“Mina is like a refugee camp version of NYC.”
11/8/11 – Hajj, Day 5
SubhanAllah, I knocked out. There was so much I wanted to write, but I was so exhausted, I really couldn’t do it. Just woke up, it’s 1:25am, I prayed ‘Isha and brushed my teeth – I forgot this morning, so gross. Now, I’m laying back in bed. It’s been such a long day, but we’re still not totally clear, one more day, iA.
So, let me start from the beginning, iA. My parents and I went to the Haram this morning to complete our tawaf & sai’iy for Hajj. We had to walk from Mina, past the Jamarat, which is 2 miles away, to catch a bus to Mecca, which is another 5 miles. Alhamdulillah, I got to buy a new thobe off the street outside our camp. People line up for blocks along the roads to sell all sorts of goods to the pilgrims, no kiosks, they just lay everything out on blankets and sit on the ground. The thobe’s been really solid so far, Alhamdulillah! Still no tears, which is great, cuz I have nothing else to wear.
By the way, as I’m writing, or walking, or praying, or even drinking mango juice (exaggeration), I fall into these sporadic coughing fits. Isn’t there some movie where people are infected with something and it’s all epic, with them going through the streets all dramatic-like, and individuals would randomly keel over and cough their lungs out…then get up and keep going? Feels like I’ve seen that visual before, maybe with some techno blasting in the background – of the movie, not my life. Though, I have started messin with Tiësto & Deadmau5, it’s been somewhat transformative I must say. Anyways…that’s what it’s like for me. I’ll be doing something, cough for like 10 seconds straight, spit out the biggest phlegm wad ever, and keep going about my business, like nothing happened. It’s that Hajj cough.
Walking in the streets in these days, especially Mina, is horrendous. SO many people, so much garbage, pollution, street hustlers/vendors. Mina is like a refugee camp version of NYC – all the action, with none of the infrastructure. What makes NYC amazing is that it actually manages its own chaos very, very well. The Saudi’s should hire NYC government folk as consultants, no joke. Saudi’s have done nowhere near enough to prepare for the scale of this event. They should either make an effort to scale up infrastructure, or limit the number allowed in, to like 1-2 million.
I saw more dead bodies today. Like 4, lined up in the Masjid Al-Haram. I was walking through and they were laying there, in an area on the ground floor, roped off and guarded by police. Every prayer there has a janaza (funeral prayer) afterwards, so it was really interesting to actually see the bodies there. One of them had his face uncovered. He looked dead. It’s funny, now I think I know what a corpse should look like. I’ll be walking in the camp and see people laying on the street, completely motionless, look at them, and be like…nah, he’s not dead. I’m like, he would be more pale, or his feet would be like yellow, as if I’m a forensics expert now. Quick to give myself street cred, I’ll tell ya that. It’s a suburbia thing, you wouldn’t understand. Only real suburban hard knocks gon feel me on that one.
The camp has free water at least. Cold bottles of sealed Aquafina, as much as you want, until they run out and the Pathans come back to fill it up…then hang around to try to get tipped by everyone. “Bakhsheesh? Bakhsheesh?” I learned that means “tip” by the third time one of them lingered around, asking with upturned palms and head cocked to one side. Meals are pretty gross though. Haven’t had a decent one yet. Actually, since I’ve been in Saudi, I’ve only had one bomb meal, at that Pathan road stop, on the way to Medina. That place was a pure God send, mA.
They keep turning off the lights, so it’s getting darker and darker in my tent. Still keeping it goin though, iA, long as I can…