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Walk to heaven

The Arbaeen walk to Karbala, Iraq, quite unknown abroad, is one of the world’s largest pilgrimages, gathering over 13 millions people. It marks the end of the 40-day mourning period commemorating the death of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein – a formative event in Shiite Islam.

It has been banned many times, including by Saddam Hussein, and has been targeted by many terrorist attacks, in the context of post-2003 Iraq. Despite everything, it represents the largest number of people fed for free and largest group of volunteers serving a single event in the world.

Millions of pilgrims walk to Karbala, some coming from as far as Basra, 500 km away. They walk in long columns, sleeping and eating in maoquibs, tents erected by supporters beside the road, or in houses along the way – as local residents are proud and happy to open their houses. The event has become a powerful display of and solidarity.