Alhamdulillah (praise be to God), we have returned safely from Hajj and are still reflecting on the experience. Surprisingly the Hajj was much easier than we both anticipated and there’s so much to share, that we will attempt to convey in due time, with the permission of God. We will try to write about the Hajj in several installments, so stay tuned!
Arriving at Jeddah Airport was like going to a meeting of the United Nations (but so much better!).
From the time we exited the plane, we saw planes arriving from all over the world. Singapore, Italy, Dubai…everyone going to the same destination for the same purpose. After you pass through the long “stop and go” process of customs, you exit to behold Medinatul-Hujjaj (City of Pilgrims).
Urbndervish and I tried to identify the many colorful flags that designated the waiting areas for each nationality. Some nationalities were evident by their style of dress or stature. The Nigerians strode in their bright, beautiful booboos (long West African garb for men), the Indians in their shalwar and kamees (knee-length shirt with matching pants), the Chinese in their matching vests with national flag emblem, the Turks in matching pin-striped khaki suits, and the gulf Arabs in starched, white robes and long, flowing black dresses. During Hajj, we saw pilgrims from countries that I didn’t even know existed (like Dagestan and Kyrgyzstan). It was most chilling to see brothers and sisters from remote regions of the world and from war-torn lands like Afghanistan, Iraq, the Congo, etc.
For some of the pilgrims, we flew to Jeddah as if it was just another one of our countless plane trips. But for others, I would not hesitate to assume that traveling to Hajj was their first plane ride ever. When you see the apprehension and caution with which elders from West Africa, China, or Kazakhstan boarded the escalators, you realize the technological divide in the world. Even still, the Hajj is powerful enough to bring together the “developed” and “developing” worlds as one.
On our first night in Mecca, I was in awe by the sight of the Haram (Sacred Sanctuary).
We were blessed to stay so close to the Haram that we could see it from our hotel room. We arrived at around midnight and the Haram was so brilliantly illuminated, with such a magnetic force, inviting you to visit. How could we decline such an invitation?
We freshened up and went to behold the sight of the Ka’bah.
Muslims all over the world pray towards this holy house of worship, but to see it with your own eyes and the perfect circles of worshippers enveloping it was amazing. It was a microcosm of the perfect circle of worshippers formed when they face this central location from all over the globe in prayer.
The Hajj is attended by an estimated three to four million people. When each of the three levels of the Sacred Sanctuary is filled, the crowd overflows to the outer courtyard.
The Haram is maintained in impeccable condition with staff cleaning busily and diligently around the clock. We heard stories of former doctors and professionals who, after many years of a successful career, gave it all up to be a custodian of this holy mosque. When you see how they are both meticulous, yet joyful as they clean, you sense that they do perceive their job as a calling. Even the birds seem gleeful as they chirp and fly about the open air of the sanctuary.