The most lucrative business industry in Makkah. Since thousands of men shave their heads after completing the whole umrah ritual, at ten bucks a shave, these barber owners must be millionaires indeed.
Souks where bargaining experts should be in their elements. I quote a shopkeeper’s words to my husband ” Your shopping here in Makkah very good sir. Your wife bargain very strong”. I got my early childhood training in bargaining at Pasar Geylang, thank you.
At Jabal Rahmah, or Mount of Rahmah where Adam and Eve was reunited after they were thrown out of heaven for their disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit. We climbed up to the top using the original side rocky path for a little rock climbing adventure and were greeted with these love hopefuls who were signing their names with ‘so n so loves so n so’ in any imaginable languages one can think of–on monument built on top of this ‘Love Mountain’. Very soon at the end of the month, there will be painters painting white paint all over the monument and then there will be another set of love hopeful pilgrims with their markers signing their love messages yet again. Love is indeed a universal language :D.
I was praying my Solat Sunat Ihram when this pregnant tabby came from nowhere and plonked herself onto me, that I had to carry her and moved her to the side of me. Then she purred and ‘golek-golek’ on my feet as though she was my long lost friend from somewhere. Then she sat next to me throughout the time I was reading the doa after solat, read my ‘niat umrah’ and till I walked out of the mosque.
Taken their miqat already, time to go back to Tanah Haram to perform the umrah. We usually go to take miqat in the morning and by the time we reach back in Tanah Haram, it would already be 10am in the morning and soon while doing the tawaf umrah, the sun would be at the hottest. That’s when the kaabah area won’t be as crowded any other times as many would be back in their hotels or indoors to rest and wait for zuhur.
The plan was to write about our journey in Makkah. But somehow I am facing a whole barrage of new things coming along my way which needed my attention and some travels along the way especially in the next few months. So it is the positively busy period for me where I would steal in a moment or two for a breather. And that moment is now.
Pictures are said to be saying a million words. So here are my million words about Makkah which I would really like to share, but unfortunately, I have no time to. At least for now….
A badly taken photo while I rushed to find a spot to do my subuh prayers. I though I was early enough but with the crowd, I had to pray outside, still.
After subuh prayers, everyone walking out of the mosque for some breakfast grub before coming back in for their chance to be with the Prophet…Also a badly taken pic. I was feeling very cold.
Those big umbrella shades which looked strangely like something out of Transformers were not there when I did my first Umrah when I was 20. But these are indeed very very useful to shade us all from the scorching desert sun while we make our way into the mosque. This was when the umbrellas were in the process of opening up, just before 11 am in the morning when the sun is slowly beginning to make its glorious presence. And these umbrellas emit out cool mist to help us cope with walking the distance from the hotels to the entrance of the mosque while the sun tried our patience.
One good shot by the husband from the opposite side of Masjid Nabawi near the Baqi cemetery. A lonesome pilgrim making his way in while everyone else would be resting at the hotel during the hottest period of the day.
I had wanted to continue with the previous postings on my travelogue to Makkah. Too many things happened in Makkah which I would like to document here but right now I am experiencing a post-general election blues. I may be out of the island but the future of my family and friends and their young children is of my concern, still. I couldn’t vote as I was working here on the polling day so I didn’t make my way home. But it was one exciting election and I am proud of my generation who are fearless in making the decision to change, and to keep the ruling party’s arrogance in check.
The days spent in Medinah quickly became a habit. Woke up at 3am, in the mosque by 3.30 am for the Qiyamulail or night prayers, waited for Subuh and followed by breakfast at the hotel. I would usually have a short nap after breakfast and then down to the Bin Dawood to just walk around (absolutely love the supermarket there) or browsed at the bookshop below our hotel. By 8ish am, I would gear myself for my personal battle to enter the Raudhah. I discovered, the best efficient way to go about it is to go on my own and putting our aikido nimbleness into practice, my daily Raudha visits became less harrowing. I usually treated myself to a Movenpick cone after each Raudha trip and hence subconsciously, that became a motivation to brave the crowd (in addition to being in the Prophet’s presence of course! :p)
On one of the days in Medinah, we were taken to Mount Uhud where the famous Battle of Uhud took place and also to the graves of the warriors who died protecting the Prophet in the various battles when the enemies tried to kill him for preaching monotheism. While at the grave of Hamza, the Prophet’s uncle, I remembered the movie The Message starring Anthony Quinn about Muhammad pbuh. I must have watched that film a gazillion times and each time, I cried as though I had lost my mother. To be there at Hamza’s grave and remembering his character in history and everything else about him somehow made shiver ran down my spine despite the scotching midday desert sun.
We also went to the date plantations where all of us loaded up on the ‘Ajwa’ or a special kind of dates personally used to be planted by the Prophet himself. This kind of date is said in the hadith to contain exceptional medicinal values and he himself used to eat 7 ajwa dates with honey and milk every morning. Amongst other things sold at the plantations were dried camel’s liver, said to be good for asthma and bronchitis problems, date pollens powder for infertility problems, Sedr honey- a very famous honey from the mountains of Yemen, various nuts and other natural healing products. We had a gleeful time shopping with the rest so much so that the ustaz cautioned us not to finish all our money as yet because we had not even left for Makkah.
We were also taken to several mosques like the Qubah mosque-first most the Prophet built when he moved to Medinah, the Qiblatain mosque- the mosque with two Qiblah and did all the historical touristy thing around Medinah.
During the nights, after isya’, the husband and I would walk around the shops looking for grubs when we felt tired of the hotel food. Sometimes we went for the ‘kebabs’ which were cheap and good. Our attempt to be meat minimalist people went out the window with the arrays of ‘kebabs’ around and also Hardees, the fast-food chain which caught our eyes and taste buds.
As enjoyable as it was in Medinah, the day came when we had to say goodbye to the Prophet during the ‘ziarah wida’ i.e the farewell visit. Really surprisingly, my ‘ziarah wida’ was made smooth, so much so I had a good ten minutes in the Raudha and I actually stood there without being pushed or shoved and I had a good ten minutes to say to him everything that I wanted to say to him. I even thanked him for teaching us to love animals, especially cats. I told him about Milo and Tito and Mia and all our feline kids through the years. It was strange because through all these, no one was actually pushing me, and this was in the Raudha mind you. And what was stranger was the feeling, a very very strong feeling of ‘highness’ I felt after that conversation that I had with him about our cats that I had this strange feeling that he smiled. I smiled back and waved goodbye and softly asked him to please invite us to visit him again in the near future and this time for Hajj, insya Allah. I then walked out of Raudha, which was another strange thing because one does not actually walked out of Raudha, one gets pushed out of Raudha or squeezed out of Raudha. But I managed to walk out, because no one was actually in my path, although every other spot in the Raudha was filled to the brim. Surreal indeed!
That afternoon after the ‘ziarah wida’, lunch and zuhur, we made our way to take ‘miqat’ in Bir Ali. We put on our ihrams, did our solat ihrams, said our intention of doing the umrah ritual and called out the Talbiyah. Soon we were on our way for the 6 hour journey to Islam’s holy city of Makkah which held more challenges for us on a much more personal basis.
‘Labbaikallahuma labaik!Labaikallah syarikalala baik! Innal hamda, wal ni’mata, laka wal Mulk, la syarikala!’, we called out the Talbiyah in unision in the bus. Basically it means, ‘Here we come our Lord! Here we come, answering YOUR divine call !’