September 22, 2015
We’re pilgrims now.
We’re all staying in Mina now, a city of tents that stretch as far as you can see. I continue to be impressed at how the Saudi Government has been able to handle the logistics of moving 2 million worshippers and ensuring the facilities are organized accordingly…
[H]ere at Mina, the camp is sectioned off by continent, and then broken down into streets and sections… Our tent has about 30 people in it, and is air conditioned. Today is mostly about resting up for tomorrow. We’re close to the washroom stalls—most are squat toilets, which are actually not that bad, and preferable in my ihram. The cushions are ironically more comfortable to sleep on than the beds in the Aziziya dorm. They’re pretty tightly packed though.
All in all, I feel ok. I’m not as worried or scared as I was leading up to Hajj starting. I worried that something would happen and prevent me from doing Hajj. But here I am. A guest in God’s House. I no longer worry if I get sick or such; I only care about doing my Hajj the best I can, and maximizing my time here. We are all God’s guests –and what better host could there be but God?
You may notice the lack of pictures from here on out. This was intentional. While all of our guides and sheikhs assured us that taking pictures during Hajj was fine, I set it upon myself to not busy myself with taking pictures. It was a personal decision to try and keep my Hajj as clear as possible. I didn’t want to think about getting the best shot or what it would look like when I uploaded it on Facebook.
We left Aziziyah to head to Mina late at night. At this point, our travel group was split in half: one half had VIP tents, which were stationed at the northern-most part of Mina, and close to the Jamarat building where later on we would stone the pillars representing the devil (which I will cover later). The other half—the half I was in—was stationed at the far south of Mina in a section of the city (it really is a city) reserved for North American pilgrims. There were about 6 major sections of Mina, and each section was broken down into several numbered camps, each with an overhead banner decorated to distinguish it from other gates around it.
My first night in Mina was rough. People were barely sleeping, and the overhead fluorescent lights bathed the white tentcloth in an artificial white hue and no one turned them off. The guy to my right was sick and had trouble sleeping, and the guy to my left snored. One of the guides that joined us was an old but built Egyptian man who looked like a more beefy version of John Malkovich. At first I was intimidated, but he would check in on me throughout Hajj and make sure I was ok, so I warmed up to him fine.
At this point Hajj had officially begun. In some ways there was a sense of relief in that I had made it this far. There wouldn’t be any last minute diversions or catastrophes or accidents that would somehow bar me from going to Hajj. No, I was in Hajj now. I was following in the footsteps of billions of others before me.
As I said: I was now a pilgrim.