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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 16:59 GMT
'Oldest' Hajj pilgrim back home
By Narayan Bareth
BBC correspondent in Jaipur

Habib Miyan
Habib Miyan comes home to a reception of garlands
The man said to be the world's oldest pilgrim has returned home after a long cherished dream of performing the Hajj.

Habib Miyan is 125 years old, according to his pension papers, although he claims to be 132.

A resident of the Indian state of Rajasthan, his trip to Mecca was made possible by the generosity of readers of BBC News Online.

"Almighty Allah is great. I am so grateful to all those who helped me in performing my Hajj," he said soon after arriving late on Monday night.

Habib was greeted warmly by local residents in his hometown of Jaipur, where his story received wide publicity.

Relatives and friends thronged his residence with marigold garlands in their hands and congratulated him for completing a successful pilgrimage.

Filled with emotion

Many of them sought his blessings.

"In Mecca I prayed for all those who are ill, poor, needy or blind," he said.

Habib Miyan
Habib is looking forward to his next birthday

"I also prayed for those who extended their support in organising my trip especially the donor from the UK."

"How can I forget the kindness of such a person whom I can never meet," he said, filled with emotion.

Habib's Hajj pilgrimage was made possible by several anonymous donors who had read about him on BBC News Online and his inability to pay for his lifelong dream.

Among the anonymous donors was a taxi-driver from Rotherham in northern England who put up money he was saving for his own Hajj pilgrimage.

The main donation came from a businessman in London who forwarded 270,000 rupees ($5,700) to Habib's bank account.

Centre of attention

In Saudi Arabia the Indian embassy organised his transport and a doctor to monitor his health, Habib - who has now lost his sight - revealed.

Throughout his trip he was the centre of attraction among all the other Hajj pilgrims.

Treated as a special guest, Habib was showered with gifts and sweets by many Saudis.

Local magazines and newspapers covered his trip with great interest.

Habib is now looking forward to celebrating his birthday in May.

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