Hajj Trip: October 25

Posted on a later day, 11.03.13, I chose to keep the dates in mark with their corresponding dates from our Hajj trip for convenience. You can see a link of all the post-trip posts by clicking here and scrolling downClick here to see the previous day’s post and click here to see the next day’s post.

Friday October 25.

I finally started antibiotics last night. I just couldn’t tolerate it anymore. The fever, the intense coughing, whole body ache, runny nose, throwing up, and upset stomach… I am done. Right before a full day of traveling. As you can imagine, most of the last day has involved resting as much as possible.

There is no better place to be than here, but when you are sick: all you want is the comfort of your bed.

Bright and early our luggage was, once again, picked up/taken care of… we would get it at the airport later in the day. I don’t know if I have mentioned it, but Dar el Salam took care of our luggage transport from point A to B throughout the three week stay.

I bid farewell to Anna, Arshad Chachoo and Dadda around 10:30 AM as they boarded their bus for the airport. Oh how the time has flown by!

As I was sitting in the masjid waiting for jummah prayers in the Haram, I couldn’t help but ponder over how blessed of a chance we were getting. Looking around, there were very few recognizable people from our program still here. Most groups from our program had left already and some even had left just an hour or so before jummah. Who knows when, or even if, we will get this chance again? If I am remembering correctly, we also left Madinah on a jummah as well. To get to pray Jummah in Madinah and Makkah in this time frame within this trip… alhumdulillah!

What a better way to leave this holy land of Makkah than immediately after jummah prayers? I couldn’t think of a more ideal way to complete this trip, especially because it came as an unexpected surprise! Our original itinerary indicated we would leave in the morning for the airport! Even though I didn’t understand the khutbah at all since it was in Arabic [here in Makkah and Madinah both], I am so grateful that we got to pray jummah prayers both in Masjid Al-Nabawi [in Madinah] and the Haram in Makkah here today.

The plan for us was to leave our hotel immediately after jummah, and we ended up leaving our Fairmont hotel around 1:40 pm for Jeddah airport. We could have easily left by 1:10 at the latest if it weren’t for three geniuses who stayed in their hotel rooms, for whatever reason, and held us up an extra half hour– of course all three were from our group 19. We got our passports back as well on the bus (so we didn’t have to make a pit-stop to pick that up) and finally got to the Jeddah airport at around 3:20 pm (at its hajj terminal). Lucky for us, we got no traffic [for once]– they had warned us to expect a lot of traffic! Antsy about the expected traffic and whatever else the rest of the day would entail [remember: everything goes], we were probably a little more anxious about the three men who caused us to leave later from the hotel than needed given the fact that we got to the airport with no traffic.

When we got to the “hajj terminal” at the Jeddah airport, it was something. In no way did it seem to be an airport [there was no indication it was one… except for luggage we saw everywhere]. The majority of the waiting seats were outside (in the heat). The mere minutes we spent waiting there made me think OMG, how am I supposed to spend the next almost five hours here?! Thankfully, the yellow-shirt Dar el Salam men that I have mentioned countless times came quick enough to guide us to the entrance.

Would you believe our luggage was again waiting for us in front of the entrance where we would check in our luggage, get our boarding pass, and whatnot? I don’t know how they do it, but they do it: luggage is one thing we didn’t have to worry about throughout the three week stay.

While we collected our luggage through the pile, Abu [and most of the other men] went to get the zam zam water sealed in box. Dar el Salam provided us each with a 10 L bottle of zam zam [also waiting for us at the airport] that was already sealed in a plastic bag… but we had been advised from day one to have it boxed.

Next, the yellow-shirt Dar el Salam men guided us inside to a set of check-in counters, indicating these were for our Emirates flights. He could have definitely been making it up for all I know because there are no signs and every worker just seems to be all over the place. Maybe if enough people for the same airline/flight crowd onto the same counter… it becomes one for that?! Whatever works.

When we went in, it didn’t even seem like an airport. It was just one room with a lot of check in counters that worked sometimes and not others (and no one monitoring weight of luggage because they probably didn’t have the means to do so… at least in the hajj terminal), no belt for luggage movement (so I guess/hope/pray some of the workers manually move luggage and we get all our luggage in one piece), and workers who just jumped around from one area to the next without any means of organization. I, for one, was worried whether we would get all our luggage once we arrived home. The next room over was security that led to one small terminal that was crowded beyond belief. Add oh so many sick people (with the infamous “hajji cough”) and its like a petri dish of germs.

I was born in Pakistan, but moved from there [and have never gone back] when I was a young child and this was my first experience in an environment like this. We travel within the US and Canada mostly and my brother and I went to Norway once. I know for a fact I live a very sheltered life: living in the USA, we live a very luxurious life and take so much for granted. We are accustomed to so many luxuries and “ways of life” that is definitely not the norm for most of the people in the world. This trip was about so much more than the religious/hajj aspect of it, when I think about it, it was an eye opener for so many things.

I also have to mention that, ironically enough, this hajj terminal at Jeddah airport did not have a prayer room inside. I don’t know how it’s even possible — in a Muslim country… let alone in a hajj terminal. There were open prayer rooms outside  but who would possibly consider leaving only to enter through security again with this crowd? For maghrib, people crammed to pray right by the security screens. As people were praying, more people were still entering with their possessions going through the security belt… and in the process being dropped on top of people praying.. again… you can’t make this stuff up.

Then we got to wait there, in this small crowded [for now being considered as an Emirates’] “hajj terminal” for a good four hours I think before being the lucky ones to be on the first shuttle to take us from the terminal waiting area/gate 14 to the actual airplane waiting in the middle of nowhere at the airport. This hajj terminal is, of course, used but once a  year [obviously during hajj season] and doesn’t have the means to connect directly to such huge planes.

First stop: Dubai before the longer leg of the plane trip a couple of hours later from Dubai back home. Three something hours of a layover/plane change in Dubai, and we were on our way home finally. At last. It’s about half way into the flight from Dubai to JFK when I am writing this and so far all you hear is coughing. Everywhere. Here, there, everywhere. And crying kids.

Also, one of the things I was worried about most prior to leaving was having to use an eastern style bathroom. Would you believe, this day, was the first time I even saw one?! That at Dubai airport too. No way did I use it, merely glance it, freak out, and leave.

I can’t believe how quickly the three weeks flew by! Prior to leaving, I had kept on thinking that three weeks was a long time and that we should have stuck to the two week package for numerous reasons… but the days just flew by. I wish I didn’t fall ill right at the end and could use that time more efficiently.

I am so glad I got to come for hajj, especially at my age, alhumdulillah. Never in a million years did I imagine I would get this chance at this stage of my life. Like I mentioned earlier, we made niyat for it last December, and it’s unreal how fast it approached… and now it’s over just like that. I would absolutely love to come back for umrah, in an off-peak season, to thoroughly enjoy everything about being here without all the choas, running around, and logistics that need to be taken care of during hajj. It’s physically exhausting, for sure, so every able body should attempt to fulfill this pillar as early as possible and not wait until they are older.

It’s been an eye opening experience, for sure, in many ways… and inshallah I never lose sight of any of it.

Click here to read the next day’s post, from October 26: getting home!

Posted on 11.03.13

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