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Hajj – 2nd and 3rd Dhul Hajj

November 21, 2009

This is going to be a long post – lots to write about!

In continuation of the last post, the 2nd Dhul Hajj was spent arriving at the Medinah airport, then heading to our hotel. We checked in mid-morning, then had breakfast buffet – breads, fruit, olives, eggs, yogurt, juice, etc. Our room at the hotel was a pleasant surprise. After reading horror stories about the conditions of the hotels online, well I wouldn’t say it was a 5 star hotel but it was a very nice room and full of comfort nonetheless. There was a small view of the Masjid Al Nabawi complex from one of the windows as well.

Maryam and I got ready and headed out to check the local scene. Medinah, at least this area, is organized pretty much into grids, which makes it very easy to navigate. We bought some essentials like prayer rugs and a SIM card so she could use her phone. Funny thing is EVERYBODY here speaks Urdu!

Eventually it was time for Zuhr so we went to the Masjid. There were many many water dispensers, the kind they have for Gatorade at football games. I poured myself a cup and noticed that it tasted very mineral-watery. Looked at the sign on the dispenser and it said “Zamzam” in Arabic. Yum!

The Prophet (PBUH) once said, “Whoever visits my grave, my intercession will be guaranteed for him”. I attempted to thus visit the grave, located underneath the green dome (pictures below), but they had blocked off this area so took a detour and walked around the roof. After a while, back to the hotel.

Perhaps (or likely) because of jetlag, I took a nap and was in such deep sleep that the Asr prayer was missed… Got up for Maghrib at the Masjid, and basically stayed for Isha. Afterwards, came back to the hotel for dinner. They didn’t give us lunch but since breaksfast was quite substantial, it didn’t really seem necessary. Dinner was kind of bland, but at least there were enough choices, and the desserts were quite decent. Following this, back to the room to relax and sleep.


2nd Dhul Hajj (Nov 19th)

Woke up at 4:00 a.m. to pray Tahajjud prayer (which was around 4:30 a.m.) at the Masjid. Stayed for Fajr, then made a pit stop at the hotel for breakfast, after which I decided to walk outside for a bit and take some photos.

Here is a picture of the corner of our hotel, the Elaf Taiba hotel:


Basically, from where I am standing, I am just in front of the corner of the exit of the Masjid Al Nabawi. Very convenient! The pointy things all over the Masjid Al Nabawi complex are sun shades; they open during the day and close when it’s night (pictures of it opening and open are further down):


The front of the building. Beneath the green dome is the grave of the Prophet, Abu Bakr, and Umar (more detail on this further down):


Another view:


A closed door to one of the entrances:


The sun shades opening:


The ones in the back are really starting to fan out:


Fully open:


Some in the back have not opened yet:


It opens really slowly, over the course of several minutes I would estimate. Kinda fun watching it, and also watching people watching it!

Guy selling miswak and other things just outside the Masjid:


Small bazaar close to the Masjid:


The following is basically the “sidewalk” of the area we were in. Our hotel in this case was to the right, and street to the left. In another area, you would see stores on one side.


Just outside the hotel. The columns of the pic above can be seen on the left hand side of the pic. Mountains in the distance!


Store window with some awesome merchandise:


There were also TONS of stores selling gold jewelry:


Back to the room, this is one of the two rooms we had:


At around 9:30 a.m., attempted to go to the Ar-Rawdah an-Nabawiyah (desi people call it the Riazul-Jannah, english folk call it the Garden of Paradise); a dsecription can be found by scrolling down to the middle of the wikipedia entry on the Masjid Al Nabawi. Esesentially, this is the area between the Prophet’s tomb to his pulpit. It is decorated with green carpet unlike the rest of the Masjid. And during Hajj season, nearly impossible to get into!

There were two lines going towards this area, so I stood in line at the right one. Unfortunately, the right line went beyond the front gates of this area, and the officials guarding the two entrances in the front were NOT letting people in, although I did see some pretty aggressive folks try to push their way in. It turned out that I was in the line to pass by the graves, located just past the Ar-Rawdah an-Nabawiyah. Upon reaching the gate of the grave, I said my salaams to the Prophet and his companions (Umar and Abu Bakr, in that order from right to left). Here is a diagram of this area:

Essentially, one tries to enter from the West side. If you are in front of the gates (in black), there are two entrances which as stated above are guarded. If you are behind the gates, you are essentially in the other part of the Masjid, and if you are lucky they will not have a canvas barrier so you can try to go right up to the Rawdah (in green). There are many pillars there, each of which has a significance. In particular, someone had mentioned that the pillar of Aisha was notable, in that the Prophet used to say, anyone who prayed at that location will get their wish granted. Nobody knew exactly where that position was, except for Aisha, for whom the pillar is named after now. The “P” in the diagram stands for the pulpit. To the East side are the graves, from Right to Left being the Prophet’s, Umar, then Abu Bakr. The green circle denotes the green dome that is above this location as seen from the outside. More on this later. But for now, it was almost time for Jumah.

I went back to the hotel and got ready, then came back to the Masjid for the prayers. There were TONS of people here now. There was no place on the carpeted area, so I had to sit on the marble at the edge of the Masjid. Took a quick snapshot of the interior:


(I soooo wished I could have brought my real photo gear and taken some ultrawide shots of this place, it’s truly amazing…) After prayers, Maryam and I went to the market area to buy some gifts. I bought myself a cheap Thob and Pajama (if you plan to get one for a “tsukaisute” as they say in Japan, at least get a cotton one instead of the absolute cheapest one, it’s much more comfy).

We dropped off our things at the hotel and went to the Masjid to pray Asr. For some reason, there were not that many people here now, so I tried to enter the Rawdah. To the left was a cordoned off section, and while in line to enter (the left line this time), suddenly they opened up the area and people started RUNNING. My Hajj companion shouted “let’s go!” and I immediately figured out it people were running to get into the Rawdah. We ran with the crowd, and luckily made it in, just barely. I stood in front of a pillar after being advised that it was the most secure place to be. They put up the canvas barrier up again, which was now directly to the right of me.

I took a quick video of the area (this was done later, but I’m putting it here for illustrative purposes):

It’s quite deceptive, as it doesn’t appear to be that crowded, but what you don’t see to the full extent are all the people that are sitting down. There really was VERY little space; at the end of the video clip you can see a glimpse of the green carpet. There was basically that much space, which the guy behind needed to use when doing his prayers.

I started praying, making duahs, and noticed people were starting to climb OVER the barricade! And there were so many people, the barricade was now falling towards us on the inside!!! After a while, as I was praying, the barricade totally fell and swarm of people rushed in again. I held onto my spot despite some MAJOR pushing and shoving. There was total CHAOS. After a while, people settled in, but unable to really move much.

I continued praying in the limited space, and making duahs until Asr; I was lucky enough to be able to pray Asr here as well. After the now seemingly customary Salatul Janazah, we left the Rawdah. It was so crowded though, with people moving inch by inch, I’m surprised nobody fainted or broke a rib.

The way out was by the front of the graves, so I said Salaam again and headed out. Maryam was outside the masjid, where a bunch of people were selling things, like those guys that used to sell DVDs and watches in New York. Mainly here were items of clothing.

Maryam bought some scarves, and was looking for more, when ALL OF A SUDDEN they wrapped everything up and started RUNNING like crazy. I had no idea what was going on, but thought I heard someone say “Shura police!” Within 15 seconds, the whole area totally cleared up except for a few straggers. A van then showed up, and two random guys started walking around, but really didn’t do anything. I went back to the hotel, then came back for Maghrib and Isha, then dinner. I was planning to attend a lecture given by our Imam but fell asleep…

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