Two-year road trip before Haj for South African Indians

July 29th, 2008 - 11:04 am ICT by IANS  

By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, July 29 (IANS) Scoffing at sceptics who have described it as “impossible”, a 63-year-old South African Indian builder has set off with a friend to undertake a road trip across Africa and Asia before ending in Saudi Arabia to perform the Haj pilgrimage two years from now. Abdool Samath Ismail sold his two homes to finance his trip, which he said had been a childhood dream, while Ayoob Vawda has given up his motor spares business to join his long-time friend.

Travelling in a Toyota 4X4 which has been specially rigged out with a fridge, mattress, grocery compartment and space for 80 litres of extra diesel, the two set off Monday from their small home town of Glencoe in KwaZulu-Natal province, with the first stop being Nelspruit, close to the border with Swaziland.

From there they plan to drive across Mozambique to Tanzania, where they intend to spend the entire holy month of Ramadan before continuing the trek across the continent. Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan are in their sights before they take a three-month break in Cairo, where their families will meet them.

Then the trip restarts to Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and China before ending again in Mecca in Saudi Arabia to give thanks to Allah with Haj.

The return trip the pair proposes is across Yemen and Djibouti in Africa as they hope to be back home in time for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, to be hosted in South Africa.

With a budget of two million rands ($270,000), Ismail and Vawda are confident that they will succeed, although their own families and friends have joined other ardent adventurers in calling them “very optimistic” to get through all the dangers of civil wars, marauding bandits and even the difficulty of securing paperwork to pass through some countries in the areas that they plan to go through.

Vawda once toured across Europe on a bicycle, but as his friends pointed out, that was a very different situation. The two men have put their faith in God before the usual extensive backup team and advance logistical arrangements that similar ventures by intrepid adventurers consist of.

For Ismail though, it will be a dream come true. “You only live once and I want to make the most of this lifetime while I still have the good health that Allah has blessed me with,” he said.

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