They traveled 4,500 kilometers in eight days and have 1,400 more to go. They have come with cameras, honey, art, and home appliances that they are selling along the way to make ends meet. All of this so they can fulfill one of the five pillars of Islam: The Hajj.
Al-Sharq al Awsat daily reports that these people are pilgrims who have all come from republics of the former Soviet Union and have arrived at the Saudi Arabian border about six weeks before the pilgrimage begins. Their journey began in Dagastan and continued through Azerbaijan, Iran and Iraq before finally arriving in Saudi Arabia. From the border they have 1,400 more kilometers to travel before arriving in Mecca. But this distance will give them enough time to pedal their wares that will provide them, not with financial profits, but enough money to provide them with food and fuel.
In Bureida, one commercial area through which the group passed, a merchant said that cameras made in the former Soviet Union were hot item. The merchant said that the international camera brands sold in the kingdom cost around $400, while the pilgrims' cameras started at about $90 and could be bargained down. In Madina, the local merchants have been interested in buying handmade carpets and precious stones sold by Iranian pilgrims as well as the cameras.
But one Georgian pilgrim said the price was only one reason why the Saudi merchants were buying the products. The other, he said, was because the Saudis understand the need to help the pilgrims fulfill their dreams of undertaking the Hajj.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)