Two South Africans Make Mecca Pilgrimage by Bike


Cyclists Nathim Cairncross and Imtiyaz Ahmad Haron at Mecca. Photo: Cape 2 Mecca Cycle.

Every year, some 2 million Muslims descend upon Mecca to fulfill the Islamic tenet that every able-bodied believer must make the pilgrimage to the religion's holiest spot at least once in their lives. These days, most people travel by plane to the historical location in what is today Saudi Arabia, causing concern about the environmental impact of the hajj, as the pilgrimage is called. But this year, two young South African Muslims had a different idea: They decided to bike the nearly 7,000-mile journey.Inspired by "epic treks" to Mecca completed in the past, Nathim Cairncross, 28, and Imtiyaz Ahmad Haron, 25, decided to pedal all the way to their destination, a journey that would take them through 12 countries, Wend reports:

For Cairncross and Haron, whose ultimate purpose was to reach Mecca, the journey proved even more rewarding than they expected. They met fellow cyclists, travelers and even border authorities who encouraged and befriended them along the way.

A Nine-Month Journey
Visa problems forced the pair to fly the leg of their journey from Kenya to Turkey, but they cycled to Mecca from there, arriving almost three weeks earlier than planned. Our friends at Green Prophet have a slideshow up of the pedaling pilgrims' long journey.

"In life there's a consistent principle for me," Cairncross told Al Jazeera. "If I work very hard for something, at the end of the day it's sweeter; I value it more."

Of course, not everyone can spend nine months making such a trip, but in addition to being more environmentally friendly, the cyclists' arduous journey re-imbues the idea of "pilgrimage" with a deeper meaning often lost in these technologically easier times, combating a loss of significance to religious principles and observances lamented by adherents to many of the world's faiths.

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Tags: Biking | Religion | Saudi Arabia | South Africa