Monday, February 2, 2009

Diary of A Pilgrim - Hello Again, Makkah!

View from the top floor of Masjidil Haram

Yet another view from the topmost floor of Masjidi Haram. We prefered to pray here during Subuh because the morning air was cool and pleasant.

Pak Abu after Tawaf Haji

Yours truly, after Tawaf Haji

View of Baitullah at 4 am

Pak Abu's "Smoking Corner" in Qutubah courtyard

It was so good to be back in lively Makkah once again. After the challenges of Arafah, Muzdalifah and Mina, dusty and noisy Makkah, still very much ‘sendat’ (jam-packed) with pilgrims, was beginning to feel like home.

We were away for only four short days, but with all the trials and tribulations, and the physical discomfort the brief hiatus afforded, it sure seemed like a lifetime. Nonetheless, we were thankful to God Almighty for the experience.

To celebrate our return, we treated our respective roommates to a bryani dinner takeaway, bought from a very busy Pakistani eatery 500 metres down the road from our hotel.

As I was still sans glasses, our last remaining hajj ritual of Tawaf Haji had to wait a while longer, until I managed to get a new pair done. Thankfully I did, at an optician located within the confines of Hilton International.

The German-made titanium frame, with lenses, cost only SR650 (about RM630) and was delivered within 24 hours. All things considered, it was a good bargain; a similar pair would probably set me back at least RM1000 back home in Malaysia.

In celebration of the new specs (we were always on the lookout for reasons to make merry!), we adjourned to the Hilton coffee house for cappuccino. Maybe it was the ambiance, or the pleasant waiter, or maybe it was just us, two weary pilgrims in search of good coffee; but the cappuccino was heavenly!

With the new glasses, life finally took on some semblance of normalcy. Pak Abu decided we should do Tawaf Haji in the early hours of the morning, to avoid the crowd. And so we did, at 3.30 on the morning of December 14th, completing it with ease within the hour.

To mark the occasion, we decided to splurge on breakfast at the opulent Inter-Continental Hotel. The meal for two set us back SR140, but the spread was scrumptious and the coffee exquisite enough to make us forgive ourselves for the extravagance!

The next few days passed in a blur of activities; solat at the mosque, attending religious talks at the hotel surau, dinner at the various restaurants and eateries in the vicinity (we decided to give Tabung Haji packed dinners a break), as well as shopping for gifts and souvenirs.

And then there was the occasional ‘lepak’ with fellow pilgrims in the comfort of Qutubah courtyard (where one can dine al fresco) to check on Tabung Haji updates and catch up with the news.

Pak Abu and his coterie of smoking 'kakis' could be found here most evenings, enjoying the sulty evening air with a cup or two of 'teh tarik' or 'nescafe tarik' while waiting to walk to Masjidil Haram for Maghrib and Isya' prayers.

Occasionally Pak Abu would pray at the Khalid Al-Walid Mosque just 100 metres away from the hotel courtyard, down the two-tiered escalator to the main road. The congregation was overwhelmingly men of Arab descent.

The mosque had definitely seen better days, but it was strategically located between the many hotels in the vicinity and the Grand Mosque. And it seemed to be a favourite of North African pilgrims; I noticed lots of Moroccans and Algerians there.

For recreation, watching TV in our room was out of the question - not that we had the luxury of time to watch TV anyway - save for a couple of local Arab networks and what looked like a Tunisian channel, we couldn’t get anything else. Al-Jazeera however, was available at the hotel lobby.

As I understood it, Coco-Cola, along with a few other global brands, received one big ‘nyet’ in Saudi Arabia. If one craved for cola, there was always Pepsi. Other fizzy drinks were readily available too, although we were getting quite comfy with just ‘air zamzam’ and mineral water.

During one of our makan outings, we shared a table with a young and likeable Nigerian couple who, like most proud young parents are wont to do, showed us a picture of their four-month old baby daughter.

The husband was an Australian-trained accountant while the wife, who hardly uttered a word throughout, was still in college. He told us that he idolised Tun Dr Mahathir. In his own words: “One of the best Muslim leaders the world has ever seen.”

The moment they left, a young Indonesian couple moved in. The wife was a stunning beauty, fair-skinned with Arabic features, while the husband was a plain, very Melayu-looking guy with sawo matang (dark) skin.

They looked like newlyweds. We had, by then, finished our dinner. So we exchanged pleasantries before leaving the lovey-dovey duo to enjoy theirs.

Because Pak Abu and I had opted for Haji Ifrad (completion of hajj rites prior to umrah), we still had the umrah pending, which should be completed before leaving for Madinah Al-Munawwarah on December 24th.

As such, we decided to take a 'ziarah & umrah' day package offered by a travel agent stationed at the hotel lobby. Costing only SR30 per person, it included a visit to a camel breeding farm, the 'kiswah' factory (kiswah is the black shroud covering the Kaabah) and Hudaibiyyah Mosque.

This mosque is located in a place called Ja'aranah (previously known as Hudaibiyyah) some 20 kilometres out of Makkah, which was to be the miqat (starting point) of our umrah.

[Pilgrims doing umrah have the option of going to either Ja'aranah or Tana'im for miqat; Tanaim is favoured by many because it is hardly 10 minutes away by cab, but Ja'aranah, although further, has history associated with it, being the miqat place of Prophet Muhammad (saw)]

As December 20th dawned, we were back in our state of ihram, boarding the bus in silence heading towards Ja'aranah, the site of the Treaty of Hudaibiyyah, a pact with far-reaching Hajj consequences, forged between Prophet Muhammad (saw) and the Quraish of Makkah.....


Kak Teh said...

Puteri, the sight of the Masjidil Haram never failed to tug at the heart strings. I long for the serenity of it all during dawn prayers.

And yes, the breakfast at Inter-continental! Of all things I am thinking of the mango, fresh mango juice.

Pi Bani said...

Actually I am amazed you managed to take photos dalam kawasan masjid without getting chased by the Pak-pak Arab. I didn't even dare bring in a camera - tak kiralah camera phone or whatever.

kay_leeda said...

Kak Puteri,

Subuh on the roof top?? serene kan. The cool air, clear skies and the sunrise is just breath taking.

mamasita said...

I doa Ariff and I will be just as lucky as you and Haji Pak Abu to carry out our Haj successfully when the opportunity all did it! Alhamdullillah.

Kalau Pi kata patutnya pak Arab kejar you all for taking pictures and yet tak kena, then ni semua dah rezki you all..syukurnya!

Kama At-Tarawis said...

kak teh - indeed, tenang rasanya hati. as for the mango juice, now that you mention it, teringat balik how delicious it was..:)

pi - I genuinely didnt know cameras couldnt be brought into the masjid. alhamdulillah tak kena cekup dek guards. I bawak mine everywhere because I was thinking of capturing the essence of the hajj for my blog. Allah swt kesian kat I kot, hehehe, sebab asyik dok teringat kat blog selalu..

kay - the rooftop had always been our first choice for subuh prayers. sejuknya semacam.. we went into masjid proper at other times.

mamasita - actually in masjid nabi kat madinah I kena tahan dengan guards pasai camera ni although I still didnt know takleh bawak camera masuk masjid. terpaksa pray kat luar masjib. after that i wised up, tinggal camera & handphone kat hotel.

AyKay said...

salam ziarah.

congrats for ur hajj and pray for the hajj mabrur.

last time when i was working in Jeddah, the mutaweens (masjid's police) will always chased people with camera phone, what more with digi cam. Those at Masjid Nabawi were very strick. u r so lucky.

Zabs said...

Salam Kama (Puteri),
Sudah dibenarkan membawa kamera ke dalam Masjidil Haram ke? Semasa Haji 2004/2005, fon berkamera pun tak boleh dibawa masuk.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Aykay, Zabs - Salaam. Sebenarnya saya pun tak tahu yg camera tak dibenarkan dibawak masuk. I brought my camera everywhere with me, inside my beg galas Tabung Haji, masa di Makkah, syukur tak pernah terkena ligan dek polis masjid.

almost sebulan dok keluar masuk masjidil haram with camera in my back, balik malaysia baru tahu yg camera not allowed!

tapi di masjid nabawi kena tahan sekali kat main entrance. terpaksa sembahyang kat luar. lepas tu tak bawak camera pi masjid dah.

hehehe.. terngiang-ngiang kat telinga polis wanita (mutaween) arab tu jerit "Ibu! Ibu! Kiluar! Kiluar!"