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Chinese man cycles for four months to Makkah for Hajj

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Perhaps the single most challenging aspect of the hajj is the huge distances many have to cover in order to arrive at the holy city of Mecca; and this is likely why it is the final and only optional pillar of Islam. Air travel has doubtless made the journey much easier, exponentially increasing the number of pilgrims. But some are doing away with the ease of travel that has come with technological advancement, and they’re putting an environmental twist on the 1,300 year old practice.

Mohammad, whose second name is unknown,reportedly took off from his home in Xinjiang, China to the western Saudi city of Taif in the Mecca province. His pilgrimage covered 8,150 km, which would take a professional cyclist two to three months to complete.

Mohamad the cyclist would have had to pass through Iran and war-torn Iraq before riding through Saudi Arabia to Taif, where he was received by a local cycling club.

“We were the first cycling club in Saudi Arabia to welcome the Chinese rider and we look forward to other clubs reaching out to him and introducing him to their cities,” said Nayef Al Rawas, the head of the Taif club, according to Gulf News.

According to Chinese authorities, 37 charter flights have already carried Chinese Muslims for hajj. There are 14,500 Chinese pilgrims heading to Mecca of which 11,000 have already arrived.

This isn’t the first time someone has cycled their way to performing hajj.

In 2007, 63-year-old Muslim man from Chechnya, Dzhanar-Aliev Magomed-Ali biked about 12,000 kilometers to perform hajj because of “a promise he made to his dying mother,” according to Al Arabiya.

In 2010, Cape Town friends Nathim Cairncross and Imtiyaz Ahmad Haron, pedalled their way across Africa for eight months, finally crossing the Saudi border three weeks before hajj.

They cycled 80-100km per day, starting after Fajr prayer, and stopping at night at hotels, campsites, or mosques, where they would tell their story to welcoming listeners who would then invite them to stay the night and eat a meal.

Imtiyaz Haron and Nathim Cairncross left Cape Town in February 2010 and arrived in Makkah nine months later [Photo courtesy Cape2Mecca]
Imtiyaz Haron and Nathim Cairncross left Cape Town in February 2010 and arrived in Makkah nine months later [Photo courtesy Cape2Mecca]
The two began planning their journey in December the previous year, shortly after Haron floated the idea to Cairncross, his friend of nearly seven years.

Inspired by the stories of pilgrims that had made the arduous journey to Mecca before him, Haron decided that he wanted to join their ranks and enlisted Cairncross to come along – with a twist. The two would make the trek using only their bicycles.

However, despite the uncertainty of the future, they said they knew the trip was more than worth the effort when they stepped foot into the confines of Mecca.

“It was an incredible feeling,” Cairncross said.

“It was storming when we got to Mecca, with thunder and lightening. But we were so keen to get in, to see the Kaaba for the first time.

“Making tawaf (the circulation around the Kaaba) with your ihram (unstitched garments worn by pilgrims) soaking through – the rain was like mercy coming down on us. Not that we’re special, but it felt like, God willing, our efforts were accepted.”

[Source: 5pillarsUK/ Al Jazeera]
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