Sunday, August 29, 2004

From Arab

What Is Wrong With Arabs?
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi,

An American reader, Gordon Reade, sent me the following question, which is no doubt on the minds of many:
“In America our history books say that while Europe was mired in the dark ages, the Arabs led the world in art, education, science, math, philosophy, military power and you name it. According to our books, a thousand years ago the Arabs were every bit as powerful as America is today.

But what our books don’t tell us is what went wrong. The Arabs of today would be virtually unrecognizable to the Arabs of the past. Clearly you guys suffered some tremendous catastrophe long before 1967 and long before 1948. What went wrong and when did it happen? Do the Arabs have a name for it?”

I answered him: True, we ruled and enlightened the world for some thousand years, reaching China, India, Central Asia, Africa, Spain and northern Europe.

Our contributions to science and culture were immeasurable. They included the invention of the zero, algebra and the astrolabe and the discovery of blood circulation.

We translated Greek, Indian and Persian literary treasures and added our own. Then, we fought each other and the Ottoman Turks took over the Islamic Caliphate and united its disintegrated empire. While the Turks are not Arabs, they are Muslims.

At the time, they used Arabic alphabet and ruled our world in the name of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as his successors “Caliphs”.

The Ottomans were once the most powerful nation on earth. They ruled supreme for many centuries. At the end of 19th century, they began to decline. Their mistake was the one oft repeated by many empires.

They felt so invincible that they had no need to consult with anyone regarding anything they did in the world, no matter how vital or colossal. Arrogance and mistreatment of subject people led to revolts, including some in Arab countries. Still, their rule continued until World War I when they and their allies, the Germans, were defeated.

The Western victors then took over and colonized the Arab world, lasting up to the late sixties. They left behind dictatorial regimes; most still rule today with Western support. America, alone, installed some of the most horrible regimes and leaders like Saddam Hussein and others.

Today, the Arabs suffer from a decline on all fronts. Politically, most of us are prisoners to emergency and revolutionary rules.

Economically, altogether we produce every year less than Spain. Culturally, we print fewer than one percent of the books in the world. We have questionable levels of poverty, quality of education and unemployment rates. That says it all.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Social life picking up

With September coming up within the week, many families have returned to KSA and the compound is now bustling with people and activities. Met more women on the compound bus that shuttles us women to the shopping malls and souks. Yes, as there isn't much that a woman can do here thus shopping and socializing become primary activities.

I had a session with the personal trainer today. I decided that I needed to go the gym and start working out after last Friday. What happened last Friday? I had an open house for some new friends here. Invited families who invited me over to their house previously and some people whom we have spent our time with dining out. One couple had a baby about a year old. I carried that baby for about 45 minutes (perhaps its shorter than that but boy it felt THAT long!) And the whole night after that I could not sleep as the whole of my left side was aching. Yes I was carrying the baby on my left arm all that time. My arms and shoulders were pulsating in pain that night! There was some temporary relief with DeepHeat and panadol but as soon as those wear off, the pain came back again. So I thought I should start working out to improve my stamina and my upper body strength.

My personal trainer is this cute muscular guy from Cairo. He has yummy biceps and flat stomach. I may not understand him all the time but its allright, as long as I get to watch him demonstrate the excercises to me.

I hope to have sessions with him twice a week, with once a week of aerobics and twice a week working on my own on the treadmill and the bicycle. Hopefully I will have a new body if we choose to go back for Eid.

My trainer told me not to eat any carbohydrates and sugar from now on. I think thats a huge challenge. But thank god unlike Atkins he told me I can eat fruits and vegetables as much as I want. No fats as well too (but he didn't specifically mention no chocolates hehehehe I got 3 packs of sugar-free Hersheys dark chocolate today).

SO what should I do with the 5 packs of dried rice noodles and 5 packs of pasta that I have in my larder?

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

School Reunions

Its been 15 years since I left my secondary school and I haven't gone back since. I guess I still carry the school name with me sometimes. When I apply for some jobs in Singapore or related to Singapore.

Anyhow I got an email from an old classmate asking me if I was in town and if I was interested in attending a reunion. On one hand, I was glad that I was not in town, thus I don't really need an excuse for not coming. On the other hand, it would have been interesting to go. Or NOT.

You see I was once this geeky kid in secondary school. Yes I am one of those they made fun of. I had HUGE white framed glasses. My parents were very thrify thus I only go for haircuts once in a year or two years. I only get to wear BATA shoes. And I don't even know how to start being cool.

I did hate those years in that school. I was so out of place there. I had some friends but not real ones. I was the outcast, and I guess I stayed an outcast. So much so I am out of the country now. Now 15 years later, I am in touch with perhaps just 3 people. 2 whom I met up 2 years ago and 1 who I exchange email with ocassionally.

Which is why I thought it would be interesting to go. To see how the other girls have been. I guess most of them have big important jobs now.

But more importantly, I am happy with myself. I am happy with the life I choose to lead and journeys I made. So I guess I may have gone afterall, to see how the rest of my peers have grown. Or not.

Perhaps next time :)

Saturday, August 14, 2004

The changing face of Singapore?

As Singapore hopes to launch into a new era with the swearing in of PM Lee Hsien Loong, a new face of another Singaporean is also shown on TV ... Steven Lim. A friend of mine asked, if I heard of Steven Lim yet and my answer was "No."

And then I found out about the self professed, "Handsome Boy" who is a street eyebrow plucker (at the corner of Tangs apparently), babysitter and stipper (are strippers legal in SIngapore?).

S'pore Idol: Best local comedy? provided a good insight for me into this new phenomena in Singapore (for I have been away far too long) and lo and behold, lots of opinions about this Singapore-Superaction-Hero!

Meet super Steve;
Singapore's very own Super Action Hero is game for everything


IT'S a bird. It's a plane. No, it's Steven Lim, 28, aka Singapore's Super Action Hero, Protector of Local Civilians, all the way from Ang Mo Kio.

Walk around Orchard Road on an afternoon, or in your friendly neighbourhood, and you just might bump into a buff former boutique supervisor who has upgraded himself into a hyperactive Saviour, ready to conquer the day.

'I am gorgeous, I am a hunk, I am fearless. Yes! Yes! Make me, make me famous,' Super Action Hero says when you first speak to him over the phone.

On his website sghunk1976/SgHunkWeb.html, which has garnered 26,000 hits since it was set up last year, are pictures of himself.

He proclaims: 'U can call me Super Hero if u want to. My dear fans, you can print my pic and make it into poster and paste it in ur cupboards and walls.'

Posing in just a pair of yellow swimming trunks, he goes on: 'I made it look so good! E-mail me for more information on fast weight Gain/Loss and physical training.'

He adds: 'I am more handsome than Pierre Png! Serious!!! N dun keep shaking your head!!! ha ha.'

Bizarre? Quite. A gimmick? Perhaps.

You e-mail him to request for an interview. He agrees immediately, raring to don his gear for a 'Meet-the-Civilians' session in a coffeeshop. 'So exciting,' he says.

When you finally see the man, he is exactly as he says he is - if not more sparky with his uber-talk, and also very likeable.

Extreme makeover

FIRST, we visit the Foreigners' House Of Costumes in Middle Road for a Batman cape. Its manager, Ms Kem K, is almost speechless, shaking her head at our star's pro-activity: 'He's good. He's a natural.'

Super Action Hero shakes his head, too, emphatically: 'No, no, not Batman. Otherwise, the girls cannot see my face.'

He tries on a Tarzan getup, and proceeds to do last-minute pushups for a final toning of his biceps. We eventually settle on a Superman outfit, and when the kit comes on, we saunter to a coffeeshop nearby for photos.

'I shy leh, I nervous leh,' he says, apparently anxious about his first photoshoot in costume. But you couldn't tell from his body language.

He leaps onto chairs and flings his cloak around. Astonished onlookers laugh, point, wince, whisper and cheer.

He sweeps gungho student Agnes Teo, 16, into his arms, rescuing her from would-be evil lunchtime diners: 'Wah, Gigi Leung, I like!'

She swoons: 'Cool. I feel like I'm in a comic strip.' But if this is all an act for her, it is apparently not so for Lim, the man behind the Hero - at least in personality anyway.

'I'm like that. I'm me - always been like that. I want to make people laugh. Even if it's at me. I'm thick-skinned. I'm not harming anyone. Heck the opinions. I'm funny, have above-average figure and am extremely nice. I put a smile on their faces.'

You almost believe him. Every step of the way he is constantly talking, thinking and laughing. At one point, he tells you unembarrassedly: While his effervescence was god-given, the physique has not always been so.

Long ago, he was a shrimp-like Nanyang Polytechnic marketing graduate who wore glasses and worked as a boutique supervisor.

Two years ago, he simply decided he had 'to do something about my life'. He was proud of his poly diploma, and used his marketing knowledge to transform himself.

As the son of well-known local artist Lim Leong Seng, and also cousin to xinyao (Singapore melody) pioneer Liang Wern Fook, he also comes from impressive arts pedigree.

He learnt to dance and sing, watching TV and surfing the Internet.

He went on a weight-gain campaign, putting on 20kg in six months. Now, he packs a 1.78m frame with 80kg of muscle.

He underwent Lasik corrective eye surgery and quit his job. To make ends meet, he began peddling his personality to people on the street as a hyperactive eyebrow plucker.

'I made this decision around the time my grandfather died. It made me think about what to do with my life,' he recalls. 'A friend had taught me the eyebrow skills, and I thought: All I have to do is learn this and sell myself! And make lots of money!'

Today, he still stands around Orchard Road every afternoon, ready to pounce on innocent bystanders to save them from bushy facial hair. 'But I don't pluck so much these days, because I am trying to nurture my new career - as a Super Action Hero.' It's a stepping stone

HE SIGNED up for Star Search 2003, and got into the top 100 hopefuls. He's considering Singapore Idol, when it comes round later in the year, and 'will definitely win $50,000, Surviving The Sky challenge'.

The latter is Singapore's first reality event, to be held at Singapore Cable Car on March 16, pitting different international teams to a seven-day endurance test in the air.

But for all the talk, what does Super Action Hero really know about civil defence? And how many hapless damsels has he saved here?

'Well, not that many,' says the man, who still lives with his parents and a younger brother in a five-room HDB flat. 'But you see, this is a stepping stone to become something greater.'

He wants to become MediaCorp's Next Big Thing. He wants to do movies. Host chat-shows. Make it big. And make it rich.

It sounds corny. But it is not as surreal as you might think: Strange as he may sound, Super Action Hero is really the crystallisation of the hopes of your average ambitious Singapore dreamer, daring to conquer the world with spirit, bravado and gesture.

He says with a laugh: 'As someone famous once said: If you can't be famous, at least you can be infamous. Huhhuhhuhhuh.'

It is a giggle that can only be described as 'silly'. Yet silly as it sounds, it is infectious enough to make you giggle like a schoolgirl, and wish him armfuls of luck along his way.

He gets on his beloved Phantom 150-cc motorbike and revs up. And whoosh - he is gone, off to save the world.

Send your comments to

Copyright 2004 Singapore Press Holdings Limited
The Straits Times (Singapore)
February 22, 2004 Sunday

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Voice within the walls

PE for Girls Plays Out
Raid Qusti,

The saddest thing about all this is that Muslims all over the world look to us Saudis and to Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, as role models. Thus when they realize that we have banned PE in girls’ school for the past 40 years and continue to do so, linking it to our religion which gives equality to men and women and respect to both in the highest way, what are they to think? That PE is un-Islamic. This is the unfortunate message that we might be sending to the rest of the world.

I read the above article with both interest and saddness. And true enough I won't be surprise that in a few years time if Kelantan stays under PAS then the girls there too, wont have any PE.

Lets hope that we will never come to that.
Hello, I am a pushover .....

What if you met a new “friend” and that “friend” annoys the hell out of you?

Do you:
a) Tell them exactly what you think? (*#% Off! I am not one of your daughters for you to mother!)
b) Be really polite and take as much as you can when you have to.
c) Stay away, don’t call and try to avoid meeting/phonecalls whenever possible.
d) Move away to another country

Yes yes, its true, I am sometimes a pushover. I am a pushover out of politeness to people. I would like to be a grateful person, a considerate person, a polite person and a forgiving person. And because of that, I am a pushover.

But sometimes its goddamned hard!

As you already know I moved to a new city recently. And with a new city comes the prospect of making new acquaintances and new friends. Sometimes you meet people who are well meaning, they know you are new to the city and they want to show the ropes to you. I do welcome this myself but only to a certain extend.

I am inherently a loner. I like lots of personal space. I am comfortable with my own company as long as I have the internet, my books, my airconditioned rooms and my loved one.

I do appreciate friends and my experience has taught me that friends come and go over the years, its only the good ones that stay. I do have a few friends. I don’t have a lot, just a few. People who I genuinely care about. If they regard me as a friend, I am happy, if not, c’est la vie.

But this new acquaintance, unfortunately, I feel is stifling me. I have not yet regarded her as a friend as I am partly by nature a suspicious person and also a private person. Thus I do not appreciate people who impose themselves onto me. Especially when I feel that I am being preached upon or judgement is being made about me, when I feel the person does not know me, where I am coming from and what I am about. I do not expect people who know what I am about all at once, but please, do not tell me what I should or should not do. I do not tell my whole life history in one sitting. I only share my real thoughts with someone when I think I can trust them and when I am comfortable with them and all that takes times.

Why am I writing about this? Because I am a little upset. I feel that my space has been invaded and thus I react my moving farther away.

But I have to be polite still. I need to show some gratitude for the kindness that she has shown me. But sometimes I just do feel like telling her to mind her own business and run her own life, not mine.

I understand that she is merely trying to be helpful and yes I appreciate that. But I still need to breathe.

May Allah make me a stronger, patient and nicer person. I don’t want to be unkind or ungrateful.

I just like my space.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Choices and fate

We sat round the teppanyaki table, three gentlemen and a woman. Two fathers whose wives and children were elsewhere, another whose wife was away and a couple who wanted options in life.

One father was there on his own, making a living while his wife was back in their homeland looking after three children.

The other father was waiting for his wife and kids to come back from their summer vacation.

The third man was lamenting in a humorous fashion, about missing his wife while she is away on a home visit, taking care of her father and helping to prepare for their neighbour’s up coming wedding celebration.

“Owh, we’re just big babies we husbands,” he said. “We just want to be pampered by our wives. I sometimes get sick in the middle of the night so she can just baby me. Somehow when she is not around, I function allright alone.”

One of the fathers answered, “Wait till you have children your their own. Your world changes,” he remarked off hand.

“Ah we tried. We tried twice and it is God’s will that we haven’t gotten children.”


“So is it true they said, you have to inject the hormones and time your sex exactly right?” asked the lady.

“Yes it is.”

We were there united at the table by the fact that we are in this foreign land in search of a lifeline. A lifeline to provide our children with a better life, a lifeline to pay for mortgages we otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford and a lifeline to seek ourselves nearer to God.

But we couldn’t be more different. Different in our perspective about our separate lives and about the options for our lives and the choices we make for ourselves.

The father who left his three children behind with his wife wanted to be able to provide his children a life which otherwise they would not have been able to afford. His middle son has stopped going to school and his wife didn’t know how to deal with it. This youngest was rushed to the hospital recently because he fell off his bike. He was texted about it, but he felt powerless, not being there and not being able to do more.

The father whose children are away on their summer vacation cannot wait for their return. Although it was him who sent them away. Especially since people were being killed here.

The husband whose wife was away on vacation wanted to have his dreams fulfilled. To try and have children of their own, and where is a better place to ask from God himself, in from fo the Ka’abah.

And the couple, they are still indecisive. Wanting the freedom and the flexibility of TBK (time before kids) to explore the world and each other.

It is true then, that having children brings immense happiness, but with that also comes responsibility and decisions.

Having none, means you are looked upon by the people around you with oddity. It is incomprehensible to them that you don’t.

But what about the people who want them and try really hard to get them? To try again and again and again and to fail is something to be reckon with.

For some the decision is made for them. For others, they make their own decisions.

Its all about choices and fate.

In the end, we all just want to be happy and to make the best out of our lives.
I was very much troubled last week. Troubled at how I am being treated as a woman in this country. A woman must not be seen. She must be veiled from top to bottom and what you see of her is a black blob. A woman must also not be heard. Never mind if she is choking under that veil, she must thus remain silent and lest she is silenced.

Perhaps more troubling was how it was delivered to me, “Kau jangan kau! Kat sini kan pompuan tak boleh bising!! Suara tu pada dia orang aurat! Kau tak boleh cakap kuat kuat!!” (The women here are hardly heard when in public places!)

Is it not enough that women are subjugated in her position in her society, she has limited work which she can apply to, she is not allowed to drive cars (in case she has the power and liberty to meet men who are not in her family), she cannot be seen and thus has to be veiled and now she cannot be heard! Women might as well not exist!

So I read the article below with interest and wonders, how many percent of the women population holds the same views as the writer.

Please Saudi Women: Don’t Weaken Our Case!

Suraya Al-Shehry, Arab News

For centuries the Arab woman has been burdened by three problems responsible for her backwardness: ignorance, poverty and disease. In addition, there was also the traditional eastern male viewpoint that the woman was nothing more than a wife and his private possession.

Despite her efforts in playing her role in life — publicly and privately — and her demand that her rights be recognized, her value has not been defined and she remains an entity with no function other than reproduction and taking care of husband and children.

Her opportunity to present her views and perspectives has not really entered the Arab man’s mentality even though he claims otherwise. Just as the mother is the prime mediator in bringing up children and teaching them, she is also the one most capable of assembling and balancing her family and professional life at a level that may surprise her husband.

What most women want is for men to recognize and accept her abilities so that she can prove in practice and in theory that her place cannot be taken or occupied by others. As the literary figure and philosopher, Al-Aqqad, observed, “The aim of a girl’s upbringing and education cannot be limited to her function as a wife unless we teach boys only how to be a husband.”

The focus on these matters issue lead me to talk about Saudi Arabia since it is a country that is still taking steps related to women’s full participation in society. The Saudi woman has been confined into a state of illusion that has kept her in an isolated tower at a time when there has been a public dialogue announcing the rights of women which religion has given her.

For if the woman has been able to go beyond her own front door, she then has to face another social convention that sees her as less than a man. Her name is not mentioned in front of people and any male in her company feels awkward in introducing her, preferring to introduce her as “family.” A man means politics, economy and sociology while a woman is equivalent to marriage, children and divorce.

If a man were asked to compare how women were during the Prophet Mohammad’s (peace be upon him) time and how they are treated today, he answers with ‘Look how righteous they were and look at them today! This is despite the fact the fact that the Prophet Mohammad said that were he to prefer one sex to the other, the preference would be for women.

I ask men what they make of that. Where is justice? We live in a society whose constitution is God’s Shariah and the Sunnah of His Prophet, whose roots are tribal. And if a woman is unable to move beyond the man’s conception of her, how can she participate in development? Or feel what her husband experiences beyond the walls of their house? How are her children to benefit fully from her education and experience?
For a woman to focus on educating herself and to take part in her country’s economy, society and its policy is better for her and more noble for her country than for her to be effectively imprisoned in a box with ‘Fragile’ written on it. And for that box to be easily and properly opened is better than to have it opened by force.

The first step for women in finding their roles is for them to be worthy of what they deserve. For if we women want to struggle for civil and political rights — both those which we have and those which we lack — then we must improve ourselves and reinforce ourselves, feel our weaknesses, go forward and stand our ground. We must make decisions without hesitancy and bear the consequences

We must bear much and must not live hostage to our emotions; neither must we lose the kindness and gentleness which distinguish us from the other sex. What one woman may be willing to live with, regardless of how bad the situation is, is not necessarily the same for all other women. We are opposed by systems from which those who would deny us our rights draw their strength; they are driven by these systems to fight and resist. They do not tire of causing fear of any new development, comparing it to the decadent West, colonialism and even a lack of faith.

They do not care for our homeland or its welfare. They silence those who use religion as a basis for protest. There are no stronger entities for us women than our country and our religion and we must use both for our benefit and for the benefit of all. It is not sufficient that love of country be no more than words or for us to cover our heads modestly while remaining ignorant. Those who want to reach the sun must build a ladder that will not collapse as soon as a foot is on the first rung.

- Suraya Al-Shehry is a Saudi writer. She is based in Riyadh.
Photo taking? Its a deportable offence!

Expat Woman Expelled for Taking Wedding Photos
Staff Writer

JEDDAH, 2 August 2004 — An expatriate woman, who was held for taking photographs of female participants at a wedding ceremony in the Baha region, has been deported, Al-Madinah newspaper reported yesterday. The paper said the action was taken on the instructions of Baha Governor Prince Muhammad ibn Saud who has banned taking photographs of women at wedding halls using mobile phones and other cameras.

The woman was caught red-handed by female officials of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the paper said.

The commission has confiscated and destroyed photographs taken by the woman from nearly 100 wedding ceremonies at the rate of SR7,000 each.

The commission's branch office in the region has instructed female officials of wedding halls to prevent use of cameras inside them.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Makkah at last

We arrived within the walls of Haram as the Fajr prayers were being called out. Makkah Al-Mukarramah was stirring from its slumber, and the traffic got busier as we reached nearer to the Holy mosque and we were stunned at the sheer number of vehicles parked around the area. As the second prayer was called we realised with dismay that we would not have the opportunity to pray at the Holy Mosque lest we decide to park our car right there in the middle of the road. Well actually some people have already done so, cars were triple parked on the road but if we so choose to park on the final lane, then traffic will come to a standstill and we didn’t think the cars behind us would have appreciated that.

It was just an amazing sight for me, seeing Muslim men and women alike making their way towards the mosque. Some of the men were in their ihram while others were wearing their normal clothes. Children zigzag their way amongst cars to cross the road. It was chaotic yet serene. Or perhaps there is a sense of calmness that everyone there was a Muslim and those who can (ie not trapped in a car in the middle of crazy traffic or on duty) are making their way, answering the call to prayer.

We drove round the road and thought that it was impossible to find parking and decided to find another mosque to pray instead. We drove away from the Holy Mosque area and found a small mosque in the suburb residential area.

And then we had to discuss our strategy. Should we drive around for parking? Look for hotel room? Or perform the tawaf and saiy? Since the sun and the temperature was rising rapidly we decided that we should perform our rites first and then do the rest later. We parked at the Hilton Hotel parking which charges SAR10 an hr. Oh well, space is a commodity in the Haram area unlike the rest of Saudi Arabia where everything else is sprawled out.

After agreeing to meet at the lobby of the Hilton hotel, we parted ways with our travel companions to perform our rites. Luckily for one of our friends, a boy with a wheel chair was waiting right at the entrance of the hotel. He said he was willing to bring our friend for the tawaf and sayi for SAR200. And off we all went.

The sight of the Haram Holy Mosque was breath taking. As sunrise sets in, the mosque seemed to be shrouded with an imaginary mist. I was awestruck.

Since footwear was not allowed in the mosque, being the typical woman that I am, I was a little alarmed at the thought of leaving my Nine West £11 (75% off!!) slippers outside the mosque. I wanted to put my beloved slipper in a niche near the entrance. But my dear husband (who knows too well my love for shoes) told me to carry the slippers in as there are places for us to store our footwear in the mosque. So we placed it at the shoe stand no 14. Gate 88, number 14, I reminded myself. (For the first time I was absolutely glad that I listened to my husband as on the way out we saw the outside areas being cleaned and footwear that was placed in the niche was removed.)

There is a sense of serenity in that mosque. Some people were praying, others were reading the Quran and there were others sleeping as well.

The Kaabah was exactly as those depicted in various pictures I have seen, but those pictures and illustrations did not do justice to the 15 m high square room. The light mist was still covering the area around the Kaabah and I felt almost like in a dream and tears just came to my eyes. I was just so thankful that I actually had the opportunity to come in person and stand in front of the Kaabah. Not everyone has this privilege in their lifetime.

It was a humbling experience.
No time for nostalgia, we started of immediately looking for the starting point for the tawaf and we went round the Kaabah seven times. As we went round each round, more people joined in the crowd. And I was glad when the final round came.

The road to Makkah II ..........
(The incident of the impatient veiled woman at the bathhouse)

A person who intents to visit Makkah for Umrah, must stop at a miqat to declare his intention and put on ihram (pilgrim garb). And so we stopped at a designated miqat area about 8 km away from Makkah.

And it was very, very crowded there. There were lots of tour buses and the place was bustling with activity. There were also lots of people selling things, all the things one could possibly need to cleanse oneself and for ihram. Ihram clothes, slippers, shoes, long kaftan like dresses, soap, towels, toothbrush. You name it and they will probably have it. Should you think you need last minute cheat-sheets to cram for your umrah, there are men there who sells them. In English, Indonesian, Urdu and possibly lots of other languages as well.

And I have to admit that I was rather terrified. Because at this point on, I would be separated from my travel companions and would have to brave this part of the journey alone. Since it was my first time, thus I am uncertain of the protocols of the place not to mention my inability to speak Arabic. And thus I would have to do what I do best, watch what other people are doing and quickly learn.

So I entered the women’s bath area. Just within the walls are women selling all sort of things. (The sellers outside the walls were only men.) And beyond that, more walls encasing the women’s public baths. Inside was pure chaos. The place, probably due to the high traffic, is not one of the most inviting bath places I have been. And there were women everywhere! Women with children, women with relatives and friends. And I was there alone! And I don’t even know where to stand to start queuing! So I prayed to Allah then, I asked him to give me strength, patience and please to make it easy for me to find a bath cubicle and also make my umrah journey an easy one.

About almost to the end of the long passageway, I found a queue with just 2 women. And I just stood there. And to my surprise the two women finished rather quickly and I quickly rushed into the washroom. Then I realised why the cubicle was an unpopular one! There was no lock on it. And I didn’t have a buddy to watch the door for me. I closed the door shut and just put my bags as closely possible to the door and hope that the bags will not swing open as I was taking my shower. And so I did what I had to do in the bath cubicle.

Just as I was about to dress myself, someone tried to push the door open. So I promptly close it shut again. That process continued for about three times. And when I was finally ready I opened the door.

A veiled woman yelled, “YALAH! YALAH!” signalling me to get out of the cubicle quickly. Gosh! Talk about invading one’s privacy! My blood was ready to boil! What is it about this woman that she is impatient? I took in a deep breathe and asked Allah to give me patience, perhaps I am being tested in my patience. I exclaimed, “Astagfirullah!” (May God forgive me (for being angry)!) and “Masya Allah!” (Good Heavens! My god!). I just said it loud enough for the woman to hear as I glared at her and she glared back at me, as her eyes was showing under the veil.

And so I walked out of the bath area and got ready for my prayers and the proceeding journey into the walls of Makkah.