SARAJEVO: A Bosnian Muslim pilgrim who left last December on pilgrimage to Mecca by foot told AFP on Monday that he has arrived after passing through seven countries including war-torn Syria.
“I arrived Saturday in Mecca. I am not tired, these are the best days of my life,” Senad Hadzic, 47, said when reached by phone on a Saudi mobile number.
He said he had covered some 5,700 kilometres in 314 days of walking through Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria and Jordan to the Muslim holy city in south-western Saudi Arabia, with a backpack weighing 20 kilos.
He charted his progress on his Facebook page, where he posted a picture apparently of an entry/exit card for foreigners issued by the Syrian interior ministry.
“I passed through Syria in April. I walked some 500 kilometres in 11 days. I went through Aleppo and Damascus and passed dozens of check-points held by pro-government and rebel forces alike, but I was never detained,” Hadzic said.
“At a check-point held by (President Bashar) al-Assad's forces the soldier ordered me to empty my backpack ... When I showed them my Koran and explained I was making the pilgrimage on foot, they let me go,” he told AFP.
“I walked in the name of Allah, for Islam, for Bosnia-Hercegovina, for my parents and my sister,” he added.
On his Facebook page he said God had shown him the way in dreams, including to go through Syria instead of Iraq.
During the pilgrimage, Hadzic faced temperatures ranging from minus 35 Celsius (minus 31 Fahrenheit) in Bulgaria to plus 44 Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) in Jordan.
He said he had to wait in Istanbul for several weeks to get permission to cross the Bosphorus Bridge on foot and two months at the border between Jordan and Saudi Arabia to obtain an entry visa.
The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken at least once in a lifetime by all Muslims who are able to.