Monthly Archives: March 2012

Day 19 – Recovery

“The city appears to be in recovery. The wheels and gears have begun churning to purify the streets back to their original state.” 

11/9/11

I just slept for 12 hours. I feel completely rested and restored Alhamdulillah. I got up at 9 am and started reading my journal. Everything seemed so distant, like it happened months ago, that’s how renewed I feel right now. The rest of my time here is probably going to be different, I can feel it.

It feels like this big burden has been lifted, but not a bad one. It made me feel closer to Allah, though it was intense and heavy. I think that was the Hajj connection. Now, it’s gone. I pray for there to still be a connection. Ya Allah, keep testing me, as I can handle, and keep me close, please. Do not let me slip back into the outskirts, further away from You. This has been an experience for me like none other.

When I was reading my words this time, it felt like I was learning everything for the first time.  Though mental images would appear, conjured by the stories I was reading, they just felt so distant. Before, I used to try reading and had no interest. Everything felt too repetitive, it was all too fresh in my mind. Now, I’m so thankful to have this journal, I already feel benefited by it.

I’m going to step out for a little bit and try to pick up a few things from the store, iA. There are some things I still need to write about, I’ll do that when I get back iA.

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Did some leisurely exploring today. Went on a little mission to find McDonald’s. I found it, Alhamdulillah. SubhanAllah, the most amazing thing happened actually. Everyone was giving directions for me to go a particular way, then when I got to that point – I looked in that direction and was like…nah, that doesn’t feel right, and I headed in the opposite direction. From there, I just followed some hunches and things started looking familiar. It was awesome, I felt like I was being guided and felt inclinations towards a particular path. Ok, so it was just a trip to McDonald’s, but even that was made so much more thrilling because I had myself a little divine GPS backing me up. I really hope this is something that lasts, I think this is called firaasah? They say Believers have firaasah, or insight, that’s divinely inspired, allowing them to see more than what’s on the surface. I think there’s a hadith actually that says to beware the firaasah of the Believer, because it is true. I hope it’s firaasah :) I could already feel that it wasn’t going to last though. That makes sense too. My firaasah was telling me that my firaasah wasn’t going to last. How ironic.

I left around 11:20am and ended up right outside a street corner mosque at Dhuhr, so I dropped in and caught the jama’a. It was so dope to be able to do that, neighborhood mosques are such a huge blessing, and they’re always full! Every prayer is packed like jummah is at our mosques, Alhamdulillah.

I’m getting so used to carrying my shoes in my bag when I go to pray too. Just carrying this small tote bag is pretty awesome, it’s so convenient, I can keep essentials with me and put it all out of my mind that I won’t have what I need. I carry that joint everywhere. I may start carrying stuff with me like that when I get back home too, who knows? I’m definitely going to try to keep journaling, doing so has been hugely beneficial so far. It’s really helped me to track events and developments and see everything more clearly, to analyze them in a deeper light.

So, I prayed at this mosque, kept on my way and eventually found the McDonald’s. It was about an hour walk from where we’re staying in Aziziah. There was a big line inside, but not as crazy and reckless a crowd as there usually is at Al-Baik. This was a more civilized breed. Some Brits, and Frenchies, by the sound of their speech. I got outta there with some chicken nuggets, a spicy chicken sandwich, a quarter pounder with cheese, and 3 big macs with fries. All of it was sub-par. McDonald’s in general is sub-par, so I suppose it was on-par with McDonald’s standards. The prices were the same, just converted over. I felt gross again after eating – I had the chicken sandwich and a big mac. The meat didn’t even look real. I still miss that Quattro’s burger.

I’m so disappointed. Granted, American food is best in America, I get that, but I can’t even get a decent shawarma in this country! Yall suck. I’m living off laban from now on, that’s it. That joint is my crack. Laban is the only saving grace here, I’m gonna miss that when we go back. I wonder if Arab stores sell it in America, as a yogurty drink? There’s an Arab grocery near my work I’ma hafta holla at insholla.

On the way back, I tried taking a shortcut and ended up face to face with a giant mountain like…wth, where’d you come from…? That’s the thing, this city has a grid, but then there are mountains dropped throughout the whole city, randomly spread around. I found the way back though, Alhamdulillah, just tapped into that firaasah GPS…which was already fading by this point :/

I also managed to find a new memory card for my camera. 2GB for 30 riyals, not bad sir, not bad.

Things have slowed down around here, the city appears to be in recovery. The wheels and gears have begun churning to purify the streets back to their original state. It’s not as busy, not as hectic, though still very much Mecca.

Peoples’ attitudes have changed too. The generosity and patience isn’t stressed so much anymore, amongst Hajji’s at least. All the emotions they had bottled up this whole time are finally being let out by those that are still frustrated. One of the Iranian guys, Nabi, started complaining to our trip leader about not being happy with his entire experience. He was especially upset because he paid $2,000 more than most others in the group and got the same shoddy service. One of the Punjabi uncles tried calming him, saying he would ruin his Hajj this way, something that had become a routine reminder throughout the past weeks, like a mantra of sorts. He said, “My Hajj is complete! I can say the truth now and I’m NOT happy!”

I’m like smh, it’s over man, just give it up. Allah is the one that makes it ‘unpleasant’ so you remember Him, that’s how you find happiness. I’m blissful, Alhamdulillah. Truly at peace. I’m just worried about how things will change when I get back and end up in the same environments again. I pray these states I’ve reached are preserved and I’m able to retain the goodness my heart has tasted. It’s too sweet to just give up for this salty, salty world.

I’m trying to go climb Jabal An-Nur tomorrow iA, to reach Cave Hira. It’s something I’ve always wanted to visit. I’m here, I have the time, I’m going to make the effort and leave the rest to Allah. Please help me to reach this destination tomorrow, make it easy for me and show me what will benefit me, Ya Rabb. Shukran :)

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Filed under Aziziah, Mecca, Reflections, Travel

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.

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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.

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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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Filed under Aziziah, Hajj, Mecca, Reflections, Travel