Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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SAUDI ARABIA: Praying for a miracle

December 16, 2007 |  3:49 pm

Murtaza1 Murtaza Sakha, walks on his tiptoes with an exaggerated side-to-side swing, as if his hip-joints are locked in place.

He can’t walk for very long, and often needs to be carried or pushed in a special chair resembling an oversized stroller.

Afflicted with muscular dsytrophy, Sakha, age 9, has been brought to the pilgrimage by his father Moustafa. Both are quietly hoping for a miracle cure for the disease that is systematically weakening Murtaza’s muscles.

Born in Southern California to Afghan immigrants, Murtaza had seen pictures of the hajj before, of course. But to actually be here, he says, is “amazing.”

His disability, however, is a serious concern amid the frantic crowds of pilgrims — particularly during the ritual revolutions around the Kaaba inside Mecca’s Grand Mosque.

“The first time we went, I was in the chair and it was way too crowded,” he said. “So we went back another time and I rode on my dad’s back.”

Blog Mapper: Tracking the Hajj

— Ashraf Khalil in Mecca