January 23, 2005

The 12th of Dhul-Hijjah

On the 12 of Dhul-Hijjah, I was to complete my Hajj. We left out of Mina in the morning to take our stuff back to the hotel; we would walk to jamaraat from there.

We did jamaraat after Zuhr. We went on the top floor for the first time. It wasn't really any less crowded, and somehow people seemed ruder. After completing the last stoning, I thought to myself: "Alhamdolillah, I'm done Hajj."

How wrong I was. The last and biggest test was still to come. The rain had slowly begun by the time we completed the last stoning. We still had quite a distance to cover before reaching the hotel. It became clear that the rain would not stop anytime soon, so we decided to find shelter. The nearest spot was under the King Khalid Road (Tareeq Malik Khalid) bridge, the bridge that would lead back to the tunnel that goes to our hotel in Aziziah. The rain became extremely heavy before we reached the underpass; I was completely soaked from head to toe. We waited there for a while as the rain became heavier. The drainage system could not handle the rain, and it started flooding. The water level became knee deep, even under the bridge where we sought refuge. The security forces at first prevented the people from staying there, but eventually they gave up. The water level was very high, propelled by heavy winds. Garbage cans, bicycles, and tonnes of garbage flowed through the streets. One man saw his motorcycle get washed up in the waves. He desperately tried to stop it, but the water was coming down too fast - either he would have to let the motorcycle go, or go down the river of sewage with it. Others pleaded that he forget the motorcycle in order to protect his own life, and he eventually conceded. The motorcycle floated away, and was out of sight within seconds.

Finally, security let us in the tent area, where we took refuge in an Indian womens tent. My mother was crying, and her condition got worse when they decided to kick out the men. A big argument broke out among the men regarding something; clearly, tensions were running high. After more arguing, all the men left, except me; I stayed with my mother. Eventually, security found me too, and so I decided to leave. My mother couldn't bear the thought of me having to wait out in the pouring rain; she was crying so much as I put on the security poncho they provided me. I seemed to be the only one given such a poncho. I went outside, and watched the water pour.

After some time, they decided to tolerate the men being inside, so I stayed there for some time, freezing and soaking while the rain subsided. I tried to lighten the situation by engaging others in conversation, but none of the others spoke English.

It was getting late, and I wanted to leave Mina before Maghrib. I also still had to pray 'Asr. The flood waters calmed, and so I tried to convince my mother to leave. She decided to wait a bit, but by 4:45pm, we left. Once we reached the King Khalid tunnel, our Hajj would be done.

Getting there was still a challenge. King Khalid road was still flooded, and we were exhausted. But we needed to push on. The water, actually sewage and garbage, was to our knees, but we needed to get out. We finally made it to the tunnel, and so there officially ended my Hajj.
But past the tunnel, the situation was getting worse. The flood waters were still rising and the wind was heavy. Cars were stuck, and people desperately tried to board busses that also refused to move. It took another 20 minutes at least to push through the flood waters along King Khalid road, but eventually, alhamdolillah, we made it. I showered and prayed Asr, and my Hajj was complete.

Today would have been a relaxing day, except much of it was spent sick, and much of it was spent searching and worrying about Amma's moneyfold. I also realized that I was missing 200$ US, so that worried me a great deal too. We ate of our qurbani after Zuhr, but the rest of the day was spent worrying about our missing money. At around 9:30pm, we found the moneyfold, which also contained my missing 200$ US.

In other news, my roommate turned on the TV and I saw a friend of mine from Ottawa U being interviewed about his Hajj experience... almost 3 million people went for Hajj this year; what are the chances?

I've heard reports that approximately 150 people died in the flood. I would not be surprised at all if many of these were the small children that have been forced to beg on the streets. The tides would have washed them away in a second, and no one would have the heart to save them here.

January 21, 2005

The 10th of Dhul-Hijjah

The 10th was a crazy day. After walking from Muzdalifah back to Mina, we fell asleep. We woke up soon after to perform the first stoning of jamaraat. Rami is crazy; stones flying from everywhere. I lost my money belt (stolen?) and one slipper fell apart. I walked barefoot half the way back to the camp. Though I was exhausted, I insisted that we do tawaaf ifaada and say'i that same day. It was crowded and difficult, and the taxi drivers charged us 40 riyaals each way.

January 19, 2005

In Muzdalifah

I've lost track of January time, but it's the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah. I haven't written much in a while, because too much has happened in the last few days to afford me writing time. I am currently sitting on my sleeping bag, which is covered with sand. I am in Muzdalifah, and it's been the most unfamiliar of all the Haj rites so far.

On Friday (Jan 14th), we were told that we would be leaving Madinah for Makkah on Sunday (the 16th). That worked, I could spend more time in 'ibadah, and still fit in some shopping time. I spent most of Saturday in Masjid Nabawi, since Sunday was to be my last day. After Isha, I came back to the hotel. The Safa Travel guy was waiting in the lobby, and asked me : "Where have you been? The bus is waiting!" He said we had to leave right away. I thought he was joking. But it was true, we were to leave for Makkah. My mother and I were in total panic - I went back to my hotel room and saw all the other luggage was gone; only mine remained.

I was not in ihram, so I threw one into my school bag quickly. I threw everything else in my suitcase and ran. One of our suitcases was majorly ripped - we were going to replace it on Sunday, but did not have the chance. So in complete disarray, we boarded the bus.

I was so pissed off. Everything had gone relatively smoothly so far, but this ruined everything. I would have to make ihraam in a stall somewhere rather than a comfy hotel room. One of the main reasons why I wanted to go to Madinah first was so that I would be able to shower and put on the ihraam in the hotel, and just make the intention later. I was able to handle every other hardship, but this broke my spirit.

I had a cramped spot on the bus. I really just did not want to talk to anyone, fearing that I would explode if I were to speak. Things only got worse at Abyar Ali (Dhul-Hulaifah) where I found my ihraam too thin and too small. This was not how I hoped it would begin at all.

But it did begin, and I tried building my confidence back by reciting talbiya. I couldn't. I sat dejected for over 12 hours in that bus. Reaching the hotel finally was a bit of a relief. I fell asleep after Zuhr.

After Maghrib, we prepared ourselves for Umrah. I was in a proper ihraam finally, so I felt a little better. We waited a few hours, thus missing Isha at Haram. But we made our 'umrah, and once I had my head shaved, I felt much better.

After another day in Makkah spent mostly on recuperating from the journey, we went to Mina. Hajj had now officially begun. In Mina, I saw a few people I knew, but they either do not know me, or didn't see me. The tents are quite interesting. It's not at all like what I expected, it somehow feels like Raiwindh.

An 'alim from Calgary, running a madrassah in Hope, BC, is here. I was happy to see this, and even more surprised to see Maulana Asim. The BC maulana gave a talk after Maghrib in Urdu, it was quite powerful, though not what I expected.

We came to Arafat on the second day. Still no sign of any friends. I made quite a bit of du'a there, but on leaving, I regret not doing more. Whether I would ever be there again, only Allah SWT knows. We had a whole bunch of fried chicken for lunch, which really seemed like a bad idea considering what I heard about Muzdalifah and washroom lineups. Well, here I am in Muzdalifah, and things haven't been so bad. I went in line before 3:00 am, and only needed to wait about 30 minutes or so - possibly less than in a similar lineup in Arafah. I managed to sleep despite the fact that I had sisters on three sides, with my head laying half in the dirt.

There's this guy next to me who has been trying to bother me by pointing out that it should say "Surah al-Mulk" rather than "Surah Mulk" on the cover of this book I have with me. He then told me I prayed my tahajjud in the wrong direction - that I should have prayed towards the sign that says "QIBLA". He was clearly wrong, though; the sign itself was an arrow, thus Qibla is perpendicular to the direction he told me. It seems as if it's the job of some people in Hajj to test the patience of others.

January 11, 2005

Finally in Madinah

At about 4:30pm, we got in line for the Madinah flight. My mother and I were separated at the lineup; and I didn't see her for a few hours until we reached Madinah.

We took a taxi here after retrieving our luggage. Showering felt quite good. In retrospect, we should have waited for the rest of our group at the airport; we would have saved over 40 riyals. The rest of my group showed up at our hotel less than 2 hours later.

It's quite cold here. I went to Masjid Nabawi, but got kicked out shortly afterwards as it was closing. Though I was extremely hungry and didn't know where my mother was after we were kicked out of the masjid, I just collapsed on the bed and was fast asleep. I didn't notice the others come in. Eventually my mother found the hotel, and we slept until 3 am, waking up with the adhan for tahajjud.

Masjid Nabawi is more beautiful than I remember it, having last been here during Ramadan 1999-2000. Maulana Bukhari's seminar at ICQ helped me appreciate some of the details. We haven't been able to visit the grave of Rasulullah SAW yet because of major crowds.

The hotel isn't great, but Allah SWT has given me patience. I've been working on increasing my khushoo' in salaah.

Incidentally, my notebook (that my whole family scoured the whole house looking for on the day we left Montreal) has been found, as I expected. It was blue, not yellow, which is why it was never found. The Haj journey really begins much before the actual rites of Hajj.

So the journey has really begun.

January 10, 2005

Still stuck in Jeddah

After Fajr (which was performed amid great confusion regarding the start time), we noticed that we've only been carrying three suitcases instead of four. Our baggage tags are also missing. A Saudi Airlines dude helped us tremendously in locating it. Was the special treatment because were Canadian? Maybe, Allah knows. Normally, they're never that polite. Anyway, after many more hours of running around, it was found alhamdolillah. We had a nice breakfast of daal/roti and some chai. Eventually, I got to sleep finally in the American Haj Union office until Zuhr, and between Zuhr and Asr. Also, we finally met with the Safa Travel guy.


Jeddah airport... everywhere we passed through, airport staff looked at our passports and panicked, seeing that we're from Canada. As we are going to Madinah first, we are not in ihraam, but it seems like everyone else is. This, in addition to the fact that we don't speak Arabic, and the fact that we are not with our group, has lead to much confusion and discomfort... but I'm comfortable that we were doing the right thing.

Once we finally made it to the Haj terminal and past Gate 10, things started making sense. But past that gate, we encountered more people panicking at the fact that we were Canadians. One airport dude took our suitcases, saying they would be returned 5 minutes later. 3 hours later, we enlisted two guys from the American Haj Union to scour the whole airport to find them for us. Eventually, they were found, but only after a great deal of stress.

One thing amazes me though; the system here seems to run so haphasardly and chaotically, but they get things done. Anyway, I waited in line for about an hour and a half to get my flight ticket to Madinah. A Bengali/Saudi looking man pushed past me in the short line, and took well over an hour to be served. Fortunately, some British tablighi/deobandi-looking people showed up behind me, and we discussed the struggles and privileges of Hajj. One said:

"If you manage to keep your composure while everyone else has lost their temper ... you probably haven't understood the problem." I love British Muslims. Insha-Allah, our community will reach that level someday.

After all the waiting in that line for the Madinah flight ticket, I discovered I wasn't in the right place. We eventually found the American Hajj Union office, which seemingly due to failures on the Safa Travel side, wasn't the bastion of relief I hoped it would be. Ah well. After many hours of waiting, we finally got booked on a flight to Madinah - not worth the cost, mind you - but it won't be until 6pm on the 10th...which meant another 15 hours here. In that time, I called home, and wrote all this. We had to wait around a bit to clear up the boarding pass issue, but alhamdolillah it seems to be moving in the right direction.

I have some Zambians to my left, they just gave me a Toblerone bar. My mother made some good khidmat of this Chilean indo-pak family that would have otherwise been very confused. Amid all the chaos, the real spirit of Hajj is starting to shine through.


Cairo Airport has been heavily renovated since last I was here, but it's still a major hassle. Alhamdolillah, we did not experience any significant delays; we spent about 4 hours there in total. The flight from Vienna to Cairo crossed over some beautiful mountain scenery, and the food on the flight was excellent. Cairo Airport still had the same "we-keep-your-passport" policy for all those hours, people were impolite, and we couldn't complete a phone call. Allah is with the patient. I lost 20$ Canadian on those smelly Egyptian pounds.

January 09, 2005


I'm in Vienna. A friend of my brother (and brother of an old friend) was next to us on the flight from TO to here. He seems like a really good guy. He doesn't eat cheese or meat or eggs or anything. He works for the UN and was on his way to Kosovo.

I'm in the Vienna airport interfaith room. Nice to see a tashahud symbol to indicate the room, and it's nice to find some musallas and mushafs here. Vienna is followed by Cairo, a place I hoped to avoid. I haven't slept at all yet.

"Dieser andachtsraum steht allen menschen zur anbetung oder sur stillen besinnung offen. Mogen allé, die hier einkehren frieden finden und gestarkt ihren weg weitergehen."

"This is a room of prayer and meditation. May all those who use this room find their peace and leave encouraged to procede (sic) their journey."
-Vienna, June 6th 1988.

January 08, 2005

Waiting in TO airport

...met a few other soon-to-haajis. I lead Maghrib in the TO airport as an Israeli guy watched intently. He wanted to take a picture of my mother praying, for some reason.

Being at this airport with so many other Muslims preparing for Hajj is interesting. It's really sinking in now that my journey has begun.