sort of understand. Meanwhile I was also told that the Saga is a “private endeavor” and that the embassy would only get involved if it was considered “official”.
A Lionfish had a staring contest with me at the Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre.
I was eventually able to leave Lebanon on a containership to Egypt and travel a few thousand km until I reached Amman in Jordan. Then I spent another 46 days trying more angles than you would ever believe in an effort to get the Saudi visa. All of it failed and I seek solace in the alleged quote from Thomas Edison as he was asked about his many failures in creating the light bulb: "I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work." As such I have now found a great amount of ways NOT to get a visa for Saudi Arabia. And I am not alone in that quest. Many have tried and failed before me. In fact Saudi is a main reason for people not being able to visit every country in the world. Some people have even converted to Islam in order to enhance their chances…
Ships on display at the Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre. I'm happy to see the viking ship is ahead! ;)
Fast forward to today. With the help of Ahlam and Mohammed I was presented with a truly unique opportunity. Perhaps something completely unprecedented? The Saudi embassy in Kuwait offered Once Upon A Saga a special visa which would enable me to visit their Kingdom. It would even be…wait for it: multi entry!! WOW! The only detail which they requested was a short email or a letter from the Danish embassy in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia’s capital), which would briefly describe that I am a “traveler” or “explorer”. This is presumably in order to prove that I am not a tourist or backpacker. This was absolutely amazing and the stuff that makes headlines! With this the Saga was suddenly 90% of the way of achieving a Saudi visa! Naturally the Danish embassy would quickly step in to accommodate with the letter? Why wouldn’t they? I am after all a Danish citizen and what is a more prominent duty of Danish diplomats other than to serve Danish citizens abroad? Well…?
Mohammed getting a haircut and a shave for the Eid.
I got in touch with the deputy head of the Danish embassy in Riyadh. His name is Michael and he is an accomplished diplomat. It didn’t take long before he replied me that it sounded like a “personal project”, that they had already replied to my request from Amman in Jordan and that my best way forward would be through a business visa with the assistance of Maersk? Then he ended by saying that I could apply for the Saudi tourism visa? Sometimes I wonder how patient I need to be with some people? I had an extra look at my email which I though was quite clear…then I took a deep breath and sent a new email in which I specified once more that all I needed was a letter, that this request does not relate to Maersk, that the tourism visa has not yet taken effect (which he should surely know given his position?) and that this was a unique and very forthcoming opportunity by the hands of Saudi Arabia. A few days later he replied that my Danish passport was enough to document that I am a Danish traveler and that I could apply for the tourism visa which took effect on April 1st. I have dealt with a fair amount of third world embassies and bureaucracy throughout the world. I have always upheld that my own country is efficient and timely. This guy is redefining what I think about Danish efficiency. After another deep breath I replied with a much more detailed report and looked forward to receiving my by now hard earned letter from the embassy. Then I did not hear anything for a while. After several days I wrote Michael once more to hear if I could soon have the letter? This time he replied that the Danish embassy has closed my case since there is no need for consultancy assistance as my request is a private matter. Furthermore Michael once again referred me to the offer from Maersk related to a business visa.
It was a sad moment for Mohammed when Egypt lost to Russia. The World Cup is a big deal in Kuwait like everywhere else.
People are just people. I am absolutely furious and grossly disappointed in that this is how a Danish citizen is treated by Denmark’s official representation abroad!?! We pay some of the highest taxes in the world and this is what we get in return? And while I am disappointed I am hardly surprised as this is a classical representation of my countries mentality. I am clearly not like the rest. I have chosen to take a chance and step out of line. I am not married with children, I do not have a 37 hour work week (I work 50-80 hrs/week), I do not have a cat, a dog and a piano, I do not have a Volvo and I’m not cuddled inside the warmth of our social society. I’m out here trying to accomplish the impossible and Danes generally don’t like that. We have social rules and in Denmark you are not supposed to think that you are anything special and you are certainly not permitted to step out of line. So thank you Michael for being very Danish and in addition also unbelievable unhelpful. The lack of insight as well as foresight is astonishing and I am absolutely baffeled?
Holy cow!! We can’t end this entry like that. But trust me!! I am beyond sick and tired of cutting through red tape and that feeling is multiplied several times when it comes to being treated like this by my own people!?! My own people? –
Well, well , well… 147 countries. Less than 200 people have reached every country in the world and it is definitely not for a lack of trying. Nobody has done it completely without flying and I clearly understand why! I have not been home for four years and eight months. I have traveled 194,000 km (125,500 mi) across land and water (Ibn Battuta is thought to have traveled 120,000 km (75,000 mi)). I have overcome cerebral malaria. I have depleted my personal funds. I have negotiated with armed men more times than I can remember. I have taken lots of abuse. I have suffered great loss of various kind. I have overcome everything and anything which has blocked my passage and we have never left a country behind. I never gave up and went home. I never bribed anyone and I never cheated and stayed less than 24 hours within a country. Personally I would avoid upsetting someone with that kind of ingenuity and willpower…but hey! We don’t all think alike. Ah…Danish diplomats…
Well here’s another way of looking at it. Michael might have things on his plate which we cannot imagine. One of the things I often try to remind others about is how similar we are as people. Everyone has problems of varying degrees. How can we know what is on his mind? And if he thinks that it is unimportant to assists a Danish citizen with a simple letter then that is his prerogative. The Danish passport is among the strongest in the world and currently holds a global rank as the 4th best with a visa free score of 161 countries. Perhaps the reason why the Danish passport is so strong is due to the diplomatic work carried out by men like Michael? In fact perhaps Michael is directly responsible for the easy crossing of a few of the borders the Saga has already put behind us? Who knows… it does however feel safe to assume that Michael would have made much better use of his time if he simply sent a short email to the Saudi embassy in Kuwait a few weeks ago. And if he had done that then I would be writing you from inside Saudi Arabia today.
"The Prestige" at Avenues Mall.
Right…fortunately going through “the Kingdom of Michael” is not the only way forward. The Saudi tourism visa is bound to come through sooner or later and it might just be sooner. Also the opportunity presented by the embassy in Kuwait may not be the only golden opportunity throughout the Gulf. Who knows which opportunities tomorrow will bring? At this point I may be able to return home in 2020...what's a few extra weeks. Let’s just keep on keeping on…
And once again thank you to the thousands that have supported the Saga and brought it to where we are today. I could literally not have done it without you.
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - disappointed.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga