Energized by faith, seven men from Hyderabad have embarked on an arduous journey on foot to visit the shrine of Hazrat Imam Hussain, in Karbala, Iraq.
The devout group of seven Shi’ia Muslims is led by Syed Abdul Ali, a 66-year-old hotelier from Purani Haveli.
The group expects to cover 35 to 40 km everyday by walking for 8 hours on the National Highway 44, the longest north-south highway in the country. They pilgrims expect to reach New Delhi by the end of February.
Currently in Toopran, 60 km away from Hyderabad, the group will journey about 6000 km and are expected to complete it by end of August.
The group will fly into Tehran from New Delhi to avoid crossing into Pakistan on foot. From there, they will walk to Yazd in Iran, pass into Iraq on foot and walk to the holy centre of Karbala.
A vehicle carrying supplies such as food and water will accompany them until the national capital.
And this is hardly the first time for a few members of the group.
Abdul Ali has previously journey to Karbala on foot three times. “The first time I walked from Hyderabad to Karbala was in 1998 with a group of 14 men. I wanted to walk as it would increase the hardships in the pilgrimage, increasing the rewards from the journey. We repeated this trip in 1999,” he said.
After this, Abdul Ali, revisited the shrine in Karbala only ten years later, in 2009.
“I had some personal issues during those years and by 2009 I was ready to traverse the difficult roads to Karbala for the third time,” he said.
This time, the group, which has dwindled to seven people, even prepared by walking 8 hours everyday, three months before the journey. Further, he added that they strictly observe a vegetarian diet during these months.
“We resume eating meat only after leaving Iraq. We carry with us a gas stove, cylinders, dal, rice and vegetables to cook as we move from place to place,” he added.
When asked if they encourage women pilgrims to join this holy walk, Abdul Ali responded that it was not encouraged as it is an extremely hard journey.
“If they come, they will have to continue walking and complete 6000 kms. It is very hard and we don’t encourage female pilgrim to join us. Further, it is difficult to take care of their needs during the journey,” he said.
Speaking about the hardships, Abdul Ali said that dehydration is very common among the pilgrims and they need to hydrate themselves frequently. Further, the journey becomes harder as they suffer from continuous blisters on their foot from prolonged walking.
The six accompanying Abdul Ali are Ali Asgher, 31, Syed Shareef-ul-Hassan, 28, Mir Asim Ali Mosvi, 33, Mir Sadeq Ali Naqvi, 33, Syed Ali Mohammed Razvi, 31, and Syed Muqtaar Ahmed, 37.