Bicycle Diaries: Holy roller

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Holy roller

Chechen senior
completes the Hajj on on his bike

At least once in their lives all able-bodies Muslims who can afford to do so must make the Hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca. Each year, millions from every continent converge on Islam's holiest city for four days of intense prayer and rituals.

And so last week, the vast majority arrived in Saudi Arabia by boat, plane, and automobile. One hajji, however, arrived under his own power. Biking across continents in search of inner fulfillment has become commonplace for young, mostly wealthy, adventure seekers from the developed world.

But Dzhanar-Aliyev Magomed-Ali, who is neither rich nor young, didn't come from the developed world. He came from Chechnya. There two brutal wars between separatists and Russian federal troops have virtually destroyed the semi-autonomous republic since 1994.

The 63-year-old finished his 10-week trip of nearly 12,000 kilometers (over 7,000 miles) on a rickety, rusting bike. With no access to a high-tech Lycra accessories, he made two simple modifications. First, he wrapped a thick woolen cloth around the saddle for comfort. Then he hung a green metal sign under the top tube, mapping out his route. It read in white printed Cyrillic letters:
Urus-Martan, Grozny, Khasavyurt, Makhachkala, Baku, Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, and Urus-Martan.
I put this map together to give you an idea of how he made his way across seven countries and at least four current or recent war zones ...TWICE!

السلام عليكم
(As-Salāmu `Alaykum)

2 February 2007: update here from Lebanon's The Daily Star.
He faced scorpions, snakes and hostile US soldiers and his bicycle took a beating, but the 63-year-old Chechen now back home after cycling to and from Mecca says he is counting his blessings. Dzhanar-Aliyev Magomed-Ali returned to this war-torn Chechnya town on January 18. His pilgrimage, or hajj, to the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, had little in common with the exploits of most Western adventurers.

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Blogger Fritz said...

Wow, what a cool story.

27/1/07 15:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

... I would like to put your Holy Roller post on the demotor site. We would post two or three paragraphs on the demotion digest, then have a "read full article" link to your blog. Pls let me know if this is cool with you.


Will Braun
Geez magazine
264 Home St
Winnipeg MB R3G 1X3
p. 204 772-9610

29/1/07 10:41  
Blogger Da' Square Wheelman, said...

das is kool!


29/1/07 10:42  
Anonymous Hani White said...

Amazing and very inspiring story. Where is a will, there is a way!!!
Hani White

1/2/07 08:34  

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