MEKKAH, SAUDI ARABIA: Of the a whole bunch of 1000’s of Muslims arriving right here in Mekkah this week for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, maybe none had a extra arduous journey than Adam Mohammed, a 53-year-old electrical engineer from the UK.
Mohammed, who’s of Iraqi-Kurdish origin, determined final yr to journey on foot to Saudi Arabia, a journey of greater than 7,000 kilometres (4,350 miles) that took him by way of 9 nations earlier than he crossed over from Jordan into the northwestern Saudi city of Tabuk.
The journey was made all of the extra dramatic by the truth that when he began his trek 11 months in the past, pushing a cart in entrance of him that contained his meals and different provides, he had no concept whether or not he would have the ability to entry the holy mosques in Mecca and Medina.
It was solely in April that Saudi Arabia, which barred abroad pilgrims in 2020 and 2021 as a part of efforts to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic, introduced that a million Muslims, together with 850,000 from overseas, would have the ability to take part this yr.
Now safely in Mekkah, some 15 kilograms lighter than when he began, Mohammed has no regrets.
“I cried after I first arrived. It’s an unbelievable feeling,” he advised AFP.
“My journey was exhausting. I ended in lots of locations for relaxation. However I used to be targeted on one factor: I’m 53 years previous, so what if I spare 11 months on the highway to succeed in the home of God? It’s doable.”
Mohammed stated Saudi authorities granted him and his spouse and two daughters, who’ve flown from the UK to the Gulf kingdom, a allow to carry out the Hajj.
A lot of the different foreigners performing the pilgrimage have been chosen by way of a lottery system.
‘It’s my dream’
One of many 5 pillars of Islam, the Hajj should be undertaken by all able-bodied Muslims who’ve the means a minimum of as soon as of their lives.
However pandemic restrictions compelled numerous would-be pilgrims primarily based exterior Saudi Arabia to place their plans on maintain.
Often one of many world’s largest spiritual gatherings, about 2.5 million individuals participated in 2019, earlier than the pandemic started.
The next yr, foreigners had been blocked and the overall variety of worshippers was capped at 10,000 to cease the hajj from turning into a worldwide super-spreader.
That determine rose to 60,000 absolutely vaccinated Saudi residents and residents in 2021.
Although the quantity is far larger this yr, there are nonetheless some restrictions: members should be Muslims aged beneath 65 who’re absolutely vaccinated and may submit a detrimental Covid-19 PCR end result from a take a look at taken inside 72 hours of journey.
The Hajj formally begins Wednesday, and Mekkah is already overrun with worshippers who, like Mohammed, are relieved to have lastly reached their vacation spot after lengthy, traumatic waits.
A 30-year-old Russian pilgrim who gave her title as Halima stated she had been imagining her keep in Mekkah for greater than a decade.
The Hajj prices a minimum of $5,000 per individual, and Halima stated she shared her story with mates to drum up funds for each her and her father to come back.
“Yesterday was the primary time I noticed the Holy Kaabah,” she stated. “It’s my dream to be right here, and now I’m dwelling it.”