Sunday, August 01, 2004

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.

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