Saturday, May 16, 2009

Makkah and Umrah

My last prayer at the Prophet’s Mosque was Friday Fajr. It was really busy but I got a nice place since I went about 45 minutes before the call to prayer. Fajr is my favourite time to go to the mosque, so I like going early to pray and read Qur’an. I prayed that I would be able to do Umrah properly, and that this wouldn’t be my last prayer at the Prophet’s Mosque, inshallah.

We left Madinah at 5:30 a.m. The taxi ride took 4 hours, and so we arrived in Makkah at 9:30. At first glance Makkah is nowhere near as nice a city as Madinah. The centre with Masjid al-Haram and the Kaaba and the hotels is beautiful, but the outskirts are not very impressive. We arrived at our hotel and checked in. The hotel is absolutely amazing, Mashallah. It’s called Abraj Zamzam and I definitely recommend it to anyone staying in Makkah.

We went to pray Duhr In Masjid al-Haram. The mosque took my breath away. It’s unbelievably big and the architecture is simple yet beautiful. It was early so we did 4 rounds around the Kaabah. Seeing the Kaabah for the first time was amazing. It’s a bit smaller than I had imagined but much more striking. The cloth over it is midnight black and the gold embroidery is very elegant. I think the moment every Muslim sees the Kaabah is something they never forget.

We went back into the mosque and we had to go to the second floor because it was absolutely packed. The men’s section was basically full but my dad found a spot, and the women’s section still had a lot of space. The mosque has space for 4 million people! I think there were about 40,000-50,000 there for Duhr, because it took about 30-45 minutes for people to leave the mosque after prayer. We were worried that it would always be that crowded, but when I went to pray Asr it was much much emptier, and I found a place right at the front.

There’s something that really made me angry and I want to let it out. The mosque is segregated, but not as segregated at Masjid al-Nabawi. There are short partitions between the men and women’s section but we all enter and walk around the same areas. Outside the mosque in front of the Kaabah of course there is no segregation. However, inside the mosque, the women’s section is basically on the side-i.e. we don’t have a view of the Kaabah at all. The men’s sections are basically the ones with the best views: in the middle, and even in front of the women’s section. Seriously, what is this? Like I said before, if Saudi feels like they need to segregate everything then fine, but make it equal! I would have loved to pray facing the Kaabah. Imagine how amazing it would be to see it right there in front of you while you pray. But I couldn’t. It’s really frustrating. Also the women's prayer area is tiny compared to the men's. I feel like this is Saudi bias seeping into the way they manage Makkah and Madinah. Mashallah they do a great job but when it comes to women it gets annoying.

Right after Isha I began Umrah. I had already said the niyyah and talbiya earlier that morning, and had prayed 2 raqaats. I can't really describe how it felt doing the tawaf. It went by in a blur of reciting prayers and praying. It wasn't too busy and I managed to walk without having to concentrate, I just followed the flow. I felt choked up the whole way; like I was about to start crying. There are no specific prayers for tawaf but a book I have recommended some really beautiful ones. Mashallah it was an amazing experience. On the 7th round I didn't want to stop. I managed to touch the Kaabah once. I just held on to it for a few seconds and said a prayer. I think it's hard to describe how I felt; it's something you'd have to go through. It definitely surpassed all my expectations.

After tawaf I prayed 2 raqaats, had zamzam water, and then began sa'i. I honestly didn't think it would be hard because I'm a gym rat and I thought walking 3 km wouldn't be too bad, but it was! I think because it was at night and I haven't slept much since we got to Saudi. It took about 20 minutes and was really fulfilling.

After this, a woman cut some strands of my hair, and then I prayed 2 more raqaats, and then I was done! It was absolutely amazing, mashallah. Indescribable.

Of course there were really annoying things that happened. A guy was actually on his phone during tawaf, while another guy was closing a business deal during sa'i. A lot of men were walking around half naked because they weren't wearing their ihram properly, and of course there was pushing and shoving. But finishing Umrah was an amazing feeling, and I hope it won't be my last.

Thanks to all of you that have been posting on my blog ☺ I prayed for during Umrah and I really appreciate your support.


ellen557 said...

Ooooh congratulations sister, I'm so glad you had a beautiful time <3

Candice said...

Sounds like an amazing spiritual experience. My husband went once some years ago and he talks about it like you do.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Ellen: thanks! I have 2 more days only, I really don't want to leave :(

Candice: yes, I think I'm going to completely different after this, in terms of religion.

Jaz said...

What an opportunity, inshallah we'll all have the chance to go too one day, it must have been absolutely amazing. You're blessed to have the means to have gone! Thanks for posting about it I really enjoyed reading about your experiences and I'm really happy for you

Dina Ali said...

Sarah, this is beautifully written. i didn't know that you opened another blog.
After I read this I am excited to go!!
have a safe flight back home.

Candice said...

I hope you write a post about what changed for you, I'd be really interested in that. Life is such a journey, I'd love to learn from your experience!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Dina: you'll have an amazing time!
Candice: I'll definitely write about that when I'm back in Cairo, inshallah.

Umm Omar said...

Congratulations!!!So very, very happy for you. :-)
I learned so much from reading your posts, here. Thank you so much for writing about it and sharing it with us. The pictures are all so beautiful. What you said about the women's area and how it's situated, ugh. That is very frustrating. That stuff frustrates me here in the US at a regular mosque, I can't imagine traveling all the way there on a spiritual journey, and having that get in my way. But alhamdullillah, you were still able to appreciate the experience of Omrah. May Allah accept it from you and grant you many more such experiences.

Sarah the Seeker said...

Your account of your Umrah has been fascinating. There are so many things I want to ask about... I look forward to hearing more when you get home... wishing you a safe trip back! Sarah

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Thanks for your lovely comments! I loved sharing my experience with you!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah: feel free to ask me anything, I'd be glad to respond!

Umm Omar: thanks so much for your comments, they mean a lot to me!