By Neelam Rahim
Three friends travelling from Tajikistan to Mecca to perform Hajj said it had been an unforgettable spiritual journey – a trip full of adventure, kindness and hope.
After travelling thousands of miles from Dushanbe, the capital of the Central Asian country, the trio are in the UAE on World Bicycle Day, which falls on June 3, a strange coincidence.
For Gafurov Dilovar, Nazarov Saidali and Talabov Shokir, all in their 30s, the arduous road trip were one of the only possible ways to go on a pilgrimage. According to reports, the Tajikistan government prohibits citizens under 40 from making pilgrimages and wants to give older people a chance.
“We are all friends. We decided to undertake the pilgrimage on our cycles. We have prepared for this journey since the start of the year. We are on a month-long bike ride. We have faced several issues, from hot weather, sand and dust storms, and windy conditions to flat tyres, language barriers, sleeping on the road, and other things, but we have overcome all these hurdles. We are waiting to get visas from the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Dubai to continue our journey,” said Gafurov, a 37-year-old entrepreneur and father of two children.
Through the rugged mountains, the biking trio, who speaks only Russian and Persian, began their journey after the end of the holy month of Ramadan. He first tried to ride through neighbouring Turkmenistan, but a 20-day Covid-19 quarantine was mandatory for entry into the country. So they tried to find an alternate route through the Afghanistan-Uzbekistan border but again failed due to the new geopolitical situation. They then went to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, covering areas such as the historic 2,000-year-old city of Bukhara.
“When one door closed, another would open. The paths kept changing, but our journey never stopped. We are here in Dubai hoping to get a visa to go to Saudi Arabia to perform Haj,” said Saidali, 31, who runs a grocery store and is a father of three.
From Tashkent, they flew to Baku in Azerbaijan. They then hit the road crisscrossing through several ancient cities of Iran like Qazvin – the country’s calligraphy capital and Isfahan – one of the most important cities in the Silk Roads programme. They finally took a ferry from Bandar Abbas to reach Sharjah.
“It has been quite a journey of spiritual awakening. We have passed through villages and hilly terrain, riding in scorching heat during the day and chilly nights. We ate roadside food and camped outside mosques at night. We travelled with essential equipment like maps, tents, some snacks etc.,” said 34-year-old Shokir, a businessman and father of four.
They have prayed at several landmark mosques and paid their tributes on the tombs of martyrs and saints.
“In the past 30 days, we have been to different countries and cultures and made many new friends. We have learnt a lot of new lessons in life. We could help people fix their flat tyres. We got support from several people whom we met for the first time. We always believed we could complete this pilgrimage to Haj, and we are now almost there. After visiting the Consulate on Friday, we hope to get visas soon to travel,” Dilovar added.
In Dubai, they are being assisted by their friend Mohammed Jon.
“In the past 30 days, we’ve been to different countries and cultures and made many new friends. We’ve learned so many new lessons in life. We’ll help people fix their flat tires. With whom we met for the first time. We always believed that we could complete this pilgrimage for Hajj, and now we are almost there. We hope to get visas for the journey very soon.”
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