Azerbaijani Pilgrim Leaves for Makkah on Foot Friday, 08 December 2006 By Shahid Ali Khan RIYADH Shahid Qurbanoo, an Azerbaijani pilgrim who arrived in Riyadh from Baku on foot last week after covering a distance of 4,200 kilometers, left for Makkah Wednesday. He had waited at his country’s embassy in Riyadh for a week to get an extension of his Haj permit. But since he was running out of time, he left for the Holy City with an official paper from the Azerbaijani Embassy in Riyadh. An official of the embassy said Qurbanoo’s passport would be submitted to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs Saturday to complete the visa formalities. “Qurbanoo will be handed over his passport on his way to Makkah once the visa formalities are completed,” he said. The embassy has received assurance from the Saudi authorities for the extension of his visa, the official said. Speaking through an interpreter, Qurbanoo told The Saudi Gazette that his main intention is to perform Haj on foot. “I want to perform all Haj rituals including a visit to the Prophet Mosque in Madina on foot,” he said. Qurbanoo, 39, reached Riyadh on Nov. 30 after traveling on foot from the Azerbaijan capital to Riyadh via territories in Iran and Kuwait. He plans to return home on foot. “I need an extension of my visa until Jan. 15, which will enable me to fulfill my dream of performing Haj and return home on foot,” Qurbanoo said. He said his mother wished him a comfortable journey to Makkah and back home. A father of three, Qurbanoo said he is the first man from Azerbaijan to come on Haj on foot. Azerbaijan, which has a population of 8.3 million, sends around 3,000 pilgrims on Haj every year. He said he carried a backpack of 16 kilograms, which is now reduced to half of its weight when he left Kuwait. Qurbanoo, an ex-army man was badly injured four times consecutively when fighting a war against Armenia in 1992, 1993, and twice in 1994. He said at times his left leg, which has a splint to support the fractured shinbone ached while walking. Just before leaving Riyadh, he said he would walk at least 15 days to cover a distance of around 1,100 kilometers from Riyadh to Makkah.