When an important replacement part for a ship scheduled to call in Dubai was needed from a Scandinavian supplier, air travel wouldn’t cut it back in 1976. That part needed to be driven out there. It was a gruelling journey, but for Norwegian trucker Jan Dabrowksy and his Scania, it was just part of the job.
Back before Dubai was the international destination it is today, with its giant port and international airport, it was a small shipping and oil drilling outpost at the shore of the Arabian Gulf. Though the town was still small back then, the combination of a lack of other shipping options and growing demand for goods from Europe led some trucking companies to establish regular runs between Western Europe and the Middle East.
Truckers like Jan were driving their rigs deep into the Desert to destinations like Bandar Abbas in the Shah’s Iran, or to Dubai, Doha, and Dammam, Saudi Arabia on the Arab side of the Gulf. The routes were long but truck transport represented an often more reliable and quicker option than shipping by sea back then, kind of like how freight “Hot Shot” expediters operate today carrying smaller loads long distances under short deadlines here in the States.
To celebrate the dedication of these truckers to their job and the ability of Swedish truckmaker Scania’s rigs to put up with the gruelling conditions of these journies, Scania sent a camera crew along with Jan on his mission to Dubai by way of Doha to deliver this crucial component to the ship that needed it.
The route took Jan across Europe from his native Norway, crossing into Asia in Istanbul over the Bosphorus Straits. Though the drive thus far was long, it was only the beginning for Jan and his truck. The rest of the route would take him through Iraq and Saudi Arabia to Qatar for his first delivery and then on to Dubai.
Back then, the route between Doha and the Emirates was by far the biggest challenge facing Jan and other truckers like him. Though the border between Qatar and Saudi Arabia was open back then (unlike today), truckers looking to make it to the Eastern Gulf in the ‘70s needed to make their way through the desert sand without so much as a signpost to guide them along their way. Jan makes due by releasing some tire pressure to get himself across the dunes and to his destination, but not before blowing two of his tires.
The route to Dubai was short-lived because demand was lower than expected and the sandy route from Doha to Dubai made the potential costs and risks too much to contend with. Other routes continued, though. These days, a British firm called Astran still advertises routes to the Middle East despite the various regional conflicts that might disrupt traffic. I’d love to see what those trips are like as well, but that’s a journey for another day.