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Starting my walk from Washington

Written By | Nov 20, 2015

BEIRUT, Nov. 20, 2015 —Working and traveling so much in the past few months, I had little time to prepare for the trip ahead. It wasn’t until about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, the night before my travel overseas, did I get the chance to do some shopping.

Comfortable, durable, high-endurance walking shoes. I needed those, of course. Our plan was to walk at least the distance between Najaf and Karbala — approximately 75 km or 50 miles.

Iraq’s deserts have a scorching sun during the day and a piercing cold during the night. Add some thermal tops and bottoms for that, and a solid weatherproof sweater jacket. I made sure to include an ankle wrap, a knee brace, and a wrist brace. I’m guessing if you wrap up old injuries you can prevent new ones.

Throw in some Dri-Fit socks, a couple of hoodies, lightweight sweats, and your favorite dashdasha and you’re good to go. I couldn’t get the dashdasha from the mall though — they didn’t sell them there. I was in luck though, because my brother-in-law bought me one last year. Thumbs up, bro.

Walk with me: From Detroit to Karbala Part 1

My wife met me at the store to make sure I didn’t buy “too much stuff.” Wives are great in that regard. They keep us in check and provide the support we need. Thanks, wife. We stopped by a local Mexican restaurant to have a late dinner before returning home. We were starved. A long day of work topped with shopping is a recipe for a boom in restaurant business. Our friends at the Mexican joint were happy. So were we, we love Mexican food! As we left the restaurant full from sofritas and guacamole, we walked back to our apartment and reviewed the items we got. Crossing the street only two blocks away from our apartment, we escaped an imminent accident.

As we crossed the street, a commercial bus made a sharp turn driving straight at us. It didn’t yield. It accelerated in our direction. Seeing the bus heading straight for us, we pulled each other simultaneously, jumped out of harm’s way and escaped the impact by only inches. Leaping to the corner of the road, we stood in disbelief; so did the drivers and pedestrians around us.

For a few seconds everyone just stood there. It was as if the city stopped and reflected for those few moments. “That bus almost killed us,” my wife said to me. “We saved each other’s lives!” I replied in laughter but couldn’t be any more serious.

We walked home slowly, nauseated from the quick movement and unsettling experience of almost getting run over by a commercial bus. I couldn’t help thinking, what if that bus did hit us? What if we didn’t pay attention to leap out of harm’s way and were crushed by the impact? Well one thing’s for sure: I wouldn’t be writing this piece here. It made me realize to even a greater degree… Life is short. The time we spend here needs to be meaningful.

Going on this journey to experience the walk to Karbala with millions of others and seeking to understand their struggles, hardships, tests and trials – that has a great deal of meaning. It’s funny. I had a near-death experience and I didn’t even get to Iraq yet. Goes to show you, you can go at any time. It doesn’t matter where you are. More than 15 million visitors to Karbala last year during the Arbaeen and not a single casualty. Seems like a pretty safe place to me.

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Jalal Moughania

Jalal Moughania is a law and policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. He is an associate at Humanize Global, a private international research and advisory firm. Moughania’s research focuses on Middle East policy with an emphasis on Iraq and the Levant. He holds a J.D. in Law and a B.A. in Political Science.