"The city that never sleeps" prepares to host the world's largest human gathering


Shafaq News / The city of Karbala is best described as "the city that never sleeps". It is home to the largest pilgrimage in the world, with its residents and the free service they provide for the Arba'een pilgrims.

During the Arba'een, Karbala's service and security personnel stay on high alert, planning and preparing to receive millions of pilgrims while also providing various services within the city and along the "Ya Hussein" road, passing through Najaf, Babel, al-Husseiniya, and Baghdad.

The Administrative Body of the Imam Hussein holy shrine in Karbala anticipated that the number of Arba'een pilgrims from inside and outside Iraq will approach twenty million this year. As a result, the city continues to prepare day and night.

The huge number of visitors helps to revitalize the city's economy. "During the Arba'een, my work increases due to the high number of pilgrims; there is no time to rest or sleep, so I hired workers to help me during this season," said Abu Ali, a shop owner in the Hindiya district (the eastern entrance to Karbala).

He added, "pilgrims mostly buy rice, chicken, vegetable oil, lentils, beans, and tomato paste; water packs used to be sold for 1250 dinars, but the price rose to 1600 dinars due to increased demand."

"In Karbala, markets stay open until late hours during the Arba'een season."

The work of Karbala locals thrives during the Arba'een pilgrimage season. They work day and night to meet this vast population's demands, thus helping improve the economic status of thousands of families.

"The work during the Arba'een season is nothing like the rest of the year," said Kadhim Abd Ali, owner of a barbershop in Karbala. "Working hours double, and sometimes we work till dawn."

"Extra staff is also hired to help maintain the momentum of customers who want to shave or trim their hair, so barbershops in Karbala remain open until the morning," Ali continued.

On the other hand, restaurants' work usually declines. During Arba'een, free meals and snacks are distributed for free all the time. "I serve lentil soup as breakfast in my procession, and at lunch and dinner I serve grilled kebabs and kibbeh, in addition to fast food," said Sajjad, owner of a procession in Karbala.

Sajjad says he chose those meals because, "pilgrims eat rice, Kiyma, and tishreeb along the road, so I liked to change that and serve something different."

"Most women do not get a full night's sleep, as they help the men, especially in cooking," Um Falih said of women's part in Karbala during the Arba'een season.

"Breakfast must be ready at three a.m., lunch and dinner are also prepared early. Bread is prepared by volunteering girls, each of whom bakes 100 loaves daily. We also wash the pilgrims' clothes. So, for two weeks, the women of Karbala do not sleep, but serve pilgrims."

Every year, millions of people from different Islamic and non-Islamic sects and various parts of the world participate in the Arba'een, i.e., the largest human gathering in the world, because of its religious, cultural, social, and psychological perspectives, as well as the political and economic value that cast a positive shadow on the peoples of the region and the world.

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