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Saudi Arabia in the News

Disabled KAUST Professor Hand Cycles Across Saudi Arabia

image courtesy of MSL
image courtesy of MSL
Written by Linda Hohnholz

In 30 days, Matteo Parsani, a Professor of Applied Mathematics and Computational Science at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), completes his Athar: East to West expedition, covering ten cities in the Kingdom while traveling from East to West.

Professor Parsani cycled over 3,000 kilometers, averaging 150 kilometers per day, on a extensive journey that spanned from Dammam to Riyadh, Qassim (Buraydah), Hail, AlUla, Red Sea Global, AlMadinah, Makkah, Jeddah, and finally concluding at KAUST.

Six years ago, Professor Parsani experienced a life-changing event that resulted in the loss of mobility and feeling in the lower part of his body. Following years of careful supervision and successful rehabilitation, Professor Parsani made an incredible choice to embark on an unparalleled hand bike expedition across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The purpose of this journey is to encourage physical activity, sports, and raise awareness about individuals with disabilities. Inspired by the motivating words of the Crown Prince, who proclaimed, We dream, and we achieve!, Professor Parsani began his extraordinary expedition on December 17, 2023. This monumental endeavor not only represents personal triumph over challenges, but also serves as a source of inspiration for everyone.

Professor Parsani toured the Authority for Persons with Disabilities headquarters in Riyadh and various rehabilitation centers throughout the Kingdom. These included the Onaizah Association for Development and Human Services (Ta’heel), the Children with Disabilities Association, as well as interactions with individuals with disabilities at AlBaik branches in Qassim, Hail, and the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. In every city, Professor Parsani received a warm welcome and experienced the authentic hospitality of Saudi Arabia, known as Hafawah.

Professor Parsani shared his valuable experience with locals in each city, gaining insights into the unique traditions of each region. He expressed his sentiments about the hospitality he received.

“I have experienced warm hospitality wherever I stopped. I have made friends in different parts of the Kingdom and this is an experience that I will forever cherish.”

The professor also discussed the physical obstacles he faced on the journey and how he found the motivation to overcome them.

“It was a challenging 30-day journey, and I am happy to embody my message – and that is to dream big; you can do anything you set your mind to. With support and willpower, I was able to take on the challenge.”

Professor Parsani’s unwavering determination in embarking on such an adventurous journey was praised by KAUST President Tony Chan.

“We applaud Professor Matteo for his incredible 30-day hand cycling journey across Saudi Arabia, showcasing his grit and the power of the human spirit. His accomplishment is a singular reflection of his personal resilience, but Prof. Matteo will also be first to acknowledge his team and the support of the KAUST community and the citizens of Saudi Arabia and indeed the global community.”

The initiative was supported by various Saudi government entities and commercial partners, including the Ministry of Sport, Ministry of Interior, Saudi Embassy in the U.S., Authority for Persons with Disabilities, AlBaik, Shushah Island, Red Sea Global, Diriyah Gate Development Authority, the Royal Commission for AlUla, Saee, Saudi Sports for All Federation, Saudi Motorsport Company, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Saudi Cycling Federation, Four Seasons, Montana Water, Baitna, Saudi Youth for Sustainability, as well as international entities such as McLaren Applied, McLaren F1, E1 Series, Sparco, Lucid, DMTC Agency, Villa Beretta Rehabilitation Research Innovation Institute, Solema, Politecnico di Milano, Viktor Elettromedicali & Physio, Partanna, LOVATO Electric, and L.I.F.E (X10X).