We have made many journeys together as a couple. However, I must say that nothing beats this journey we recently made together to perform the Umrah. The intention to go on this journey was made as early as late last year and till the beginning of this year, it remained just that, an intention. There were obstacles to overcome along the way, leave issues, visa issues and whatever else– to the point that my mother actually discouraged us from pursuing it with a text which said ” I think you both don’t push it. To go there, it is an invitation from Allah and the prophet. If so many obstacles like this, that means you are not really invited to be there – yet. So go for holiday to other places first lahhh”
Just shortly after that, true to her words that this journey is by invitation and if once invited, by hook or by crook, we would be able to make it there, everything fell into place. We got a good agent, our visas settled, we got our stuffs and we were ready and set to go.
My first umrah trip was when I was 20. I went with my parents, sister and a few of my relatives. The trip, as I remembered it, was easy going and was actually fun. It was not the peak season, we had good hotels, we had a good tour agent, there was plenty of space to move about. At 50kg then, I was very light, fit and fast that I was able to complete the whole ritual with ease. More than anything else, I guess at 20 years old, I was not so bogged down with life’s baggage, misgivings, sins and whatever else life can throw into the package.
More than a decade later, this trip with a ‘pilgrimage virgin’ husband and whatever I have accumulated in my own life’s suitcase, I became nervous more than anything else as the day drew nearer.
When I look back, there was a blessing in disguise despite the challenges of getting the right dates and the visa issues earlier on. We ended up leaving on the morning of 10th April, the day after our marriage and myself turned a year older. Hence it was a significant beginning to start a fresh new year of our marriage with us taking a spiritual time out to do lots of reflections, cleansing and bonding.
The journey itself was not without challenges. Upon arrival at the KLIA on Sunday morning, we were told that we had to hang around at the airport because our Saudi Arabian flight was delayed. Great. Called my dad. He reminded us again and again… “Sabar…be patient.. More to come”. And indeed.
We finally got into the belly of the aircraft at 4.30pm and the journey hence officially started. It was not a smooth plane ride mind you. There were turbulence here and there, but nothing quite prepared us for that incident over the Indian Ocean. It started out as turbulence by the air pockets and then in the midst of it, we could feel the plane taking sort of a plunge few meters down as though we were in a roller coaster ride. Everyone screamed, there was panic, I saw magazines and newspapers flying off table tops. I had experienced turbulence in airplanes before but nothing quite like this. Let’s put it this way. If it even scares season travelers like my husband, who is the epitome of masochism and who doesn’t fear many things– especially flights, it must have been a really bad flight.
But alas, we arrived safely at Jeddah Airport. It has changed so much since the last I remember it. The efficiency too, was up by about 10% (and that’s too good for Arab standards :P). Everyone was talking about the flight and how they felt towards it. One makcik said she zikr ‘Subhanallah’ all the way to Jeddah, some even cried, a lady was crying out thinking she would be leaving her only daughter behind, a Pakcik thought it was the end of him. Those exchanges in the wee hours of the morning sort of bonded us together. Bleary eyed and exhausted, the whole lot of us pilgrims were then herded into buses which would take us on a 6 hour journey into the city of Medinah, where our beloved Prophet ( peace be upon him) awaited us.