Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Diary of A Pilgrim - Mina On My Mind (I)

Pretty ladies all in a row - my Makkah roommates as well as new friends made in Mina. The lady in the middle was the one who got left behind in Muzdalifah.

Our tent in all its 'tongkang pecah' glory. This picture was taken before the luggage was sorted out (obviously!). Where the Quran was, was my little corner ....

Pak Abu, sporting his new Kojak hairdo, and garbed in a daring red after 2 weeks of ihram attire, at the Smoker's Corner (Sudut Sedut)

Pilgrims from India obliging yours truly for a picture.

Feeling patriotic - with Tabung Haji officials just back from leading a group of pilgrims from the Jamrah.

Morning scene in Mina

In 1997, a fire ripped through the sprawling, overcrowded ‘tent city’ of Mina, trapping and killing more than 340 pilgrims and injuring some 1,500 others.

Seven years later, in 2004, 244 pilgrims were crushed to death in a horrific stampede at nearby Jamrah, the ‘stoning of the devil’ ritual area.

Nineteen years earlier, in 1990, a stampede in the Muassim tunnel connecting Mina and the Jamrah area killed 1,426 pilgrims. It was the worst (in terms of casualty) single Hajj-related catastrophe in recent memory.

Mina, in particular the Jamrah, have seen several similar incidents in the past three decades, mostly stampedes resulting from overcrowding, over-enthusiastic pilgrims throwing caution to the wind when pelting the pillars representing Satan, and poor crowd control.

With this sobering thought in mind, I wearily gathered my luggage and cast one final look at Muzdalifah, saying a brief prayer for our safety as we inched our way to join the impatient crowd waiting for the bus that would take us to Mina.

For the next four days, this desert valley five kilometres east of Makkah on the road to Arafah would be yet another transit in our spiritual journey, before returning to Makkah for the final Hajj rites of Tawaf and Sa’ei.

I had no illusions about what to expect in Mina. After the trials and tribulations of Arafah, I was resigned to my fate.

The Saudi Government has since spent billions to modernise Mina; it now has 40,000 durable fireproof tents with cooling systems, state-of-the-art communication facilities that include flyovers and tunnels, and water and electricity networks.

At the Jamrah, the three pillars of As-Sughra, Al-Wusta and Al-Kubra have since been replaced with 26-metre long walls to facilitate easier casting of stones.

A single tiered pedestrian bridge has also been built around the three above-mentioned jamarat so pilgrims could perform the ritual from either ground level or the bridge.

It was half past one in the morning when our bus finally entered the Nusantara Pilgrims encampment. The seven-kilometre journey took two hours, a decent enough travel time given the circumstances.

In fact, the last batch of Malaysian pilgrims limped into Mina at 10 the following morning, almost nine hours after leaving Muzdalifah.

After dumping my luggage at the allocated spot, I made a beeline for the toilet, determined to bathe at whatever cost. I had not showered for over a day and felt incredibly grimy, with a foul mood to match.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait for long; the queue was only 5-people deep. It was heavenly to feel the rush of water on one's head...

That night, sprawled on a thin Tabung Haji-issued, bright-orange plastic mat laid on an existing sand-infused woollen carpet, pillowless and with only a length of ‘batik lepas’ for blanket, I zonked out completely.

Our tent housed 320 pilgrims, divided into groups of 16 women each section. It was quite an experience to be under one roof with over 300 women.

By nature a loner and very private, I found it extremely hard at first to even wash my face in full view of everyone. Soon enough, I learned to be a little less self-conscious. Over time, I couldn't care less any more!

Dawn saw me up and early for subuh prayers .... and the trial began again. The toilet was packed to the brim with pilgrims from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. There was no way I could do my toilet and take ablution, let alone bathe.

I wandered around checking out the other toilets; they were just as congested. Worried that the hours for subuh prayers would soon be over, I decided to take my wudhu’ from a bottle of mineral water. It was 10 am when the crowd finally thinned out that I was able to have a quick shower.

Soon the dull, thudding headache of Muzdalifah sprang to life once again; this time with a vengeance. Although it wasn't migraine, the pain was, nonetheless, just as excruciating. My head felt like exploding.

I had no choice but to down a couple of aspirins and hit the sack once again. The pain subsided somewhat in the late afternoon but my vision had, by then, become blurry.

There was no way I could make it to the Jamrah for the stoning ritual that day. Pak Abu, bless his soul, decided he would cast the stones on my behalf.

For certain Hajj rituals, it is allowed to deputise another person to perform it due to unavoidable circumstances (sickness, old age, or fear for one's safety, for example), provided the two parties officially ‘aqad’ (make a covenant) and mutually agree upon it.

The crowd leaving for the Jamrah was building up when Pak Abu left at 5.30pm. They seemed to have poured out from every nook and cranny of Mina, briskly walking in an endless mass towards Muassim tunnel that divides the tent city and the jamarats.

Security was tight, with helicopters monitoring the trek from above and thousands of police personnel guarding the roads.

Thankfully, Pak Abu returned just an hour later, saying the situation wasn’t as bad as he had envisioned it and that he was able to cast the stones without much hassle.

By now he was as bald as an eagle; he had had his head shaved, whereupon I cut off a lock of my hair, thus marking the end of our state of Ihram. (Note: A woman normally clips her hair the length of a fingertip; she is not required to do a ‘Kojak’).

This shaving of the head/clipping of hair marks the rite of Tahlul, symbolising the partial ending of Ihram. It can only be done after one has completed the first day of the stoning ritual.

Pilgrims can now shed their ihram attire (the unsewn two-piece clothing that a male pilgrim wears) and put on everyday clothes, and return to normal life as all ihram obligations (except conjugal relations) are now lifted.

It being Id-Adha (Hari Raya Haji), most pilgrims sacrificed a goat, sheep or some other animal, giving the meat to the poor. Pak Abu had earlier contributed a sum of money for one such sacrifice.

That evening, we decided to celebrate the “Festival of Sacrifice’ our own way – by plonking our respective folding chairs by the side of the thoroughfare leading to Muassim tunnel, and eating ‘roti arab’ with a meat dish bought from a nearby vendor.

Returning to tent, we stopped by one of the many street vendors lining the side lanes of our encampment and bought even more souvenirs.

At that juncture, I honestly didn’t even know who I was buying them for; it certainly seemed a good idea to just stock up....


Kak Teh said...

Puteri, thank you for another account of your experience there. Having only done the umrah, I see this as a guide, Insyaallah for the time when He he invites me again.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

You are most welcome, Kak Teh. deep in my heart I know you will be there soon enough..Insyaallh..

mamasita said...

Hajjah dear, I bimbang betul pasal the toilet facilities being so congested and all..tapi nak kata apa ye? When the time comes, lanyak je lah kan?

Pi Bani said...

My tent in Mina was very near the toilet - itu pun time subuh memang susah. Somehow despite Tabung Haji officials dah pesan berapa kali to be considerate to others, there tend to be our jemaah yang naaaaak jugak mandi and membasuh baju time subuh.

Anyway, masa kat sana you tak kena penyakit "susunitis" you ke? ;)

kay_leeda said...

Kak Puteri,

Ahhh...Mina, a challenge of its own kind. Beratur for the toilets, making way for the old and weak. I had to beralah many times to makcik-makcik yang dah tak tahan sangat nak terkenc***, they said, "Nak oiii...mak cik ni dah nak keluar sangat-sangat ni." How lah not to bagi they all masuk dulu...

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Mamasita - This toilet 'issue' is one of the biggest cubaan during the Hajj. My next entry will deal with my own experience, and the consequences.. Allah swt sajalah yg tahu the challenge re toilet in Mina..

Pi - I dont understand why ppl want to do their washing mcm kat rumah. I wash my clothes as I take my shower.. pakai baju & kain yg nak dibasuh and wash them atas badan..cuci ala kadar aja..

Kay - too true. one old lady came to us and said: "nak, tolong lindung makcik, makcik nak kenc*** kat tepi ni, tak tahan dah.." and we all did i.e the ladies near me..

Al-Manar said...

This is an interesting page of a diary. An experience in Mina ought to bring us down to earth – just the sun, the sky, the rock and the sand. It is a reminder, a moment to ponder – are we that great and there is no one greater? Must we always think of the luxury that we have become used to in life? Who is the Provider?

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Indeed, A-Manar, you couldn't have said it any better. Mina to me was an eye-opener in more ways than one. Mina was the ultimate test in patience.

An-Nimr said...


ade dak jumpa si madu beracun i? golap2, hairy, gigi jonggang kat khemah?

btw, why dont they make multilevel toilets?

hubby told me satu level je ek? dah tau congested, buat la multistory...yg kuat leh naik atas, kan?

aiyo...i wonder how im gonna make it...sini pung asyik nak terkencing jer...kena doa banyak2 la! hahaha...

MA & Brood said...

Kak Kama:

I have read many accounts from people going for Hajj lah, umrah lah - but none has quite captured the essence the way you did.

You described it beautifully that I could almost felt it in my heart.

You should write a book.

drfba said...

Assalamualaikum Pn Hajjah Kama & Tn Hj Abu. Semoga mendapat HAJI MABRUR.
Allow me.
I was there, 1990. Folks back home were worried sick about the Muaasim Terowong stampede and death. We were in the dark about the incidence as the Saudi government held back the news for quite many hours.
Pn Hajjah, you simply have the knack in story telling. If you ever want to write a book on The Hajj, I'll gladly chip in with points on the health and medical aspect (which actually is more of common sense) of it.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

An_Nimr - hehehe, takder lak jumpa yr Sister In Islam ... :)

Btw, the lack of toilet facilities in Arafah, Muzdalifah and Mina tu disengajakan, to expose us to hardship, otherwise we would probably treat the Hajj as another religious jaunt. Arafah, for example, is a foretaste of Padang Mahsyar... In Makkah Al-Mukarramah itself, they do hv multi-level toilets.

As for the Jamrah Bridge, I was told they are going to add a few levels more to give better access to pilgrims nak melontar..

Ma & Brood - I humbly thank you for such kind words. The main reason why I am putting my Hajj experience into words is because I want to share it with my Muslim brothers and sisters...the reason being, sebelum I went to Makkah, I sendiripun was so jahil about Hajj..

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Doc!!! alahaii.. it has been such a long time! Tq for dropping by :) hehhehe, pasal buku tu entah la doc.. tengoklah.. malu lak rasanya..LOL

m00n said...

stopping by to see how you are akak ... bab-bab haji ni tak berani nak buat-buat lawak bore_door ... take care yer akak ...

Kama At-Tarawis said...

tq moon.. bila nak pekena teh tarik? cage rindu dah adik2 chatters semua. organise la mamak session satu.. btw, I do hv something for you..when you're in town, call ya..


jannah alias said...


dear drfba, i'm currently conductiong a program regarding hajj, and one of the topic is terowong muassim incident. i would love to hear your stories on this as you're one of the individual who witnesssed the incident. may i have your contact details?

you may contact me through jannalias28@gmail.com