Day 5 – Contemplating Context

“There’s so much that can be gained just from standing in a landscape that is unchanged, to get an idea of the context for past generations.”

10/26/11

I have time, I’m in my hotel room, calling it early tonight, it’s about 10:30pm. I’m gonna try to start from the first day & fill in everything I’ve left out so far, iA.

So, when I got into Mecca, I performed ‘Umrah. I talked about the tawaf & events there already. After the tawaf, I drank some ZamZam, which tasted amazing. Something about it here, at the source, is so much better than how I’ve always had it. When people would bring it back with them, I never really liked drinking it all that much. This was legit though, Alhamdulillah.

It’s really such a blessing to have this well here, in the middle of this desert, right with the Haram, to sustain its people. Its interesting to imagine all the factors that come together to make this place so special, just geographically even. Sure, there’s massive appeal because of the Ka’aba, but even historically, it was a major city before Islam. I think ZamZam was a major cause. It’s this never-ending supply of clean, delicious water in the middle of the desert. It gave people a reason to settle here. Perhaps this place became sacred to preserve the well & access to it – in addition to the spiritual motivators. It’s also situated in between a series of mountains, giving it a natural defense. Tragically, it seems like the Saudi’s have blasted away much of the original mountains around the Haram, to build hotels & shopping malls. There’s so much that can be gained just from standing in a landscape that is unchanged, to get an idea of the context for past generations.

I’m going to try looking at pictures of the landscape historically. I think it’d be really interesting to see everything in its original form. That’s my only major beef with the Saudi’s so far. They’ve taken liberties with the landscape, altering it dramatically, leaving behind very little of what was originally there. That seems to be the central theme here, in the developed areas of Mecca at least: strip everything of its originality & replace it with a flashy, lifeless, contrived placeholder. The alternatives are unnatural, unsustainable. It’s so clearly evident. Take food for example. I’ve been here almost 3 days, and have yet to find a healthy meal. You have either grocery stores, full of pre-packaged & processed foods, or you have street restaurants with fried food or fast food. I know people don’t actually live eating this way. It’s horrible for you. Especially when you’re in a place so holy, trying to eat foods that will support spiritual enhancement. I’ve basically been living off ZamZam, with an actual solid meal maybe once a day. Even then, I end up regretting eating at all afterwards.

I imagine the original landscape being so heavily dominated by the mountains – especially Safa & Marwa. When you step out from the masjid at Safa, you’re faced with an enormous mountain. Isn’t that probably the original mountain? [No] Next to the Marwa side, to the East, is another large mountain, which I imagine was an early Marwa [Wrong]. Unless, of course, they’re both just very small hills & the entire Haram is just surrounded by that many mountains [Bingo!].

So, I completed my Sa’iy. That’s been the toughest part of the rituals so far. Having to walk that much, barefoot, on solid marble floors really takes a toll. You’re feet end up aching so bad. Nevertheless, I got through it, Alhamdulillah. It wasn’t as exciting as tawaf, but I still got my du’as in, so it’s all good :). After Sai’y, I went to find a barber. I wandered around what I learned to be the Northern side of the city, outside of Marwa, & found a barber area, got my haircut for 15 SR [$4].

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Filed under Al-Masjid Al-Haram, Mecca, Reflections

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