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.

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