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.