You don’t have to be Michael Phelps or Johnny ‘Tarzan’ Weissmuller to swim around the Burj Al Arab this week.
To prove it, the team at Time Out Dubai will dive into this fun swim at Dubai’s famous landmark. It’s only 1km around the Burj by sea, and the top swimmers in each class will take home mega prizes including a night’s stay in the Burj Al Arab (for the fastest man and woman), plus other prizes including gym membership at Pavilion Jumeirah, passes to the Quay Club and spa treatments at Talise.
If deep-sea swimming out in the natural elements seems a little bonkers, never fear – 1km is actually only 20 continuous lengths in an Olympic-sized swimming pool (or just over 10 football pitches). Kids as young as five can take part in the swim, and local waterpark Wild Wadi has taken care of all the safety details, providing professional lifeguards and boats to surround the whole perimeter (so there’s no chance of any unfortunate swimmers disappearing out to sea).
Last year the event raised Dhs200,000 for independent charity organisation Médecins Sans Frontières, which has treated some 3,000 malnourished children across the globe. ‘The money raised at the swim will directly finance our medical work to treat patients around the world,’ says MSF community fundraising officer Denise Katrak. ‘The charity operates in more than 60 countries, and we also provide aid to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, lack of healthcare, or natural disasters.’
In the past few months, Dr Esther Sterk has been heavily involved in an MSF project in Sudan. ‘Last year, rain was scarce. People dug deep into their savings to survive the dry season,’ she explains. ‘People have eaten all of last year’s food and do not have much left to survive the hunger season. In these areas, people are dependent on MSF to treat acute malnutrition because they cannot travel independently – there are no means of transport.’
So why should Dubai residents get involved with the swim? ‘People often intend to raise money for a good cause, but their busy schedules often get in the way,’ says Denise. This is where events such as the Burj swim come in. Participants can join in on the day, for a small fee. ‘Events such as this help us to connect with more people in the community who may have heard of MSF, but aren’t really aware of who we are or the work we do,’ she says.
Dubai resident Nessrine Alzahlawi, from Syria, is excited to be taking part again this year. ‘I’m not especially athletic, but I love swimming,’ she explains. ‘I really enjoyed last year’s swim. It is challenging, fun and, when you’re finished, no matter how fast or slow you are, you get a good feeling of accomplishment.’
As well as swimming prizes, there is also a fundraising prize for the person who raises the most cash for the charity – sponsorship forms are available on the official website. And on the day, remember to look out for the Time Out Dubai staff sporting branded swimming caps (they’ll probably be the ones lagging behind). ‘It’s a great opportunity to see the Burj Al Arab from all angles,’ says Wild Wadi’s Jihane El Fadl. And even if you’re not a swimmer, you can support from the beach. See you there!