Thursday, September 29, 2011

Exclusive Interview with Nabil 'Nabs' Al Busaidi: Omani Adventurer

One of the things Oman needs more of is Exceptionalism.

As I once posted, can you imagine someone in say, New York, or Hong Kong, buying something Omani and saying to his/her friend "Awesome - made in Oman! Now that's the best shit there is man."

At the moment I can only think of 2 things that fit that: Amouage perfume, and Omani Frankincense. [Happy for readers to nominate anything I missed on this short list]

Exceptionalism. It begins with the idea that being the best is a valid goal. And then proving it. And 'the best' can mean many things. The best in the World, sure, but even 'the best in the region', or 'the best in Oman' or 'the best in my village' are valid. You need passion for that goal. How many Omanis have that attitude? How many are encouraged to dare aim that high? That take risks to succeed. Big risks. Chasing a vision of success.

Today Muscat Confidential publishes part 1 of its exclusive interview with someone who has done that. The First Arab to walk to the magnetic North Pole. The first Arab to row across an ocean.

Nabil Al Busaidi, aka 'Nabs'.

Photo: Nabs Al Busaidi. Steady ladies, steady! (and yes, he's single) [copyright Nabil Al Busaidi]

Here's his website.

Have a gander at his list of achievements:
An active adventurer, Nabs has undertaken the following expeditions since 2009:
April 2009, he became the first Arab to walk the 650 km from Resolute Bay to the magnetic North Pole and one of less than 500 ever to walk to a pole.

Later that year, Nabs helped Commander Richard Ryan, a United States Naval officer, set a World Record for a wheelchair traverse from Land’s End, Cornwall, England to John O’Groats, Scotland; a total distance of 1,451 km in 8 days 10 hours.

December 2009, successfully completed a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa at 5,895m and one of the 7 summits.

January 2010, Nabs became the first Omani, second Arab, and one of only 1,400 to climb the highest mountain in Antarctica, Mount Vinson – (4,897m) also one of the 7 summits.

April 2010, Nabs was hoping to be the first Omani to summit Mt Everest, but survived a fall that left him with several broken bones in one ankle and required evacuation from base camp.

2011: Set yet another world record by becoming the first Arab to row over 4,600 km across the Atlantic and joined an exclusive club of less than 500 ever to row an ocean.


Photo: Nabil 'Nabs' Al Busaidi on his trek to the Magnetic North Pole in 2009 [copyright Nabil Al Busaidi]

Undercover Dragon traveled far into the higher reaches of Mount Everest to speak mano-a-mano to Nabs on his expedition. Here's the report.

Nabil Al Busaidi Interview: Part 1
Location: Somewhere in Nepal, above base camp*.

Undercover Dragon: The large Chinook stuggled to make progress against the howling gale outside the protection of the plexi-glass. All I could see was white, endless white. Only the GPS and the instruments enabled us to get to where the expeditionary team were. When we landed in a moment of clarity in the snow, the icy blast as the door slid open greeted us with 40deg below zero. That's F or C, take your pick. I exited the protection of the chopper and crawled to the small hole in the snow that concealed the temporary refuge protecting Omani Adventurer, Nabil Al Busaidi. The tent beneath was quickly resealed and the relative quietness and protection from the wind was a welcome refuge, even after my short time walking/crawling from the landing zone.

[photo copyright Nabil Al Busaidi]

UD: Good afternoon Nabil! I'm glad you made it to the rendezvous point!

Nabil Al Busaidi: No problem Mr Dragon. Thanks for meeting me.

UD: Why did you decide to become an adventurer?
Nabs: I didn’t consciously decide to become an adventurer, it just evolved over time.

I was working as director of finance and admin for a company in Bahrain, and due to the economic downturn, there wasn’t much business. I decided that I would make myself redundant, formally as opposed to practically, and use the 3 months gardening leave to prepare for the North Pole. After I came back from the North Pole, I fully expected to get back into corporate life, but one thing kept leading to another, and before I knew it, it was 12 months later and I was deciding to go for Everest...

UD: How can you afford this lifestyle? Were you born with a silver spoon in your mouth?
Nabs: Not at all. I fund myself with whatever I can raise. Some people seem to think I make a living out of this, but financially, I am much worse off than if I had stayed working. I have no savings left, I no longer have the deposit for a house, I am in constant debt and I could go on...I am currently living off my book sales hand to mouth! But that isn't intended as a sob story, just bursting any illusions people have over my lifestyle.

The assumption is that the only metric for measuring success or progress is financial. If that were so, then I admit I am a complete failure. I started off near the top, and sunk into debt. But I am so much richer in so many ways, and I don’t mean in just my personal adventures. I have brought a lot of pride to Omanis. I am able to mobilize a lot of charitable efforts. I have met people that I would never have expected. And I have done things I would never have expected. For example, being interviewed live on Italian TV by Miss Italy! The after party for the James Blunt concert, the Crown Prince of Bahrain. And I met two of the best friends I have ever made through this.

But back to the question, I am only able to afford this thanks to the amount of support I get from the private sector. Fortunately, there are many business leaders who either see the potential benefit of being associated with the media exposure I generate, or do it for their own CSR [UD: Corporate Social Responsibility] reasons.

I realise that most companies expect a return on any type of sponsorship, so I tailor make packages that can give great return on investment if leveraged correctly by the respective marketing deparments. Whether that is realised or not is up to the companies themselves of course, but I know how they think, and I do my best to address that.

UD: How supportive of your efforts has the Government been? Has that changed over time?
Nabs: The ministry of sports were very sceptical before I went to the North Pole for very valid reasons. I was an unknown quantity, I had no track record that they could appreciate, and what I was attempting was so outside the envelope of their experience that they couldn’t see the relevance to Oman or the ministry of sports.

Of course since then the attitude has changed a lot. When I broke my ankles on Everest, the first person to call me, even before my family, was the Minister of Sports himself!

However, despite that, all my funding still has to be raised by myself and through the commercial world rather than through grants from the Government. It is tough work raising sponsorship, much harder than the expeditions themselves. Sir Ranulph Fiennes estimates that 95% of his time and effort is spent on fund raising, and I would have to agree.

UD: I presume Sir Ranulph Fiennes was a point of inspiration? Have you ever met?
Nabs: Funnily enough he is the godfather of a girl I was friends with a long time ago in London, and long before I ever thought of doing any of this. Apparently he knows of me through his god daughter, and I have read several of his books, where he actually mentions his god daughter's father as one of his mentors!

UD: On a change of topic, what do you think of the political situation in the Middle East lately and the 'Arab Spring'?
Nabs: I am a very apolitical person to be honest, and my views are a cross between apathetic and wilfully ignorant. However, this time I have a valid excuse. When I set out to row across the Atlantic, there was some vague mentions of unrest in Tunisia. When I got to the other side, New Zealand, Japan, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Oman, Bahrain, Yemen had all happened! It was all a bit of a surprise to be fair, and also explains why there was more coverage of the Atlantic row in the UK than in Oman or Bahrain, places where I would normally expect great coverage.

I missed everything that happened in Oman as I was still living in Bahrain until April [2011].

One thing that we took exception to, as residents in Bahrain, was the awful standards of journalism and reporting. Anyone calling the "Pearl Roundabout" the "Pearl Square" was immediately discredited locally, but when the news is being spread by CNN, BBC and Sky there is little you can do to counter the spread of disinformation.

I am sure the third hand nature of the journalism, without fact checking or people on the ground, caused more problems as subversive elements went out of their way to further mislead.

The most ridiculous report I think was in the UK Independent, with Robert Fisk a major culprit (and probably duped victim) claiming that 150,000 demonstrators were at the Pearl Roundabout. If you could get 15,000 people in that small area, I would be surprised, and bearing in mind that the total Shia population is 300,000 I have no idea how they got 50% of them in an area the size of a stadium.

.... to be continued

Contact Nabil now at

Here's his website.

Coming up in the Nabil Al Busaidi Interview Part 2: Nabs on being near death in the Artic. His thoughts when he had the nearly fatal accident on Everest. His biggest hurdles to getting sponsorship. How you can help. And his plans beyond the South Pole.

And as a special treat, here are Nabs' top 7 most interesting responses to requests for support!

1) What is Everest? (I answer) If it is so high why are you climbing it?

2) Where is the North Pole? Is it in India?

3) Why should we pay you to go on holiday?

4) We want to be the naming sponsor, so don’t talk to anyone else. (Major national company, that then pulled out the day after the final day for payment, leaving me scrambling for funds, or cancelling)

5) We don’t want to be associated with you in case you fail (Charity official)

6) I don’t give a damn. Why can’t Omanis do something original? (European CEO in Oman)

7) I’ve been there at least 20 times. Every time I fly to America I fly over it. What’s the big deal?

* Note: This interview was actually conducted via email in late Sept 2011. No actual helicopters were harmed as a result of this interview.


  1. Nabs is the business! 'nuff said!

  2. he is an exception along with Khalid al Siyabi
    and unfortunatly I cant think of any world class Omani businesses (though we are trying) except yours

  3. Nabs is without doubt an Original.... you forgot his time when he was an army officer in the British Army though..... Maybe that's why he can think outside the tent.

  4. ... and not done too badly for a "Gunner" either


  5. i have always wanted to adventure like this...maybe when my 5 year old gets a little older. Good info and good luck!


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