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Day 14 – Moving Into Mina

“Patience training wheels…just remember to keep pedaling, junior”

11/4/11Hajj, Day 1

Today is the day. It’s the 8th of Dhul Hijjah, the first day of Hajj. It’s also a Friday – which apparently makes this is “Hajj Akbar” (“Greater Hajj”), supposedly worth 70 times more than a regular Hajj, inshaAllah. [After doing some research, I found that there actually is no such thing].

It’s 5:40am, just prayed Fajr in our room. We’ll be heading out on the buses soon to go to Mina & will have to get into our ihrams again, with the intention of Hajj. This is the moment we’ve been preparing for, for the past 8 months, and waiting for our entire lives. Once it starts, we’ll be in Mina, more or less, for the next 5 days, living out of tents. We’ll be spending one night in Muzdalifah, sleeping in the open, following the Day of Arafah. The rest of our time will be in Mina.

I’m very much looking forward to the Day of Arafah. I have a ton of du’as I’m hoping to make and to have heard iA. Someone I know told me all the du’as they made there were answered, subhanAllah. I intend to beseech the same Merciful & Generous Lord. Also, totally want to shave my head. This long hair is kind of driving me crazy. Well, not crazy, it’s just too much to worry about right now.

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It’s 9:50am, the bus is finally here to take us to Mina. Not much goin on today, just sittin around, waiting. Lots of talbiyah, a little napping, trying to rest. I started feeling sick again this morning, like something was up with my stomach too. I definitely have a cough now also. None of it is serious, you just get accustomed to not being 100%.

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We’re in Mina. It’s 12:15pm, we’ve been sitting here for almost an hour, in the bus. The group chemistry has gotten alot better. There’s always nice, entertaining interactions between the Somali sub-group and the Punjabi sub-group. There’s actually a brother named Ahmed, Somali dude, who lives in Hyderabad, India – so he speaks Urdu. Makes for some great humor with the Desi uncles. Especially, when he gets into explaining the Indian bobble-head syndrome. He does a killer impression too, it’s dead on :). There’s another brother, Fiyyaz, who’s actually from Hyderabad. Watching them go back and forth is a riot, such good hearts mA. They make the whole environment much easier for everyone.

Sometimes, I envision my journal as a screenplay for a film. Cool idea – since there’s so many languages being spoken around me, it’d be interesting, visually, to only show subtitles for specific words that are understood, leaving the rest untranslated. This might illustrate how bewildering everything can be sometimes.

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We got into tents at around 2pm. There was a huge discrepancy with the lady…

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Sorry, got caught up. Things got heated in the tent and I got distracted. Basically, we showed up to Mina & had no tents, so we waited on our bus for 2 hours, where there was A/C. Then, the bus driver was complaining because he’d been up since 3am and had to leave, so we finally got off the bus to let the poor guy go. They still had no space for our whole group. The entire group had paid an extra $245 each, for a private, air-conditioned tent, with foam mattresses and 3 daily meals, for the entire duration of the stay in Mina, with the entire group being together. We showed up and they split up our group. The ladies got put in a room with women from another group. 5 of the men were split up and given spots in a few different tents, with other groups. The rest of us, 17 guys, were led to a small tent and told to stay there. The tent was tiny, smaller than a college dorm room, with 4 fold-up cushion beds, but no meals. We were like…um…ok…kept our heads down, and started to settle in.

We had all barely sat down when an unknown woman came into our tent, yelling and complaining in Arabic about our group leader, Muhammad Hirsy, saying he was ordering her around and being rude. We later found out she was the organizer from our Hajj group, through whom all of the local arrangements were made by the group leaders. She was complaining that he had not paid her any money for the upgraded tents and that she offered to extend some help to him out of her own generosity and kindness, but he was making too many demands and being overbearing, taking advantage of her hospitality. We were like, ok…chill…work it out, cuz WE definitely paid him. It all turned into a really big issue. All of the men in our group got together in our tent and had many meetings to try and figure out what to do. So, now there’s like 22 guys, all chillin in this tiny space – tired, hungry, frustrated, starting to lose their tempers. The lady came by again and dropped off 9 meals, as “gifts” to our group.

Most of the men were pissed at this point. They tried to take a stand to make a statement about how they were going to get what was owed to them, in full. No one had eaten all morning though…and those meals were just stacked high…in the middle of the tent. The men were so fired up about going to the Ministry of Hajj and complaining about not getting what they paid for, and getting ripped off…as they continued eyeing the hot food, untouched and unclaimed. Those boxes of biryani were calling out to us as we huddled around in a disjointed circle, meeting to strategize how best to make our stand. We couldn’t fight it any longer, the meals got passed around and split up – 2-3 people per box. Once we started eating, everyone calmed down and completely lost steam haha. Some guys went and talked to the lady again, to try reasoning with her. She said she would work things out for us, though it may take time. So, we’re all just hanging out in the tent, indefinitely.

Man Meeting, The Biryani Beckons

It’s funny though, everyone gets so fired up about the simplest things. Every registered Hajji is guaranteed a tent with carpet and water, that’s the basic provision. Even with just that, we woulda been chillin, no biggie. People already paid though, so I guess they have reason to be upset. My pops paid the upgrade for my whole family, so it’s not like I’m really feelin the pressure. He was up and at it though.

I think it’s also an American thing. We have so much less patience, it’s actually alarming. I was just making wudhu and there was a guy doing his wudhu outside of the drainage area, so he wouldn’t have to wait in line to use the faucet. There was another man there, stopping people from doing that exact thing because all of that water would run down into his tent. He told the man to stop and not make wudhu there, said it twice. The other man got so pissed, like “ok! I understood you the first time!!”. I’m like, dang…he just gave a simple admonishment. Peeps need more patience. That’s the biggest thing I’ve gotten out of this so far. Life, as well, is about being patient with your tests. It’s like enduring smaller tests here, in a controlled environment, to help you get practice at developing patience. Every hardship is resolved practically the same day, though it feels like forever til you get there. Patience training wheels :) Just remember to keep pedaling, junior :P

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Day 12 – Khamsein?

Every day has been such an adventure here, subhanAllah

11/2/11

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