When night falls, the pilgrims sleep in towns and villages along the way. The town of Al Hindiya is the last stop before Karbala. It welcomes a lot of people during the last days before the pilgrimage. They set up tents and residents give them food, drink and blankets. Some invite them to stay in their homes.
Security forces were on high alert because Shiites face a big risk of attack. There are soldiers and police everywhere, and helicopters in the sky. There are checkpoints at the entrances to some towns and cities. The idea is to protect people against terrorists, but we know well that it’s impossible to guarantee security given the sheer number of pilgrims. But in spite of the dangers, we cannot be deterred from celebrating Arbaeen.
The pilgrimage ends with a visit to the mausoleum of Ali Hussein, where his body is buried [Editor’s note: various theories exist as to where his head was buried, some claiming it was buried in Cairo, while others claim Damascus]. The prayer in front of the tomb must be brief to give everyone a chance to pray. The pilgrims then continue to celebrate in a court-like space within the mausoleum. Some depict historic scenes while walking on red hot embers, while others hit themselves on the head, to show their devotion. Not all Shiites appreciate these practices, but the pilgrimage is an occasion to see the diversity of the world’s Shia population.