Manama: A Chinese Muslim who biked his way into Saudi Arabia to perform Haj has been richly praised for his feat.
The rider reportedly left his home in Xinjiang, in northwest China, and cycled around 8,150km before arriving in the western Saudi city of Taif, where he was accorded a special welcome by the local cycling club.
Following a brief stay in the city, the Chinese rider, Mohammad, was accompanied by members of the Taif cycling club to Makkah, Saudi news site Sabq reported.
“We were the first cycling club in Saudi Arabia to welcome the Chinese rider and we look forward to other clubs reaching out to him and introducing him to their cities,” Nayef Al Rawas, the head of the Taif club said.
On Saturday, China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) said that 14,500 Chinese Muslims would perform Haj this year.
China has by Friday sent 37 charter flights to carry Chinese Muslims for Haj, and a total of 11,000 Chinese pilgrims have already arrived in Makkah, Xinhua News Agency said.
Haj, the annual gathering of around three million Muslims to perform the fifth pillar of Islam, will be held next month.
Despite formidable challenges, the idea of riding into Saudi Arabia for Haj or Umrah had often been taken up by Muslims, mainly from Asia.
In May 2014, a group of Malaysians rode their bicycles from Kuala Lumpur to Madinah.
The 12 men left from the Malaysian capital and made their way on eight motorbikes and a small van across 12 countries with stops in 53 cities.
The group said the two-month ride was mostly smooth and that the only serious problems they encountered were at the borders of the countries they crossed.
They added that every time they crossed into another country, the Malaysian embassies had to come forward to facilitate their entry.
“It was mostly precautionary measures by the guards at the borders,” they said.
The team leader said that the main purpose of the 60-day ride was to perform Umrah in Makkah. He added that he had made the same trip on three occasions.