Man on a mission: Zulkepli overcame challenges and a very long journey to fulfil his lifelong dream of performing the umrah. — Bernama
After travelling 18,000km over 108 days on a motorcycle, Zulkepli Mo’minin’s dream of setting foot in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to perform the umrah has finally come true.
Zulkepli, 55, a tasbih (prayer beads bracelet) trader, safely arrived in the Holy Land on Monday after starting a solo journey on July 8 from Gombak, Selangor, travelling across 11 countries, including Thailand, Laos, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
On his experience, Zulkepli, who is a father of five children, said one unforgettable event was that he had to stay in Iran for more than a month, compared with the original plan of 11 days, due to documentation problems in entering Iraq, especially at Shalamche, located at the Iran-Iraq border.
He said that Iraq was the third-last destination along his route, before arriving in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
He did not expect that such a bad situation could occur, as it would only take a distance of 100km to transit Iraq from Shalamche to Safwan, which is at the Iraq-Kuwait border.
“Before starting this expedition, according to the little information I got from travellers who have entered Iraq, if you have a transit visa with no overnight stay in the country, there should not be a problem – you can just enter the country.
“However, the opposite occurred at the Iran-Iraq border, at Shalamche, as Iraqi officials did not allow me to enter, so I had to turn back to the city of Khorramshahr, which is only 20km from Shalamche, to spend the night and think about the next course of action,” he said when contacted by Bernama.
Zulkepli said to solve the problem, he had to temporarily leave his motorcycle and take a flight from the city of Ahvaz to Teheran which is 900km away to apply for a visa from the Iraqi Embassy.
“To cut a long story short, the Iraqi Embassy finally approved my visa application after 15 days in Tehran … although at one point, I was at a loss thinking about the bureaucracy of Iraqi officials and just wanted to take a flight from Teheran to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,” he added.
He also faced another challenge, which was having to go through a rocky path in one of the mountains in Kyrgyzstan for 450km.
“Even though I had to go through various tests and hardships throughout this expedition, I just accepted it because it was all Allah’s will, and the test was, in fact, a blessing for me,” he added.
Zulkepli said he would be in Mecca and Madinah for a few more days before taking a flight back home, and his motorcycle would be sent home via sea cargo.
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