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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

04/11/1997

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Moslems Make Journey From Moscow to Mecca

Aitmuhammad Aitbayev's smile was as bright as Thursday's sunshine as the cheerful 73-year-old waited to leave for his first hajj, the annual pilgrimage of the world's Moslems to holy sites in Mecca and Medina in Saudia Arabia. Aitbayev, who is from Omsk in Siberia, was one of 114 Russian Moslems who gathered Thursday outside the Moscow Cathedral Mosque in preparation for their departure. ""At least once in your lifetime, you have to go there for your blood and sweat-earned money,"" said Aitbayev, who wore a traditional Tatar skullcap and World War II medals pinned to his jacket. Like most in the group, Aitbayev had to scrimp and save to make the $1,500 trip, drawing on a modest pension and help from his three children. A devout Moslem, he already knows Mecca so well from books that acquaintances believe he has already been there. ""Now I will see it with my own eyes and feel with my hands the place where Adam and Eve met, and the tomb of our Prophet"" he said, his eyes shining with excitement.

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