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Millions gather for Arbaeen

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
Millions gather for Arbaeen

Tight security is in place in Iraq for the culmination of the annual pilgrimage procession for Shia Muslims.

Hundreds of thousands walk from Baghdad to the holy city of Karbala to mark the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.

80 kilometres on foot

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shia pilgrims made the 80 kilometre trek on foot from Baghdad and other provinces.

They were escorted by armoured vehicles, soldiers and ambulances.

The Iraqi authorities say millions of Iraqi Shia Muslims have flocked to the religious sites to mark Arbaeen – the end of a 40-day mourning period linked to the seventh century death of Imam Hussein.

Pilgrims visited the holy shrine of Imam Hussein to pay their respects, and some beat their heads and chests with their hands as a sign of grief.

The commemoration reaches its climax after pilgrims converge on foot to attend what is known as the Arbaeen festival.

This reaches its peak on Monday, November 21.


Arbaeen means “forty”.

It is one of the world’s largest religious events, attracting millions of devotees.

It starts from the holy shrine of Imam Ali – the first Shi’ite Imam – and finishes in the holy shrine of Imam Hossein.

Who was Imam Hussein?

The grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.

He was killed for upholding his values, along with around 70 followers, by an army of Umayyads.

They were rivals for the leadership of the Muslim community at the time of the battle in AD 680.


Shia Muslims have commonly been targets of hardline Sunni insurgents during the Arbaeen period.