Imam Ali

The most important places for Muslims are Mecca and Medina, which you can’t visit as a non-believer. The third site on that list is the Shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf. Ali was the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and was the fourth Rashidun caliph who ruled from 656 to 661, as well as the first Shia imam. Young Ali was raised by his elder cousin Muhammad and was among the first to accept his teachings.

Scenes of the life of Imam Ali where everywhere along the road

We had finally decided to go to a hotel, as it was too hot to sleep in the camper again. We could park our camper at the parking of our hotel and had a nap before we went out to visit Ali.

ZamZam Hotel @ Najaf

First we came to Wadi-us-Salaam, the largest cemetery in the world, close to the Shrine of Ali. The cemetery covers 6 km2 and contains more than 6 million bodies. Many Shi’ites in Iraq request that they be buried in this cemetery to be close to Ali. As a result of improved transportation methods, now also Shi’ites from across the globe are seeking to be buried in this cemetery. 

At the hotel we had been warned, that tonight there were even more people in town, as somebody important had died. On the way to the area of the shrine, we had to go through body controls, of course separately for men and women. We entered the shrine separately without shoes and were checked twice more. I followed the signs to the shrine through a mosque like area where many women were sitting on the floor, talking or reciting the Koran. When I was in front of a narrow passageway packed with women in black Abayas and head scarfs, I gave up. I didn’t want to queue squeezed in with them, to see a shrine which has no significance to me. Already getting so far was an interesting experience.

At the end of this room the narrow passage was blocked with women

Edi was more lucky, he could enter the courtyard and was standing in front of the Iman Ali Shrine.

When we met outside again, we strolled around the building and through the bazaar until we reached our hotel again. We were happy to sleep in an air-conditioned room and not in our overheated camper. The next morning we got a lovely breakfast with local treats, a great way to start another day in Iraq.

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