Tag Archives: saudi

Day 4 – At Second Glance

That’s what I’d like to see, for Mecca to become a marketplace of ideas & stories as much as it is a marketplace for jewels & cheap, Chinese prayer beads.”

10/25/11

I just prayed Maghrib on mount Safa. I think Shuraim led the prayer & he recited the verse about As-Safa in the 2nd rak’ah :). That was cool. During prayer time, it’s completely silent. Hundreds of thousands of people – everywhere you look – in the same position, reciting the same words, facing the same qibla. It’s awe-inspiring. It’s so much easier to cry in salah here. I teared up in the first rak’ah when he recited “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un” (Surely, we belong to Him and surely, to Him is our return), but maybe that’s cuz that verse always gets me. Here, at least you just feel it so much more. When he says we all belong to Him, I believe it so much easier – how else would we have all gotten here? How else would we be altogether in this place, in this way, if we were not His slaves & property? So, if we are His property and we are to return to Him, then may our return to Him be as joyous & peaceful as our current union in this wonderful city. Ameen.

Mecca, specifically Masjid Al-Haram, just became my favorite place in this planet. Apparently Medina is even more tranquil than this?? That’s something I have to see. This place is special because it is So busy, just like NYC – but in a 3rd world country, & unified around a single theme – worship of The One. So much more than in NYC can you see every part of the world here, and completely, utterly unfiltered, in its most raw & true form. People make no attempts to hide who they are or be anything else – they are purely themselves, from wherever they’re from. And this place accepts them all, however they are. So beautiful. There’s also tons of Desi’s here – I don’t even need to speak Arabic, so many people, especially workers & shop keepers, speak Urdu. Even the Arabs speak Urdu, probably since so many of their workers do – like Spanish in America.

Speaking of which, for some reason my dad keeps speaking Spanish with the locals. He either speaks in English, or in Spanish. I have to keep reminding him that no one knows what the heck “gracias” means here. It’s kind of funny. He’ll be haggling with a cab driver and randomly bust out with an “Ok! Si, si, si!” and just get a blank stare. Of the many languages spoken here, Spanish, surprisingly, is not one of them – at least not as far as I can tell. I miss Latinos.

Another thing about prayer is, when the imam isn’t reciting, it’s silent. All you hear is birds chirping & people coughing – and ALOT of people be coughing. Everyone seems sick, it’s kind of gross b/c alot of them don’t cover their nose or mouth when they cough or sneeze. Makes me imagine that the Haram would be a great place to do educational outreach – it would reach samples of the entire world’s population.

Mecca could be so much more of a Mecca, to be honest. It’s surprisingly underwhelming. The masjid is the only part of the city that really seems to have it together. There should be institutions here that help to capitalize on the opportunity here – not just from a business perspective, but a Humanitarian perspective. That’s something to seriously consider. I don’t know if it’s something that isn’t being allowed, or is too expensive to manage here, but there’s great work that can come out of such an establishment. So many people come here, but they don’t really connect with each other. We connect with the Ka’aba, with Allah & with each other merely as bodies occupying spaces adjacent to us, not as brothers & sisters from regions throughout the world, facing struggles, hardships, pain, suffering – or even joys & successes – that can all be shared & leveraged.

That’s what I’d like to see, for Mecca to become a marketplace of ideas & stories as much as it is a marketplace for jewels & cheap, Chinese prayer beads.

Before I forget – I wanted to make mention of the look on the face of the Saudi guard watching over Hajr Al-Aswad. He looked overwhelmed, like he was holding back tears, while guarding the corner. Then, I imagined how powerful it must be, to stand where he stands, to look out at the magnitude of the place he’s in. To look into the fervent faces of pilgrims & zealous worshippers, to see them struggling so hard to get closer, to even simply brush their fingertips across the corner he is posted at. And it’s continuous. Never-ending. Perpetual. Until the end of this place. SubhanAllah.

I should eat right? It’s almost 7pm, I’ve been here for 4 hours – just writing & reflecting. All I’ve had today is ZamZam – and I haven’t really felt hungry. I had some KFC this morning before heading back to the hotel after Fajr – it wasn’t all that. Halal Popeye’s back home is better actually. I’m gonna go peep that Burger King tho, been fienin for it. More later iA, still need to talk about after tawaf & the rest of this morning iA.

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Reflecting on salah. I actually took so long to get out after maghrib that it came time for Isha. So, I prayed before leaving. I imagine the city full of people, stopping at the adhan, turning to the Ka’aba & devoting themselves in salah. The imam recites the revealed words of Allah out over loudspeakers, which resound through the streets, fill the air and are snatched down by the open, devoted hearts of the worshippers. No word goes un-seized.

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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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