‘Hajj Riders’ reach Madinah after five weeks in the saddle

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The cyclists from London will rest in Madinah and begin preparations to complete Hajj. (Photo by Seif Al-Mutairi)
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(Photo by Seif Al-Mutairi)
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(Photo by Seif Al-Mutairi)
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(Photo by Seif Al-Mutairi)
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(Photo by Seif Al-Mutairi)
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(Photo by Seif Al-Mutairi)
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(Photo by Seif Al-Mutairi)
Updated 24 August 2017
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‘Hajj Riders’ reach Madinah after five weeks in the saddle

JEDDAH: Cyclists in Madinah are a rare sight. It is even rarer to see eight of them arriving from the UK after a five-week journey in the saddle to take part in the Hajj pilgrimage.
The “Hajj Riders” started from the East London Mosque in the British capital and cycled across France, Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
They reached Jeddah on Friday and rested for a day before making their way to Madinah, where they were greeted with songs and dancing, and showered with flower petals and Zamzam water.
“We’ve been through rain, sunshine, sandstorms and through the Swiss Alps,” said Taher Akhtar, from Maidenhead in Berkshire, who was overwhelmed with emotion and shed a few tears as he stepped off his bicycle in Madinah.
“We’ve been up at 10,000 ft elevation and suffered frozen fingers and noses, but because Allah is with us, He made it easy. We are all blessed.”
Another of the cyclists, Saifullah Nasser, an imam from Northampton, said: “People from Russia and China have cycled to Hajj in the past. We are all cycling enthusiasts, but none of us are professional athletes. Going for Hajj is not difficult. I have done it before but felt that in order to appreciate the highs you have to experience the lows, and there were a few, but by the grace of Allah we have made it safely.”
The cyclists left Jeddah by car at 9 a.m. on Saturday and arrived 45 km outside Madinah, where they were joined by members of two Saudi cycling clubs, who rode with the pilgrims along the Hijra Highway.
“The highway you will be riding on was built along the same route that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) took when he traveled from Makkah to Madinah,” an official from the Ministry of Culture and Information explained before the team set off on their bicycles.
The ride took about two hours, with a police escort and support vehicles, and many spectators gathered by the side of the road to take photos and cheer the cyclists on.
There were so many people watching that the cyclists had to dismount about 500 meters from the Prophet’s Mosque, and continue on foot.
They bowed their heads in prayer and silently walked into the Prophet’s Mosque to give thanks for the completion of their journey, which aims to raise funds to support charity organizations in Syria.
The cyclists will rest in Madinah and begin preparations to complete the Hajj, which begins at the end of this month.


Saudi MERS outbreaks killed 23 over four months: WHO

Updated 19 min 56 sec ago
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Saudi MERS outbreaks killed 23 over four months: WHO

  • The latest figures take the number of confirmed cases to 2,220 since September 2012, including 1,844 from Saudi Arabia
  • The disease is hard to spot, partly because it often infects people with an underlying condition such as diabetes, renal failure or chronic lung disease

GENEVA: Outbreaks of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) killed 23 people in Saudi Arabia between Jan. 21 and May 31 this year, the World Health Organization said on Monday.
The deaths were among 75 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) during the period, the WHO said, and take the total number of deaths from the disease to 790 since it was first diagnosed in humans in 2012.
The latest figures take the number of confirmed cases to 2,220 since September 2012, including 1,844 from Saudi Arabia.
One outbreak in February hit a private hospital in Hafer Albatin region, where the patient passed the disease to three health workers. There was another cluster of six cases in a hospital in Riyadh in the same month, although no health care workers were infected.
Two other clusters affected households in Jeddah and Najran.
MERS-CoV is a member of a virus family ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. It appears to have emerged in humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012, although it has been traced in camels, the source of the infection, back to at least 1983.
The disease is hard to spot, partly because it often infects people with an underlying condition such as diabetes, renal failure or chronic lung disease.
But it kills one in three sufferers, and hospital workers are at risk unless extreme caution is taken to identify MERS sufferers early and to protect health care workers from infection via airborne droplets such as from coughs and sneezes.
Susceptible people should avoid contact with suspected cases and with camels, and anyone who has contact with animals should wash their hands before and afterwards, the WHO said. Everyone should avoid drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating undercooked meat.
Three MERS cases have been reported this year outside Saudi Arabia. Oman and the United Arab Emirates each reported a case, while in Malaysia a man fell ill after drinking unpasteurised camel milk during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.