I'm in love. With Madinah and the Prophet's Mosque to be specific. This city is absolutely amazing. It seems like the perfect Arab city, mostly because it's nothing like Cairo. It's quiet, calm, organized, the taxis are nice, the people are friendly, and everyone's really helpful. We got here at around 8:30 Tuesday night, and checked into our hotel before walking around a bit. We saw the Prophet's Mosque from far and it looked absolutely breathtaking. You can imagine how speechless I was when I saw it up close and then when I went inside. Seriously, it is an architectural masterpiece. The size, the detail, the magnificence, and the scale all make it absolutely beautiful. When I went in I just never wanted to leave.
We woke up the next morning at 3 am Fajr which was at 4:15. I was surprised to hear the adaan go off at 3:15, since in Cairo it goes off 15 minutes before prayer time. I looked out my window and saw groups of people already making their way to the mosque, so we quickly dressed and walked the short distance. There were literally thousands of people there, of all nationalities. It really is something I'm never going to forget. So many clothing styles, languages, countries. It reminded me of the verse in the Qur'an: "we created you in tribes and nations so that you may know each other".
After Fajr we walked around some more, took photos, and had breakfast. It's hard for me to go to sleep after I've woken up so I don't think I'll be sleeping much for the next 5 days. I feel exhausted but the excitement keeps me going.
I just prayed Duhr and am about to go see the Prophet's grave. There are separate hours for men and women, and the women's hours just started. Inshallah I will get to see the mosque with 2 qiblas soon.
I met two really nice people yesterday. One was a woman in the lounge at Cairo airport, who asked me if I was doing Umrah after she saw me reading a guide on Hajj and Umrah. I said yes and she spent about 20 minutes giving me advice on what to do and what not to do. I was wearing my veil kind of loosely so she said I shouldn’t do that in Mecca because they’re really strict there, and that once her 9-year-old daughter got hit with a stick because her veil slipped(!). She also explained how to sneak a phone into the Prophet’s Mosque (by hiding it in your sock) since you’re not allowed to take phones with cameras into the mosque. She was really sweet.
The second person I met in the elevator at the hotel. She asked me where I was from and I said Egypt, to which she replied that she was from South Africa. This got me all excited and I told her I’d grown up in Zambia, which got her all excited. It really made me miss home. She gave me her room number and told me to visit her. She was so nice, and she seemed so excited to be doing Umrah.
On a concluding note, I hadn't realized how far globalization had gone till I found a Starbucks outside the Prophet's Mosque! Good for me though, since I'm a bit of an addict.