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.

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