The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has praised the Iraqi nation for its warm hospitality and provision of services to millions of pilgrims heading to the holy city of Karbala to commemorate Arba’een, which marks 40 days after the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
During the 14th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which ran from December 9 to 14 in the Colombian capital city of Bogota, the world body decided to place the traditional hospitality on its list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
According to the UN cultural body, the ritual is a social practice performed across the central and southern regions of Iraq, from where processions of visitors and pilgrims converge towards Karbala, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
It further noted that the tradition is a social practice with deep roots in the Iraqi and Arab tradition of hospitality, and is an immense display of charity through volunteering and social mobilization and considered to be a defining element of Iraq’s cultural identity.
UNESCO went on to say that the central Iraqi capital of Karbala receives millions of visitors in one of the world’s most populous religious pilgrimages around the 20th of the Islamic lunar calendar month of Safar every year.
Associations set up temporary facilities or reopen more permanent ones, including prayer halls, guest houses and stands, along the pilgrimage routes weeks before Arba’een, and offer various services. Many people also open their houses for free overnight accommodation.
Arba’een marks 40 days since Ashura, when Imam Hussein (PBUH) was martyred in a battle with the massive army of Yazid ibn Mu’awiya, commonly known as Yazid I, in the desert plains of Karbala along with his 72 companions approximately 14 centuries ago, after refusing allegiance to the tyrant caliph.
The occasion has found additional significance in recent years as it has become a rallying cry for the campaign against Takfiri terrorists, who have frequently targeted the pilgrims.
The pilgrims show their commitment to the Shia imam by walking tens of miles, a large number of them barefoot. Mourners clad in black walk toward Karbala to commemorate Arba’een. The mourning ritual fell on October 19 this year.