Two South Africans celebrate cycling to Mecca

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South Africans cycle from Cape Town to Mecca
Image caption,
The men spent nine months cycling from Cape Town to Mecca

Two South Africans have told the BBC of their joy at cycling almost 11,000km (6,800 miles) to Saudi Arabia for the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage.

Natheem Cairncross, 28 and Imtiyaz Haron, 25, reached Mecca days before it started - ending a nine-month journey from Cape Town.

"It was a life-changing experience. I would definitely do it again," Mr Cairncross told the BBC.

Millions of Muslims descend on Mecca every year for the religious ritual.

The pair say they spent months saving for the journey.

"I sold my car and my friend had to sell some of his possessions to raise money for the trip," Mr Cairncross said.

"We also received a lot of help from our families, communities and the people we met along the way."

But their trip met with some challenges, including not getting visas to enter a couple of countries.

"We had to change course because we could not get visas for Ethiopia and Sudan so we then decided to fly to Turkey and cycle the rest of the way from there," he told the BBC's Africa Have Your Say programme.

The route included cycling through Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Turkey, Syria and Jordan.

"We were determined to do it because we wanted to complete our Hajj this year, because we knew it would lead to a special relationship with our creator," he said.

"There came points where we weren't enthusiastic, but there was never a time where we thought to turning the bikes around and going back to Cape Town."

Muslims describe the yearly event as the "final pillar of Islam" - and believe attending the pilgrimage strengthens their relationship with Allah.

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