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Hajj – 14th Dhul Hajj: Farewell to the Holy Land

February 24, 2010

5 a.m., we went to the lobby as requested by our organizers. The group was there with all the luggage. As feared, there was no group leader. Our usual group leader had already left, and had assigned someone else to take over for our journey back.

Fajr time came, so we went to the Masjid in the hotel to pray. Back in the lobby after prayers, there still was no group leader. We ended up going to the Adam travel office around the corner to see what was up; I believe one of them there was the substitute group leader. There was a truck where our luggage was being thrown onto, however there was no bus to transport the people… Eventually a bus did show up, and after a delay, we finally left at 7:20 a.m. Here we are on the bus:

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From this point on, there were so many little hiccups on the way, an each little problem compounded the stress of the group members. For most of us, the flight was at around 3:30 p.m.

First, we had to pick up additional people at another hotel in Makkah. We told the group leader to call them to make sure they were ready in front of the hotel so as not to lose time, as we were already off our schedule by 4 hours or so. After a 30 minute drive we arrived at the Al Shohada hotel, however some folks there had apparently gone to eat breakfast. This irritated some of our members, who had to forfeit breakfast (although there was actually time to eat breakfast in the morning, we were made to wait in the lobby or on the bus, so didn’t get a chance to eat).

Finally, at 8:30 a.m., everybody was accounted for and we headed over to the passport offices to get our passports back. As stated before, the passport offices are not in any kind of logical numerical order. Here is passport office #61, next to #14, next to an unmarked office, next to #18.

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We needed to stop at office #58, then #42 (who turned out to NOT have the passports, but instead who had transferred the passports to #72), and the elusive office #72:

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Eventually, we all received our passports, and at 10:15, headed over to Jeddah airport. About 5 hours to our flight time… some of the members were getting very nervous, because undoubtedly there was going to be a huge crowd at the airport due to the fact that many Hajjis were leaving today.

11:00 a.m., we encountered another setback… we had a flat tire… we stopped at a gas station, and had the tire fixed:

Hajj114

Luckily they were able to fix it in about 30 minutes.

Around 12:40 p.m., we reached the vicinity of airport. There was confusion as to which terminal our flight was supposed to leave from. The major distinction was whether or not we had to be at what is called the “Hajj Terminal;” if so, we were pretty much guaranteed that we would be stranded in the terminal for many hours. Luckily, our flight was to leave from the North Terminal. We arrived at the terminal and received our luggage by 1:00 p.m. I doubted that we would make our flight.

Inside, the doubt turned to certainty, after seeing the utter chaos in front of me. There were people all over the place, in very little order; there were lines going every which direction. I got in line at the end, where I couldn’t even see the kiosks.

Here I am in line:

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Here is the scene:

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There were several moments of chaos, with people arguing and screaming at each other. Several lines were supposed to merge into one, and at the juncture of the merge, there were high emotions as people perceives others to be cutting in line.

Our flight time came and went, and it was unclear whether the plane was delayed (as most of the passengers still had not received tickets!)

Eventually, we were able to check in; because Maryam and I only had one bag between us, and we didn’t even have the zamzam water bottles that 95% of the people had, the officials offered to check our bag and give us our boarding passes. We stuck around a little to help some of the group members to find the quickest line, then shortly, around 5:00 p.m., headed over to the gate.

It was a relatively quick exit through passport control and security. At the gate, they were calling people to board the flight which we were supposed to be on; I guess it had not left yet. On the transfer bus, we met another couple from the group who told us that they were randomly mixing people across flights now regardless of the ticket.

We boarded the plane and took off around 6:30 p.m. 2 hours later, we reached Dubai, and met up with Ammad, who took us to a fantastic Indian restaurant. I ate soup, some kabob, and chicken. I had lost my voice by this time (I had a worsening cold in the last few days)… we went to the pharmacy to get medicine, and went to the airport hotel to sleep. We woke up around 5:15 for our 8:30 flight, except we forgot to take into account the one hour time difference, so by the time we left the hotel it was 7:15. Luckily we had our boarding passes already, and there was no wait through passport control.

On the way to the airport, I saw in the distance the Burj Dubai, now known as Burj Khalifah:

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Once on the plane, it was not totally full, so Maryam went to the back to get some seats so she could sleep. On the trip back, I watched an assortment of movies and shows (Up, Monsters vs. Aliens, Pixar shorts, Family Guy) and listened to another assortment of audio entertainment (Jerry Seinfeld standup, Phantom of the Opera, Beethoven). I give two thumbs up for Emirates’ incredible entertainment system. Thanks to this, I really didn’t sleep much.

Around 12 hours later, we arrived in the good ol’ USA, and arrived safely back in Boston after a short transfer flight.

——————————————————————–

Well there you have it, a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime-journey full of inspiration and emotion. I hope I was able to convey through my words and pictures some of the sense of being there and experiencing the Hajj.

To finish up, I’d like to offer some advice that I thought of during the Hajj:

1. Bring Gas-X or an equivalent. I don’t know if it’s just the change in atmosphere or the actual ingredients, but whatever it is, Gas-X would have been nice at times.

2. Really widen your stance when putting on the Ihram, or it will be difficult to walk. Of the two ways of putting on the Ihram that I know of (multi-wrap vs. saree style), the multi-wrap is more difficult to walk in but leaves little chance for indecent exposure; the opposite is true for the saree style.

3. Learn Salat-ul Janazah.

4. The Rawdah (Riazul-Jannah) in the Prophet’s Mosque in Medinah seems to be less crowded around 1:30 to 2:00 am so if you are attempting to go there, go during those times.

5. Buy your dates in Medinah.

6. The roof of the Haram in Makkah always has space even if it looks like there are tons of people outside.

7. The 2nd floor is MUCH less crowded for the Sa’ee.

8. In the hotel you stay at (especially the high rises in Makkah), get on any elevator that has space, even if it is going in the wrong direction, or else you may never get on during busy times.

9. Bring an anti-snore device to give to others you may be sharing a room with or will be nearby in a tent.

10. Bring disposable toilet seat covers for Mina and Muzdalifah if you are not the type that can totally control your bowel habits.

11. Carry a roll of toilet paper.

12. Buy unscented soap to use while you are in the state of Ihram.

13. Buy at least two sets of Ihrams.

14. Bring a mask.

15. Remember to bring a Quran and a book of Dua’s for the trip to Mina and Arafat.

16. In the tents in Mina, try to get a sleeping place away from the entrance so people are not falling on you in the middle of the night when they have to use the restroom.

17. Stay patient and keep a positive attitude, as there will be many difficulties, however in the end, you want to remember the Hajj as the best experience of your life instead of dwelling on the many challenging situations.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2010 7:41 pm

    hi Haris, honestly , thanks you for sharing this great experience . I really enjoyed. to not to lie , I didn't read every single little thing but the parts I read were really great .I know many poeple who were at the Hajj . They , of course, bring pictures and every thing , but they don't tell you how it really was . Or maybe , they don't know how to describe their journey .There were so many things ans especially details that I'm glad to know . You were really lucky guys . From America or any other not Muslim country , it's easy and maybe sheapier to go to Hajj. Here , from Morocco it's kind of hard and expensive . My dad has been trying in the last few years to go , but he didn't get the opportunity yet .I wish I can go to . I know I'm still young , but ! And thanks for the tips , I'm sure they're very useful !By the way , I ddin't know that you don't know how to pray Salat-ul Janazah ?? You could have asked me but no problem .Bye , please send my regards to Maryam and , don't forget to answer my last email !

  2. February 26, 2010 7:41 pm

    oups !! sorry ! I forgot to mention that's the comment is from me !!Yousra !

  3. March 1, 2010 1:17 am

    What an interesting series of posts. May never make this trip, but learned a lot from reading about it. Impressed you maintained your equanimity in that airport… Thanks for the photos, I almost feel like I went!

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