- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

An Afghan dentist and professional cyclist who rode across the Mideast and Europe in the past 10 months arrived in Washington yesterday to meet with his nation's ambassador to the United States.
Nader Nangarhari, 38, comes to the final country in his 5,000-mile journey with the hope of presenting a letter to President Bush thanking him and the American people for their assistance in rebuilding Afghanistan after routing the Taliban.
Dr. Nangarhari flew to Washington on Sunday, nearing the end of a journey that began in April in Kabul, Afghanistan. Yesterday, he rode his mountain bike to the Afghan Embassy on Wyoming Avenue NW. There, he embraced and ate with his country's ambassador to the United States, Ishaq Shahryar.
While he met a number of obstacles on his journey, including a collision with a truck that left him in a coma for a day, he said the assistance of Afghan embassies in several countries along with aid and encouragement from individuals pulled him through.
He sometimes fell asleep beneath the awnings of homes and businesses. Communicating with a sort of sign language, or some English he had picked up along the way, helped him get food and shelter from ordinary citizens.
"When I was in every one of these [countries], everyone has helped me out and cheered me on," he said through a translator.
After Dr. Nangarhari's run-in with a truck, the Turkish government paid for his surgery. The Bulgarian government provided him with the third bike of his trip when he wore out his second. He also traveled through the Czech Republic, France, Hungary and the United Kingdom, among other nations.
Dr. Nangarhari said many Afghans consider Mr. Bush a hero, delivering liberty to a nation plagued by years of civil war.
The letter, he said, is a "message of peace" from the people of Afghanistan.
He also wants to draw attention to Afghan orphans who have not received enough schooling, the land mines left in his country's soil from the Soviet invasion and civil war, and the unequal treatment to which women there are subjected.
This morning, he will begin pedaling to New York City, where he wants to present a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan thanking the organization for its help in rebuilding Afghanistan. He wants to plant an Afghan flag near the site of the World Trade Center towers as a show of solidarity between the Afghan people and the United States.
Mr. Shahryar, the ambassador, said he will pass on Dr. Nangarhari's letter to the president.
"We need these kind of people," Mr. Shahryar said. "They want to tell the American people that Afghanistan is liberated and that they're thankful."
After a ride that cost him $40 to $80 a day, Dr. Nangarhari is ready to put up the bike for a while. He will return home to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, to spend time with his wife and six children.
Despite pleas from officials in the Netherlands and Germany for Dr. Nangarhari to let the countries keep his bike, the cyclist said he will turn over the black German-made Cross mountain bike on which he finished the trip to a museum in Kabul.


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