These two pioneered how cycling thousands of miles to Mecca can be done.
Every year, millions of Muslims from all corners of the world board a flight heading to Saudi Arabia to fulfill their pilgrimage to Mecca. While there are no figures on the carbon footprint of these flights, they must make up a decent chunk of the overall carbon produced during hajj season and undermine the possibility of a truly ‘Green Hajj‘.
Two pilgrims from South Africa- Natheem Cairncross, 28 and Imtiyaz Haron, 25- however, decided to take a different route and embarked on an epic nine-month trip from Cape Town to Mecca by bike. Cycling almost 6,800 miles from South Africa to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, this slideshow follows them on their inspirational journey through Africa and the Middle East to their final destination.
What is Hajj?
Hajj is a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. The Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca takes place in the last month of the Muslim year, and all Muslims are expected to make it to Mecca at least once during their lifetime. Hajj is a pilgrimage made to the Kaaba, the “House of God”, in the sacred city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Hajj is a pilgrimage made to the Kaaba, the “House of God”, in the sacred city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Natheem and Imtiyaz in South Africa with supporters.
The pair started their journey back in February 2010 in Cape Town and went on to cycle through Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Turkey, Syria and Jordan. Since their travels, hundreds maybe thousands have made the journey.
Although Natheem and Imtiyaz planned to cycle the entire journey, their plans were scuppered when they couldn’t get visas for Ethiopia and Sudan.
They were forced to change their route and decided to fly to Turkey and cycle the rest of the journey from there.
“Cycling all the way from Cape Town to Mecca would to most people seem an impossible task,” they say.
“This thought did occur to us in the initial stages but after reading and meeting so many that have undertaken similar journeys, we grew confidant, positive and started to believe that we can achieve this goal.
After three years of contemplation we finally set off on this historic journey with open minds, bare necessities…”
Enjoying a moment’s rest in Tanzania.
The pair have spent months saving for their nine-month journey to Mecca by bike.
Natheem sold his car and they both also received a lot of help and support from their families and communities as well as the people they met on their journey.
In a Syrian market
The pair said that they were blown away by the generosity of the people they met along especially in Syria where where children ran up to their bicycles and invited them home to lunch.
They added that although they were on a tight budget, they always managed to find food and shelter- usually offered by people they met who were always eager to hear about their journey.
Natheem and Imtiyaz take a break from Jordan’s rocky terrain.
Neither Natheem or Imtiyaz are professional cyclists and had to undertake training for the long trek so that they could endure the rugged terrain and any problems thrown at them.
Despite several tire punctures, broken chains and cushion malfunctions they usually managed to cycle 80-100km per day.
Natheem and Imtiyaz at their final destination: Mecca!
The pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the five pillars of Islam and every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must undertake the journey at least once in their lifetime.
If you’re green minded, and healthy, why not do it by bike!
More cyclists make it to Hajj
Check out the videos below for some ideas.
These cyclists did Hajj from Macedonia
These cyclists travelled from Malaysia
These guys cycle from London to Medina