Provision of services and hospitality during the Arba'in visitation
Inscribed in 2019 (14.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Provision of services and hospitality during the Arba’in visitation is a social practice performed across the central and southern regions of Iraq, from where processions of visitors and pilgrims converge towards the Holy City of Karbala. The tradition – a social practice with deep roots in the Iraqi and Arab tradition of hospitality – is an immense display of charity through volunteering and social mobilization and considered to be a defining element of Iraq’s cultural identity. Every year, around the 20th of the Islamic month of Safar, the Iraqi province of Karbala receives millions of visitors in one of the world’s most populous religious pilgrimages. Hailing from different regions in Iraq and abroad, visitors walk to the Holy Shrine of Imam Hussein. A vast number of people contribute their time and resources to providing the pilgrims with free services along the route. Starting at least two weeks before the date of Arba’in, associations set up temporary facilities or reopen more permanent ones along the pilgrimage routes, including prayer halls, guest houses and stands offering various services. Many people also open their houses for free overnight accommodation. Bearers and practitioners include cooks, families offering hospitality, the administration of the two Holy Shrines in Karbala, volunteer guides, volunteer medical teams, and benefactors contributing generous donations.