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Day 3 – First Impressions

No one makes mention, everyone looks away, continuing to chant remembrances of their Lord, The Most High.”

10/24/11

It’s interesting, so far, the overwhelming majority of the people I’ve seen (pilgrims), have been old. Not many young pilgrims, which is unfortunate. It has the capacity to be such a profound & impacting experience, one that’s touched the lives of trillions, and the majority of those that partake in it are those who don’t have much energy & life left in them to make a difference with the newfound experiences they pick up. We should do something about that – pay/subsidize for more young people to perform Hajj.
I also saw a delegation of Algerian pilgrims. It was so funny – each one had a different Dahman characteristic (my Algerian roommate in college). One wore his shoes the same way – with the back folded in, another had his body hair (tmi?), another had his beard style/afro & his body type. So Algerian :)

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So we finally got our passports back – 6:30pm. It’s been long for no reason, but relaxing. Been people-watching hardcore. The local Saudi’s that walk around in thobes & headgear act like they run the show. What’s funny is that they probably do run the show – I can’t take them seriously though, I know the outfits are supposed to be their equivalent of a suit – but, c’mon, really? It’s just not the same. It has it’s own elegance to it, I agree, but nothing is quite as boss as a pimp 3-piece suit.

There’s also a very identifiable attitude amongst the Saudi’s. They’re the ish maximus here, they know it. I remember Saudi’s at VCU would act the same way, except no one gave a dang over there. Here… people actually hafta pay attention. That sucks!

There’s sometimes a noticeable tension between the workers, who seem to be primarily immigrants, and their Saudi managers. Like they don’t respect them, but fear them b/c of their status & still act out sometimes, passive aggressively.

I actually saw an altercation between two Desi (Indian/Pakistani/Bengali) janitors. They argued, the first man broke a broomstick, the second broke the stick to the dustpan the first man was holding. A Saudi came by and, though they were upset, they restrained from saying anything to him. They only continued to argue & exchange heated words amongst themselves after the first man was seemingly told to leave by the Saudi. He was escorted away by a Saudi police officer. I don’t know. Seemed like they fought cuz one guy used the other’s broom? So, he got annoyed & broke that same broom, then the other guy broke his dustpan. Then, the 1st got mad & yelled at the 2nd for getting him in trouble. Seems like there is that seedy, cutthroat, backstabbing vibe in the underbelly of this machine.

Even when first landing at the airport, while shuttling to the terminal, you can literally see pockets of workers, dozens at a time, resting in covered entrances around the building – battered, exhausted, visibly drained, while kept mostly invisible. It’s something powerful to see, as you roll up in your fresh white sheets, ready to go. Suspicions creep into your mind of the injustices that may exist, under covers that no one dares to lift. No one makes mention, everyone looks away, continuing to chant remembrances of their Lord, The Most High.

So, it’s incredible to compare the disparities that are present, just in the airport. We’re all immigrants to this land. Some as pilgrims, searching for the salvation of our souls & success for the Hereafter. Others, as migrant workers, searching for a means of earning to better support themselves &/or families back home – in search of worldly success. The workers look beaten & worn, the pilgrims look excited but drained. I suppose the desert takes its toll on all, may Allah bring us all the best of successes in this life & in the Hereafter.

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Day 3 – These Sands

This place has a history. These sands have a legacy. We may contribute to it, but never can we be privileged enough to define it in a way more magnificent than what has already been done.”

10/24/11

Wow. Ok. So we’re here, it’s been a bit hectic. Mostly, cuz I wasn’t mindful of the fact that this is a straight 3rd world country. We got out of the airplane in Jeddah & just got hit right smack in the face by the thick desert heat. I actually didn’t mind it. To be honest, I’m enjoying the weather. Sure, myself & everyone else is gross, sweaty and sticky but it’s all love homie, we in the birth land of the Rasul!

A bunch of bureaucratic drama has been taking place at the airport. Something to do with having to pay to get our passports. I dunno, I’m chillin, waitin for it to all clear out. We’ve been at the airport for about…5 hours maybe? We have our bags & everything, just waiting until one office delivers our passports to another office 4 kiosks away, so we can pay them, pick up our passports & leave. Inefficient much? Totally. I guess that’s how bureaucracies go, especially in kingdoms.

This place reminds me a great deal of Pakistan, the way things are painted with tacky colors, the dry heat, the laid back attitudes of the people that work here. People just not on that America level :P

SubhanAllah though, I prayed Dhuhr & ‘Asr in the musallah at the airport, and it was such an amazing feeling. Something about praying in ihram, under the desert sun, with a cool breeze, in the land where the Nabi received revelation is profoundly powerful. I really felt baraka that was special, a connection that was greater than what I’m used to. Labbayk Allahuma Labbayk (I am responding to Your Call, O Allah, I am responding to Your Call).

People-watching here is so great too. With the locals, it’s like they prolly think they’re the ish cuz they work in Saudi. Then again…they kind of are the ish…cuz they work in Saudi. Even if they are just bag handlers at the airport, there’s something very special & majestic about this place. When you look out into the desert horizon, and all you see is a flat line off in the distance & a brown, dusty tint to the air that hangs above it, you feel the magnitude of being a in a place so much bigger than yourself – so much more significant than what’s made it important by your meager existence in these few days.

This place has a history. These sands have a legacy. We may contribute to it, but never can we be privileged enough to define it in a way more magnificent than what has already been done. We seek, instead, to merely be a part of this magnitude. To be lost in these deserts, under this never-ending sky, breathing air that encompasses every imaginable creature with its density & grace. We seek to be lost together, in circumambulation, moving with the crowd like a sea crashing rhythmically against the coast, no single drop free to move on its own. Go with the flow. Move with the current. Take off your shoes & swim good. Lose yourself in these rituals & connect with The One that brought you here. Find Him. He has brought you for that purpose. Seek out His Majesty & Glory. That is why you are here. That is how you will be transformed. Find Him. And remember what you have found. Carry it with you & share it with others. Lather, rinse, repeat. Others will follow in the same footsteps, you may return again & even join them. But, no journey can match the first invitation. Get the most out of this trip. You will never have the opportunity to go to Mecca for the first time ever again, for the rest of eternity. Ya Rab, please bless me to find what is best for me to find here. Guide me to what is best for me, here & Hereafter. Thank you for your invitation. I happily accept! Labbayk Allahuma Labbayk!

In other news, vaseline between the thighs? Genius! Muhammad Al-Shareef comin through all the way on that HajjCoach. Chafe free is how I be (iA) alllll dayyyy!

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Day 2 – Liftoff

10/23/11

On the plane, we’ve lifted off & begun the flight. You can sense there’s alot of excitement, especially amidst our group – all the uncles are like, on a buddy trip, chillin wit they homies kinda vibe. I’m chillin with some earplugs in, finding bliss in tuning out the noise. I’m sitting next to my mom, which is funny b/c I was assigned a totally different seat. My mom had some guy next to her, who offered to switch with my dad, but he didn’t want to sit next to her! So funny. He didn’t want to deal with the nagging for 12 hours :). She was giving him a hard time for not switching next to her though, so he did it to avoid making a scene. He sat down next to her, 30 seconds later, he was at my seat asking to switch, haha! I happily switched. I’d much rather be close to her than with some randoms. I’m hoping to spend alot of time with her this trip, helping her however I can. I know she really wants it too, she’s saying my dad already said he’s not gonna stay with her during the rituals. These two are so funny, it’s cute. I’m looking forward to being there for her though, may Allah make it easier for us & reward me even more for helping them :) cha-ching!

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I’m reading Tariq Ramadan’s “In The Footsteps of the Prophet”, finding it to be so inspirational & beautiful. So well-written & perfectly contemplative mashaAllah. I hope that I’m able to take from it what would be best for me to know while I embark on this momentous journey. Speaking of which – I realize this trip has a magnitude greater than what I currently grasp. I’m attempting to capture as much as I can though, so that later, when it settles in, I can re-live & share the journey in a meaningful way. I also imagine there’s an opportunity for my future generations to interact with this text. If that ever happens, if I am to be so blessed, then, Salaam to you all :D (I actually smiled when I drew that, even though it’s hideous, geez cut me some slack, I’m your granddaddy for goodness sake!) j/k future kiddos, j/k :) (that means “just kidding” in 2011 talk). Who knows what you’ll be into when you’re time comes – where your interests will lie. I do solemnly pray & hope for your success, in the most true & everlasting sense of the word. May Allah preserve, guide, elevate, & honor my progeny & make me and my brother the elevated, guided, successful progeny of those who came before us.

The Hideous Smiley

On a less inspirational, yet equally inspired note, these Punjabi uncles seriously won’t stop yapping on the plane. AND they’re SO LOUD! It’s ridiculous. It’s like 11:30 pm and they’re still carrying on like we’re traveling to an international cab-drivers convention (they all actually are cab drivers). Can we please contemplate the journey afoot? Mentally prepare ourselves for one of the greatest experiences of our lives? Really hoping they don’t turn this Hajj into a bachelor party. I will not hesitate to bounce & do my own thing – I need to do this right & to have my du’as accepted – I need my sins forgiven, my heart cleansed, my self enlightened. Ya Rabb, I am in Your Care now, more than always, please sufficiently prepare & guide me. Ameen.

Word to the kiddos – don’t be loud, obnoxious Punjabis. Nobody thinks that mess is cute.

I’ve been reading & writing much of the way, I think I should sleep, we land in about 7 hours I believe, & it’s all action from there.

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