Contrary to the old saying, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq love to eat and run. In fact, they enjoy it so much that they're spending the entire month of Ramadan doing just that.
The two New Yorkers are on a quest to visit 30 mosques in 30 states in 30 days, arriving at their destinations in time to break the sunrise-to-sunset fast that is part of the celebration of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. They're scheduled to eat in Minneapolis on Friday evening.
"Originally, this was about the mosques," Ali said by cell phone as Tariq drove. "And we've seen some beautiful mosques, but the trip has turned out to be more about the people we meet along the way. We've met some truly wonderful people."
The 12,000-mile trip started in New York City on Aug. 11. After a brief swing north into Maine, they have been driving the perimeter of the lower 48 states: South to Florida, west to Los Angeles, then north to Boise before turning east. Thursday night they'll be in Fargo; Saturday they'll be in Milwaukee. The last stop is Dearborn, Mich., on Sept. 10.
"The longest drive on any given day is 10 hours, but most days it ends up being six to eight hours," Ali said.
Some of the cities they visit are new to them. Others, like Minneapolis, are familiar. Ali, a stand-up comic, has performed in the Twin Cities several times, most recently at the Acme Comedy Club.
"Wherever we go, the acceptance has been amazing," he said. "We haven't spent a dime on a hotel. Every place we visit, there are people inviting us to stay with them."
Ali, 25, and Tariq, 23, an advertising copywriter, did a much shorter version of the trip last year. Both transplants to New York, they decided to get to know the city's Muslim community by visiting a different mosque every night during Ramadan. It started as a private quest but eventually became public.
"Our friends kept telling us that we should start a blog," Ali said. "So finally we did it. The response was incredible. We got e-mails from South Africa, Vietnam and even Luxembourg."
They are blogging again about this trip. Every day they post pictures and tell the stories about the community they are visiting.
They're inviting Minnesotans to join them in breaking the fast Friday evening, but because things happen on the road over which they have no control, they ask that you e-mail them to make sure their plans don't change at the last minute.
Although their trip is framed by a controversy over a proposed mosque near ground zero in New York City, "we're trying hard not to get sucked into that debate," Ali said. "This isn't about politics. This is an adventure."
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392