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Hajj – 7th Dhul Hajj: Arrival in Makkah

November 25, 2009

1:30 a.m. We are on the bus to Makkah; I slept for about 45 minutes after our stop last night. We were now apparently near the border of Makkah. We started to recite the Talbiyah:

Around 2:00 to 2:30, we arrived at a Hajj Ministry office where we got our wristband to identify which group we belonged with, mainly for the sake of figuring out the tent assignments in Mina. The odd thing about these offices are that they are not in any kind of logical order. We needed to find office #72, eventually found it, and the majority of us got our wristbands there. But apparently there were some people who didn’t get their wristbands, and for some reason they needed to get #42, so now we had to find #42 office. We drove around, back and forth, looking for office #42. There was #58, #32, #41, #31… no #42. (here is a sample of the sign of the offices):

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After a little while the driver finally found the office, and we were off to the hotel.

As we arrived around the corner to the hotel, we saw swarms of people walking towards the Masjid al Haram. It’s about 3:00 in the morning! In the video below, you can see the Masjid al Haram in front of everyone:

So close!

The initial plan was to do Tawaf as soon as we got here, but the assumption was that we would be here a little earlier. We checked into the hotel, and decided that we would all pray Fajr together, then go to the Masjid as a group afterwards.

We debated whether to go to the Haram for Fajr, but when we looked outside, there were people on the street, far far beyond the borders of the Haram. So we prayed in the masjid in the hotel, which was a room on the 5th floor. Apparently there is a view of the Haram and Ka’aba from the front of the masjid here! I stayed in the back, and tried not to look up too much. Why? Because viewing the Ka’aba in person for the first time is a powerful experience, and they recommend that one try to avoid looking at it until is in the Haram, with as good a view as possible.

After Fajr, we gathered outside the hotel masjid with the Imam, and headed over to the Haram for Tawaf.

We went down some steps, and down escalators, and lo and behold, were already at the boundary of the Haram courtyard! We started reciting Labbayk again, and walked together into the Haram. The emotions were filling me now, the excitement was palpable. The Imam instructed us to keep looking down as he led us through the entrance, and further and further inside the Haram. I tried my best not to sneak a peak. I was getting nervous.

The Imam stopped, and said we could look up. I did, and started crying. There was the Ka’a’ba, full view in front of me. I started making dua’s – they say the first dua after seeing the Ka’aba for the first time is always granted. (People usually make dua that all their duas are granted!) I made as many duas as I could, uncontrollably crying. I heard Maryam next to me crying as well. I cannot describe what a powerful moment that was. (The following photo is the same spot I just described, but the actual photo was taken at a later time):

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The Imam was kind enough to give us plenty of time to soak it all in, and make our duas. We then went to do the Tawaf. Maryam and I initially started with the group, but because it was so crowded, we had a difficult time staying together with them, so separated.

One would think, that there are so many people, all needing to go in one direction, that despite occasional difficulties, there would be some sort of order. However, we saw that not infrequently, there were people going PERPENDICULAR to the flow (trying to get towards the Ka’aba or away from it in a straight line before or after the Tawaf), people going OPPOSITE the flow (for what reason, I have no idea), and people PRAYING IN THE MIDDLE. All of these caused “traffic jams” and more pushing and shoving than necessary.

Here is a diagram of the Kaaba and important landmarks, courtesy of wikipedia:

The Tawaf started at the corner of the black stone (#1 above). This corner is somewhat crowded due to people trying to get to the black stone in a straight line, and also because of people exiting as it is the end point of the Tawaf. There are also people trying to touch the door (#2), which is just past the Black Stone. Supposedly there is a line on the floor demarcating the stone so that one knows where to start and end the Tawaf, but I never saw it. Instead, Maryam and I always looked for a green light that is placed in front of the building opposite the Black Stone.

Before the next corner, slightly separated from the Kaaba itself, is a small display called the Maqam Ibrahim (#7), where there are footprints of the Prophet Ibrahim. This area gets quite crowded because of people trying to get to the Maqam and view the footprints. And there are always Saudi guards trying to push people away, shouting “Bida! Bida!!!!”

Then, at the corner, starts a semicircular wall called the Hateem, which end in the following corner. In the original design, this area was also supposed to be part of the Kaaba, so people have to walk around it as going throught it would mean that one is walking through the Kaaba, thus nullifying the Tawaf. Here, it gets SUPER crowded, the most of any area, simply because there is less space for people to walk through.

The last corner, the Rukn Yemeni, is also slightly crowded because of people trying to touch that corner, as the Prophet did when he performed his Tawaf. There is an area of this corner where the brick has become worn because of people rubbing their clothes and stuff onto it.

————–

Maryam and I finished our 7 rounds of the Tawaf, then prayed two nafls and went to drink Zamzam. The group had also finished, so we all went for the Sa’ee.
We made our seven rounds between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah, then after we finished, I got my hair trimmed. One Umrah done!

We then went back to the hotel, and had breakfast. Breakfast was delicious! Fresh pancakes, omelets, etc etc. Maybe it was so good because I was so tired… my feet were so sore (all the walking above was done barefoot on marble).

For the remainder of the day, we spent time resting in the hotel room, and praying at the Haram. We discovered that the third floor was much less crowded, and actually had a great view of the Kaaba. We also had the fortune of having a nice view of a portion of the Haram, so we could see how crowded it was:

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Notice, there are tons more people outside than inside. As best as I can tell, it’s because the people outside have traveled from far, and have more things with them including food and water that the guards at the Haram would not let in, so they stay and pray just outside.

Here is a picture from the hotel as well:

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Throughout the day, I also took some photos of the Haram:

King Faisal Gate:

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One of the entrances to the Haram:

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A view from the third floor of the Haram:

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Closeup. There are a lot of people!:

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Tomorrow, the plan was to leave for Mina. But before that, we decided to squeeze in another Umrah! Since this post has become so long, I’ll break here and continue it in tomorrow’s post.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 22, 2010 1:29 am

    amazing photographs and even better documentation for those of us curious about this pilgrimage – awesome you guys could do this together!

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