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Day 18 – Thoughts Overnight

“Mina is like a refugee camp version of NYC.”

11/8/11Hajj, 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…

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Day 17 – Cheapskate

I’m Desi, it’s hard not to be cheap. Help me yall.”

11/7/11Hajj, Day 4

I woke up this morning and just wanted to stay asleep. It was so loud though, the camp just stays obnoxiously loud at night, with everyone around constantly talking all the time. I just wanted to stay in my dream world, even that was a relief. A mental escape from the realities we face.

My current test is a recurring one. My thobe is almost in shreds practically. I bought some super cheap ones – 10 riyals ($3) each – and just got 4 of them. Every single one has ripped and gotten torn up. The one I’m wearing now is the worst, and I’ve barely even worn it. It’s also the only thing I brought along to Mina to wear. I didn’t realize we would be here so long after being out of our ihrams. There’s two huge slits on both thighs, where the pockets are, and the left side is torn open from the knee down.

The lesson: quality over quantity. This is what I get for my habit of spending money on cheap stuff. An investment into some more decent quality clothing would’ve been worth the extra cost. Now, I have to go out and try to buy something in the street in the camp to get by for the next 2 days. There’s no way I’m just wearing this tattered thobe.

I’ll try…I’m Desi, it’s hard not to be cheap. Help me yall. In the meantime, gotta figure out how to get around without being a harami and showing off my ‘aura.

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Today was real. So intense, subhanAllah. The condition of this journal is proof. I had a feeling I’d get tested with the journal, it was just a matter of time, Alhamdulillah.

Soaked Pages

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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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