Saturday, June 24, 2006

Pilgrimage to makkah

So I never wrote about this but about 3 weeks ago me, my bro & sis went to Makkah for Umrah (short pilgrimage) My parents were supposed to join us but their flight information, for lack of a better explanation, got mixed up.
We took the bus, I prefer riding by bus since I have had enough of planes. I have spent about 12 hours on a flight once and I don't think I will ever miss anything about sitting on the tarmac for an hour with a kid crying his lungs out sitting next to me. So about the pilgrimage.
We got to Makkah no problems, it was a fairly decent trip my sis sat besides me and my bro sat a few seats up. (He was supposed to sit right in front of us but he moved to accommodate another family, such a gentleman) The trip was uneventful and I bought a national geographic with details about the world cup and Mormon life. Interesting stuff. Eventually half way through the 8-9 hour trip I took out my gmat book and started reading up on the gmat exam I plan to take for my MBA. With about 2 hours left I finally got serious about the pilgrimage and started reading a book on the proper procedure for Umrah.
Here are some facts about pilgrimage. The bus stops at a place called Meeqat and we get of there to make the intention for pilgrimage and offer prayers before we begin the actual pilgrimage. We also shower and change into an Ihram. An Ihram, for a guy, consists of two pieces of white cloth. It has to be absolutely plain. No stitching or design of any kind is permitted. It's a weird experience once you shower and put that on, you are transformed, you now have none of you fancy clothes or ways to distinguish yourself from other people. All the individuality that modern culture so stresses on vanishes. One of the first lessons you must learn here is that all are equal in the eyes of god and that no one is better then another person because of color, race, sex, creed or nationality. We then offered a prayer of intention and Fajr(early morning) prayers.
With all this done we returned to the bus which, much to my relief, was still there. I have this weird paranoia of being left behind by a bus. Must stem from some deep psychological problems but that’s besides the point.
So we got on the bus and everyone starts chanting:

"Here I am, O Allah, at Thy service. Here I am, Thou art without partner, here I am. All Praise and blessings are thine, and Dominion! Thou art without partner!"

it sounds a lot better in Arabic of course. Eventually everyone in the bus is repeating this saying this loudly and we reach our designated hotel. We drop of our things get a quick bite to eat and start Umrah in the Haram ,the holy mosque. The mosque consists of 2 levels and a third level that is opened only in Ramadan ,the month of fasting, and Hajj. The first steps consist of going around the Kabah, the big black box you all have seen in pictures. We consider it to be the house of god, no not literally. We make seven rounds of it and at the end of each round we say " god grant us in this world the very best and in the afterlife the very best and save us from hell fire". The best part about this prayer is that I feel I am praying for the whole world since the word us is used and no one every specified what us exactly stands for. I take it to mean for all of humanity. I always make a short prayer for peace all over the world when I pray and did so during the Umrah as well. I usually try remember my friends, family, relatives the poor and the rich of the world when I pray, this time was no exception. Any who the next step was going up and down safaa & marwah 7 times. I will post on the significance of this in another post hopefully. But we finally get done and I go to get my head shaved & my bro gets a fancy cut. We are supposed to get our hair cut after completing umrah but before we remove our ihrams. My sis just takes a scissor and cuts a piece of her herself. She doesn’t really trust me or Saad, my younger bro, with a scissor. Hey, what’s the worst that can happen ? I mean it's wasn't like she drooled on my shoulder all the way from Riyadh to Makkah and I wanted revenge. Actually she did drool on my shoulder.....
alright so long story short we spent the next two days in Makkah praying and eating , there being plenty of time for both in makkah. We took the long trip back, I was sick but happy for the next week. Apparently walking around in the hot sun for four hours with no hair on your head and eating ice cream can make you sick, who would've thunk it? alright that’s enough for now back to "work"


Blogger Kiat said...

Interesting details. I always see only a cloud of white from the pictures.

6:56 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home