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Day 20 – An Unwitting Descent

I have a feeling it’s going to be even more difficult from here. What follows is real life.”


Long day. Productive though, not hard at all, Alhamdulillah. I’m back in Aziziah now, it’s about 10pm. Gettin ready to knock out soon iA.

It took me about 40 mins to climb back down the mountain. I felt so boss afterwards, like I accomplished something significant. I need to do things like this more often. Though it wasn’t a complete retreat, I got a little taste and saw benefit. I’d love to try a bit more :)

I caught a packed taxi to the Haram. Only 10 riyals, and I got to sit in a complete stranger’s lap. Win-win, I say. On the way, coming in from the North, I saw Masjid Al-Jinn, and a few other places I recognized from the book I was reading. Interestingly, Masjid Al-Jinn was established in the place where the Prophet met a group of Jinn, outside the city, to teach them about the Message. This place is now 2 blocks away from the Masjid Al-Haram. That’s how much the masjid has expanded since then. It was cool to be able to pick stuff like that out. Masjid Al-Jinn itself actually seems pretty ordinary, with a little retro-futuristic design on the minaret. Otherwise, looked like any other neighborhood mosque. Maybe I can check it out inside at some point and get a better look iA.

Masjid Al-Jinn

I got to the Haram just in time for ‘Asr and prayed in the street. Afterwards, I went up to the roof of the Massa’, the distance between Safa & Marwa, and took an awesome nap, next to a group of West African brothers. I slept for like an hour in the shade, with the cool breeze blowing. I got my fill of ZamZam too, Alhamdulillah. Started to feel so refreshed. It’s been a good day, all in all. I did a lot on my own, went around and saw things I had been meaning to see. Glad I got all that done, Alhamdulillah. I’m basically ready to leave, at least mentally. After Maghrib in the mosque, it settled on me that I’d be leaving soon, and I got so sad. I miss home and my loved ones there, but this place has reached such a special place in my heart – comparable to none. I felt like a void was filled partially in coming here and experiencing this place.

It seems like the tests have…stopped. The burden is lifted, but the connection also seems to have faded. I felt so much more in tune with my Lord while I was on Hajj, being tested by Him. Hardship truly does bring one closer to Allah, that reason alone makes it an immense blessing.


The Sun Setting on Mecca

My life actually feels normal again. I feel like I’ve always felt. Not sure I like it, how do I get back the bliss and the insight from The Most Near? For that feeling, I would try to come for Hajj again and again, subhanAllah. Here is a virtue that has its place in the world. I didn’t even realize the blessing I had, and now that it’s passed, I feel its absence sorely. I’m going to have to continuously look out for other ways to draw near. I have a feeling it’s going to be even more difficult from here. What follows is real life. Hajj is so much of a vacuum, a controlled environment, chaotic as it was. Here, the test and the ease come hand in hand. In real life, it takes time to pass from one to another. Decades pass before resolutions can be conceived. Those are real tests, they require real patience, subhanAllah. Ya Rabb, please continue to guide me and show me how best to proceed from here.

After ‘Isha, I left the Haram and walked towards ‘Aziziah. I walked for about 40 mins, also saw the birthplace of the Prophet, which the Saudi’s have turned into a library. I also saw the mountain pass the Muslims were exiled to during the boycott years. Everything’s right there, North of the Marwa side of the Masjid Al-Haram.

I missed the line of cabs outside of the Haram. I kept passing up guys offering rides because they were charging way too much. Before I knew it, I had walked well beyond the limits of the masjid and ended up in some dark back alleyways. It’s my own fault really, for always ending up in these situations. I thought I was heading in the right direction, I tried using the enormous clock tower as my guide. My navigation skills were terrible. I only ended up further and further into some slummy looking neighborhoods. The interesting thing is that they were all Hajji housing and hotels still, they were just really shady looking. Everyone there was Indian, with their flags posted up everywhere. I had no incidents in Little Hajji India, Alhamdulillah, but I was trying so hard to not look lost or out of place. Eventually, going down the dark alleys, trying to find my way up to the main road, I hit a series of dead ends and decided to just backtrack to the masjid again, to regain my bearings.

I made my way back to the masjid and caught a cab, Alhamdulillah, after I passed through a tunnel that seemed about 2 miles long. It was the first time in my trip thus far that I was actually, genuinely afraid I might die. People were driving so reckless in the tunnel – making U-turns, reversing, speeding, driving the wrong way…all in a one-way tunnel-  and I realized…I was all alone…with barely any identification on me. If I died, I thought, would my parents ever even find out? That thought freaked me out and kind of made me paranoid. So, when I was finally able to find a cab driver, I was so thankful. The driver that picked me up was actually a young kid, probably no more than 15 years old, definitely not a real taxi driver. He was probably pushin his dad’s whip around to make some extra cash on a school night, but I didn’t care, I needed the ride. Alhamdulillah, he gave me a fair rate and brought me back to my place. He even picked up an Iranian couple along the way and had me translate to them how much money they owed. I speak neither Arabic nor Farsi, so I don’t know how that worked out. Straight gesticular. I later realized I was actually attempting to make a 5.5mi trip from the Haram to ‘Aziziah by foot, with no real idea of which direction to go in.

I’m settled in now, took a shower, freshened up, Alhamdulillah. I’m actually really hungry now though. I think I’m gonna step out and grab a bite down the street. There’s an awesome place across from us, they sell this amazing chicken Sajji from Balochistan. There’s also a really good Punjabi restaurant around the corner that makes fresh lentils and naan that we’ve been crushin on the regular. So convenient :). Then, I’ll head back in and pass out.

Tomorrow is Jummah. We’re planning to go to the Haram and pray there and do our Tawaf Al-Wida’, before coming back to ‘Aziziah. Saturday afternoon, we leave for Jeddah to catch our flight back home iA. The trip is winding down and finding its way to the end. Everything is calming down and collecting itself so smoothly and beautifully, Alhamdulillah. Allah is the Best of Planners.

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Day 18 – Rolling Stones

No one can bear the hardships of another, nor are we fit to handle what others face. Custom fit trials for each of us from the Tailor of this Universe.”

11/8/11Hajj, Day 5

Insha’Allah, this is our last day in this 12’x12’ tent, sleeping with 12 men packed together. I don’t mind so much, I’m used to sleeping in cramped spaces with way too many dudes…awkward. Let’s just say I had an interesting college-hood.

There’s a dude with us, I think his name is Sabir. He’s even quieter than I am. I feel really bad for the brother. He’s had it really rough. He’s been sick and injured since he’s gotten here. I feel like he’s always lying in bed, nursing his big toe, which has this big gash, something that happened when he first got here I think, pretty brutal. Now, he has problems with nausea. Poor guy got up so many times last night while I was writing because he felt sick. Dude went to a doctor too, but apparently they have him meds for gas instead of nausea? I read the labels for him and that’s what it seemed like. It was all in medical jargon, which I could barely make out, but that’s what I think it said.

There’s a bus taking people back early, for those who are not going to do their stoning themselves. It’s permissible to have someone to do your stoning for you if you have some difficulty, so it’s mostly women, elderly and the sick that are going to travel back this afternoon. Uncle Bhatti is going to head back too. He’s quite the entertainer on this trip, though he’s so limited in what he’s able to do because of his physical disability. He has a hard time walking and keeping balance because of some issue with his leg, so he goes around in a wheelchair, pushed by his loyal and beloved sidekick, Humayun. The tests are so drastically different from one person to another, despite how much time we spend together in such close proximity. No one can bear the hardships of another, nor are we fit to handle what others face. Custom fit trials for each of us from the Tailor of this Universe.

Bhatti and Humayun are both going to ride the bus back to ‘Aziziah, to the rooms we’re staying in. They were kind enough to carry our bags back with them, so we wouldn’t have to worry about carrying them around on this last day or coming back to the camp later to pick them up. My mom can barely walk now too, yesterday was especially tough for her. She’s going to try making it onto the bus iA and I’ll complete her stoning for her. We’ll see how that goes, there’s apparently 3 buses coming to our camp, for a group of people large enough to fill 6 buses right now, waiting. Crucial. Today is going to be crazy. I’m calling it right now. There’s going to be a mass-migration of Hajji’s out of Mina, millions of people. Millions and millions, traveling a distance of approximately 5-10 miles, by foot, car, bus, train, and motorcycle. Traffic jam from Jahannam is brewing.


3pm. We’re done. Done. Done. Allahu Akbar. One of the most difficult and rewarding experiences of my life, one of the pillars of my faith, one of the biggest events in the life of a Muslim – Hajj, complete. Alhamdulillah, wa Shukr.

We finished with the Jamarat by 12:30pm, took care of our stoning immediately following the adhan for Dhuhr, which sounded off in the building over loud speakers. From there, we grabbed some Al-Baik. Turns out, the Al-Baik at the Jamarat, where there were epic lines last night, does in fact only serve chicken nuggets. WTF? People pracitcally rioting for some chicken nuggets, that’s wild. There was no rush today though, we were in and out with some food, no problems. Them joints is good, but they’re kinda like fish sticks, but with chicken. They’re like cubes of meat inside this breading that falls off when you pick them up.

I’m gonna rest for a bit, I’ll write more later iA.


Our trip back to ‘Aziziah was difficult. We had to walk for probably 3 km to get away from the Jamarat and catch a taxi to take us the rest of the way. In the days of Hajj, there’s so much traffic that the local residents jump on the bandwagon and start cashing in on visitors. For example, everyone becomes a cab driver during Hajj. Locals actually offer the best deals on taxi’s too, it’s not their main income I guess so they charge way less. We found a Yemeni guy with a car that was willing to drive us to our place in ‘Aziziah. He actually wasn’t very cheap, but we were so exhausted we could care less and just jumped in.

I was with my dad and Saleem, who tried making small talk with the cab driver. When he found out the driver was Yemeni, he joked, “like Osama bin Laden!” To my surprise, the driver busted out laughing, actually seemed really pleased and warmed right up to us. They went on to say some other stuff that I’ve since blocked out of my memory. Being an American, where the War on Terror has completely changed even the way we joke amongst friends in private, I must say I felt a little uncomfortable. I think even Saleem realized this eventually and felt off and made some fake politically correct comment. Force of habit, I suppose. After all, Big Brother is always listening…even in Mecca…? It’s actually not entirely inconceivable.

When we arrived at our place, Saleem and my dad attempted to try bargaining the driver down, seeing as how they were practically brothers in arms now. Dude was not having it. They tried to pull this trick where you hand the guy only the cash you want to pay and start to slowly edge yourself away. They definitely got yelled at and forked up the rest of the fare.

We went inside and I straight collapsed on my bed. Nothing greater than that feeling right there. I’ll write more after I sleep for 3 days..

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Day 12 – Khamsein?

Every day has been such an adventure here, subhanAllah


Of course, getting back to our rooms was not easy, why would it be? :P Not only did the main group bounce without waiting for everyone, it took the rest of us forever to get a cab. Took at least an hour to find a taxi willing to go to Aziziah, then once we got one, it took the driver an hour to get us to our place. It’s only a 10 minute drive. He got completely lost and didn’t know how to get us there, even after asking everyone & their mom along the way. We actually took 2 cabs & split our group up. I was in the first cab with my mom and the other women from our group and my dad was in the second cab, with the uncles. It took my dad’s group another hour to get a cab after we had gotten ours, we basically back to the room at the exact same time.

The uncles negotiated with our driver and worked out that each passenger would pay 20 riyals, about $5. As soon as we got in the car and started driving, he turns to me, in the front seat, and says, “Khamsein?” I just stare at him, dumbly. He pulls out 50 riyals worth of bills and waves them in front of me, asking each person to pay that much. I’m like, “Nah bump that”, and reach for the door handle to get out while he’s driving. He quickly changes his mind back and is like “ok, ok! ‘Ashrein (20)?” Much better. Egyptian drivers have been such characters. He tried speaking to me in Arabic, and realized I didn’t understand. As he was driving around, lost, he’d turn to me in frustration and try asking me something in Arabic and I’d just shrug my shoulders. He’d give up and be like “Ahhh! No Arabic…!”

He really couldn’t find our spot though, and we hadn’t been there more than one night, so I really hadn’t gotten familiar enough with the area to help him either. So, we called my dad’s group to see if their driver could guide our driver. Their driver, mA, talked to our driver, found out exactly where he was, drove up to us, and had us follow him to our front door. May Allah bless that man, that’s such kindness & generosity. And competency. Our driver, after being guided to our destination, asked for more money. I might’ve actually given him something for his troubles, but then he had to go & ask for money, which ruined his chances with me. It’s like a knee-jerk reaction, I can’t help it. We were also already standing at the front door, no leverage homie. We got in at 12am.

We did get to eat at an Afghan restaurant before leaving, near the Ramada, by the Haram. It was decent food, just such a pain to get seats. You had to literally poach chairs by standing over people while they were eating. The second someone got up, you had to sit down, or someone else would get there before you. We spend 20 minutes trying to be civil and waiting for tables to clear out, and we found that everytime we’d go check, new people would be in the seats. You couldn’t even stand on the side of the room and jump in when someone got up, you had to physically stand over their shoulders and wait for them to finish eating. The hospitality industry here is majorly lacking. That’s just awkward.

The food was different than what you normally find in American Afghan places. It tasted less…sanitary. Like, way less sanitary. I actually thought I was gonna throw up after I had the kabobs, they really didn’t seem cooked. I have the sneaking suspicion that most places don’t use real meat in their food. Meat in general has been pretty hard to come by. I’m guessing they process in alot of…filler with the meat. Sounds gross, but that’s probably the reality. Most people in 3rd world countries really just can’t even afford to eat meat.

Honestly though, Food Corner would smash these Afghan joints. We have such amazing food in America, at least in Northern VA (wut, wut!), Alhamdulillah. I mean, I still enjoyed it, oddly enough. Pathan Urdu is definitely still the best. They have such a sweetness in their tongue when they speak, with their incorrect grammar. Makes the language suddenly more interesting & dynamic.

I think the plan is to stay in Aziziah and just chill tomorrow. That might be best after our fiasco with the taxis tonight. Going back and forth from here to the Haram is such a hassle. After tomorrow, we head to Mina and the real fun begins. We’re almost there.

Every day has been such an adventure here, subhanAllah. Hopefully, that’s been conveyed in these writings. I feel like it makes these pages out to be quite the interesting read…should I ever let anyone read them…j/k, I prolly will share them. At least, parts of them – some things have been too personal, but who knows, maybe? It’s definitely been a pleasure keeping this journal :)

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Day 9 – Ziyara! Ziyara! Ziyara!

“…These men and women, so distinguished and dignified, stand in total obscurity now…They are the forefathers of our faith.”


Been takin it easy. For some reason, I slept forever yesterday. I missed ‘Asr & Maghrib cuz I knocked out. Wait…I prayed ‘Asr! Just missed Maghrib. I made up an ‘Asr this morning, oh well. I basically passed out around 5pm and didn’t wake up til 3:15am. No clue why I slept so much.

Yesterday, I got to hang with my parents for a while and go shopping. We hit some wholesale date market one of the guys in the group knew about. There, we got the Desi hookup & my parents copped an unearthly amount of dates – something like 40 kilos. That’ll be fun to carry around…

In The Market For Some Dates?

We got 3 different kinds – Ajwa, Medjdool and Kalmi I think. We also got a bunch of boxes of almond-stuffed dates. Afterwards, we grabbed a cab to the hotel, to take back all of the dates. Our driver was texting and maneuvering through traffic. My dad was squirming in the backseat, it was hilarious. My mom was like, “See! That’s how you drive! Now you know how we feel.” Never misses an opportunity :P

Textin' & Drivin'

We hit up ‘Asr at the masjid and then went around to grab lunch. Ended up doing a little shopping along the way at some street kiosks, lined up outside the masjid. We went to a shawarma spot and had some dinky, mediocre sandwiches, which we ate on the stoop of a nearby hotel. That’s about as comfortable as it gets. After that is when I came back & just knocked out.

I woke up this morning like “WTF?! What happened…why did I sleep so much?” I took a shower, got dressed and went to the masjid around 3:30am. It was so calm and peaceful. There were still so many people there, thousands for sure, but it was quiet.

I tried getting into the area where the Prophet’s grave is, but they still weren’t letting people in. I went in the masjid, behind the original section of the building and sat down as close as I could. I did some tahajjud and chilled, waited for Fajr.

6am, after Fajr, I walked with the mass of people to visit Jannatul Baqi (The Holy Graveyard), the graveyard where many Companions are buried. It was massive, far larger than I expected. There’s an estimated 10,000 graves there, all unmarked and unidentified. There are only headstones, indicating where graves are, no names. The cemetery is adjacent to the Eastern wall of the masjid. It was so interesting to see those graves with the grandiose minarets of the masjid as the backdrop

Jannatul Baqi' (The Holy Graveyard)

It’s powerful how these men and women, so distinguished and dignified, stand in total obscurity now. They are, however, further honored by their collective identity, as Companions of The Beloved Prophet. They each accomplished much, surely, but that’s been surrendered so they could be a part of something bigger. They are the forefathers of our faith. They are so blessed & honored. May Allah shower them with His Everlasting Mercy & bless us with an end that is equally dignified & peaceful.

I just hung around and took pictures afterwards. The light is so perfect just after sunrise – that “Golden Hour” photographers talk about. It’s beautiful, such a perfect time to be out in Medina, my favorite actually.

Masjid Nabawi After Sunrise

I was on my way back to the hotel when I saw a little scuffle in the street. There were lines of cars, trying to take people on tours. Drivers walk along the sidewalks yelling, “Ziyara! Ziyara! Ziyara!”. I figure ‘ziyara’ means ‘tour’. I have no idea what actually happened, but some drivers were fighting with some Hajji’s over something and a big crowd had gathered.

They grabbed one Hajji & forced him into a little toll booth looking structure on the corner & locked the door. One of the drivers (in the brown thobe, standing against the booth in the picture below) was yelling and pushing people. He went up to some old guy and shoved him hard and the guy went flying! He couldn’t catch himself and fell off the sidewalk, into the street. Luckily, there were no cars coming, he was completely sprawled out. His glasses and wallet go flying, his ID’s scattering out onto the road. The driver was cursing at him and kicked him again as he was trying to get back up. Poor guy. He got up, grabbed his stuff and just hustled off. I still have no idea what it was all about, but it provided some quality morning entertainment.

Hoopla in Medina

I’m back in the hotel now, just had breakfast. We’re gonna rest until Dhuhr, it’s 9am now. After Dhuhr, we’re planning to take a tour of the city.

Um…ok…change of plans. Apparently, We’re going to some Jinn valley….now!
That was a waste of time. There is a valley, 30 minutes from the city, that Desi’s have dubbed Wadi-e-Jinn (Valley of Jinn). They claim there’s a supernatural phenomena of Jinn controlling your cars & pushing them while in neutral. They also say, if you pour water on the ground, it runs uphill, metal bottles also roll on the ground when placed still.We went and tried everything. Yeah, these things appeared to happen. I think it’s a load of crock doo-doo. There’s probably a magnetic field that pulls everything. Watta stooopid….

At least we saw Uhud on the way there. It’s to the North of Medina. We also saw the mount where the archers stood during the battle. Uhud itself is massive! It borders the city and gives it that natural defense.


I miss Mecca. I remember reading about the Companions missing their city when they came to Medina & the Prophet had to remind them of this being their home now & that he was with them. I completely understand what they felt and how they must have missed that beautiful place :/


Just getting on the van for the tour, it’s 3:20pm. Things be like that with this group, everything at its own time. Funny thing, the driver we have is the same exact guy I saw this morning kicking the old guy in the street. SubhanAllah, small world :). No one else knows about this guy, even called him ‘Sheikh’ a few times throughout the tour, and I watched him mercilessly beat an elderly Hajji not more than an hour after sunrise this morning.

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