Dubai: It’s a case of so near and yet so far. Briton Farid Feyadi is just 150-kilometres away from the Saudi border. But since the country has sealed its land borders with Jordan in wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the 40-year-old cancer survivor has no choice but to wait.
Feyadi reached Jordan on March 3 and has since been sequestered in an apartment in the capital Amman. He can’t abandon the journey. He has come this far from London almost entirely on foot, having trudged a staggering 4,600-km across 11 countries in his quest to reach Mecca in time for the Haj pilgrimage.
Saudi authorities have yet to announce whether they will allow the annual Islamic pilgrimage due to take place at the end of July. But Feyadi is hopeful the country will make an exception for him.
“I am perhaps the first man in history to attempt walking from London to Mecca. When I set out for this seemingly impossible mission many thought I won’t be able to make it. But here I am, on the last leg of my journey,” Feyadi said in a phone interview with Gulf News from Amman.
A fashion designer based out of Manchester, Feyadi said his ‘Walk for Peace’ project is aimed at dispelling distorted and exaggerated notions about Islam. “The media often paints Islam in bad light. Anti-Muslim stereotypes, fueled by rising Islamophobia, have made many people prejudiced against Muslims. As a Muslim I think it’s my duty to break these stereotypes and show to the world that Islam is a religion of justice, kindness, mercy and peace,” he said. “It’s absurd to vilify 1.9 billion Muslims who are spread across the globe and are unrelated to each other except by religious tradition — for the horrible crimes of some terrorists.. And that’s what I have tried to convey.”
Feyadi embarked on the self-funded journey from London on November 3, 2019. After walking for five days, he reached the port of Dover from where he boarded a ferry to Calais, France, in mainland Europe. “Great Britain is an island so I had to take a ferry; it was the only way,” he explained as he recounted his astonnishing journey through 11 countries including Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey and Jordan.”
“It’s been a truly rewarding and enriching experience. Everywhere I went I was showered with love and affection. Strangers hosted me in their homes. People gasped in awe and admiration when I told them about the purpose of my trip. In France, Bosnia and Italy, restaurants refused to let me pay for my meals. In Albania, the owner of a hotel knitted socks for me; in Jordan and Turkey, senior government representatives welcomed me with open arms. When they learnt that I was headed to Mecca they hugged and kissed me. I am overwhelmed by everyone’s thoughtfulness and generosity,” said Feyadi who has worn nearly half a dozen shoes so far.
He has also changed several hand-held golf trolleys which he uses to carry his clothes, camping gear and essentials.
Feyadi, who has lost 27-kg since he left London, said he walks anywhere between 30 and 60-km per day. “The longest I have walked in one day is 83-km. I walk during the day while camping at night. I have had many close shaves while camping. Once, several wild boars tried to sneak into my camp, on another occasion I was spooked by a pack of wolves, they growled menacingly, gnashing their teeth as they tried to encircle me. I had a narrow escape,” recalled Feyadi who was even bitten by a dog enroute to a village in Albania.
Feyadi said the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works and left him stranded in Jordan for over two and half months now.
Other than the ferry ride from Dover to Calais, Feyadi has made one more non foot trip. This was when he took a flight from Turkey’s capital Ankara to Amman to avoid the violence in Syria and Iraq.
Feyadi said he’s praying for things to ease off so that could continue his journey to Saudi Arabia in time for Haj.
Inspiring cancer patients
Aside from his peace message, Feyadi also wants to inspire hope in cancer patients across the world. “I am a kidney cancer survivor. I live with one kidney, having lost the other one to cancer. I have walked through rain and snow for hours but my resolve has never wavered. One must never give up hope,” he said.
After performing Haj, Feyadi plans to visit the UAE. “I have heard wonderful things about the UAE and its visionary leadership and can’t wait to go there.” he said. However, he’s not sure if he will visit the country on foot. “It will be on a bicycle most likely,” said Feyadi who planning to write a book about his epic journey.
11 is the number of countries he has travelled through on foot on his way to Saudi Arabia
30-60 km is the average distance Feyadi covers daily