Issue 283, Friday 30 November 2012 - 16 Muharram 1434
Bosnian man walks to Hajj
By Elham Asaad Buaras
Images from Senad Hadzic's journey from Bosnia to Saudi Arabia
A Bosnian pilgrim who left last December on pilgrimage to Makkah by foot arrived after passing through seven countries including war-torn Syria.
Senad Hadzic had covered some 5,700 kilometres (3,540 miles) in 314 days of walking through Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria and Jordan to Makkah, with a backpack weighing 20 kilos.
“I arrived Saturday [October 20] in Makkah. I am not tired, these are the best days of my life,” said the 47 year old.
He charted his progress on his Facebook page which had a following of nearly 8,000 people; there he posted a photo of his journey including an entry/exit card for foreigners issued by the Syrian interior ministry.
He took “no water, no food”, and said it was a copy of the Qur’an, which he said helped him avoid getting into trouble when crossing Syria last April.
“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.
“I walked in the name of Allah, for Islam, for Bosnia-Hercegovina, for my parents and my sister,” he added. Hadzic faced temperatures ranging from minus 35 Celsius in Bulgaria to plus 44 Celsius 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.
He had been strongly advised to go through Iraq instead of troubled Syria but dreamed of Damascus and said he thought: “God wanted him to go this way.”
He admitted to being particularly worried about the Syrian leg of the journey, saying: “I knew there was a war. You can get killed every 10 minutes there.”
In the 11 days it took Hadzic to walk through Syria, he said he was arrested 10 times at checkpoints by both the regular and opposition army but was never detained.
“At the first [regular army] checkpoint I was asked to empty my backpack. When I pulled out the Qur’an and the Bosnian flag, the officer told me to put my stuff back in and to continue my journey.”
He said “the Qur’an was my visa”, explaining that the regular and the opposition army showed “a lot of respect for what I was doing”.
He described Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers as polite and welcoming, “greeting me in English or Russian”, and said both sides “expressed a wish that I would not to get killed in Syria. They were telling which way I should go not to get killed by the other side. Thank God I’m alive.”
He praised the “wonderful” Syrian people who live in “great fear” but showed him the safest routes, fed him, and gave him “oranges and apples” in the streets.
“In Damascus, when I said what I was doing, everything was cheaper for me,” he said, smiling. When he tells his story in Makkah, “people are amazed at how well I was treated in time of war.” He paused. “It was really incredible.”
Hadzic liked walking at night and tried it in Syria, assuming it would be safer as the fighting would stop. He quickly gave up. “It’s impossible, anyone can get shot, including me,” he said.
If he left Syria in one piece, things didn’t go as well in Serbia. “Two times I was beaten up, two other times people threw stones.”