September 25, 2015
Yesterday was the longest day of my life. It began after Fajr in Muzdalifah (about 4:00 AM), [and after that] I was crammed into a bus to get back to our camp in Mina. We had the option of walking, but it’s a good thing we didn’t walk—we had a whole day of walking ahead of us. We got back to the camp around 6:30. It was the Day of Eid which, everywhere else in the world, meant a day of celebration. For us, it [was the beginning of the Days of Tashreeq, which means] it was a day of sacrifice and hard work. Sheikh Munir said that there’s no Eid prayer for pilgrims, because the world is praying Eid prayer for you. On this day, pilgrims do 4 things:
1. Sacrifice a sheep, to feed the poor (this was done on our behalf, so we didn’t have to do it [ourselves])
2. Stone the largest Jamarat pillar
3. Shave the head to leave the state of ihram
4. Perform Tawaf and Sa’i
As soon as we got back to the tent, a group of brothers were getting ready to go and stone the Jamarat. The plan was:
· [stone the Jamarat]
· get our heads shaved
· go back to the hotel in Aziziya [to shower and change out of our ihram]
· go to [the Haram] and do Tawaf
· then go back to Mina.
From our group, there was myself, Abu Bakr, Abdulrashid and Saleh. [Our] group is with EcoTravel and since it’s smaller, it gets moved around with large groups like Falcon Travel and Safa Travel. So the whole group totaled about 10, 4 from Eco and 6 from Safa (this is important, you’ll see).
[We] began walking to the Jamarat in the early morning. It was about an hour walk. Again, the logistics were impressive. Most of the walk was through underground tunnels, cut into the mountains. Inside [the tunnels] were those escalator-type floors like you see in airports. There were also people distributing water and spraying mist at people (which is surprising when you don’t see it coming). I remember being told that Jamarat was the deadliest part of Hajj, which I thought was surprising; I thought [the deadliest] would be Tawaf. But with Tawaf, everyone is moving in the same direction; the way Jamarat used to be is that there was only one way in and one way out, and that happened to be the same way. So now, there’s no way to turn back once you’re there, you have to keep going towards the exit.
The Jamarat building consists of 3 floors, each floor roughly the size of a football field. It’s built into a mountain, so you get a fantastic view of Mina when you get to the third floor. Just a huge panorama of the valley with tents as far as you can see, with a river of white-garbed pilgrims…
When we got inside, we walked to the largest Jamarat, threw 7 stones at it, then continued onward. The highway was closed so the pilgrims could walk on it. We began walking towards Mecca. On the side of the highway was a rest station, with a barber shop (it was like a car wash with numbered bays, and you pay an attendant who gives you a token to give to the barber). Here, the 4 of us split from the other group since we had to go to Aziziya [and they chose to carry on to the Haram].
I got my head shaved by a barber who looked Indonesian and looked like he was just done, and at one point was shaving my head standing on one leg. The four of us came out, then Abu Bakr and Abdulrashid had to use the washroom. Considering the place was packed, that went as expected. Saleh and I were standing out in the hot sun, my newly-balded head sweating and sensitive, sharing the shade of my umbrella. Abdulrashid came out, but Abu Bakr wasn’t anywhere to be found. We were waiting at least half an hour, maybe more. None of us had his phone number. Abdulrashid went back into the crowd to look for him. Time was running short and we had a lot to do today. We decided to continue onward to Aziziya, and meet up with him at the hotel. It was a long, hot crowded, muggy, smelly walk back to the hotel.
When this day started, it didn’t stop.
Initially, I wanted to hold off doing the tawaf until another day—which our guide said was acceptable to do. But Saleh was eager to just get it all done in one day. In hindsight, it’s a good thing I listened to him, because the energy and time it took to Mecca and do the tawaf and come back was immense—coupled with the fact that every day from here on out we would have to walk to the Jamarat building.
The act of stoning the Jamarat pillars was one of my favourite acts of Hajj. I mentioned it in a previous entry (link to entry), but there was something satisfying about throwing my pebbles at the gigantic rock wall. Now that I understood the deeper significance of it, the act spoke to me a lot more. It was symbolic of driving the devil out of my life. The pillars themselves are more like massive oblong rock walls with a large basin surrounding them. So even if your problems and trials and temptations seem as big as a wall, you still gotta toss your stones at it.
When it came to getting our heads shaved, there were random people on the side of the road that offered to do it for cheap. That said, they used the same razor for several people, and I don’t care how cheap it is, I wasn’t going to add infection to my life of Hajj experiences. We just spent the extra cash (a whole 3 riyals, or a little above $1) and got it done at one of the businesses, which used disposable razors. And if you’re looking for a delicate, pampered barber that will talk to you about how life’s going, you won’t find it here. When I say it was like a car wash, I mean that quite literally. The barbers shaving our heads could probably do it with their eyes closed. I wonder if some of them did. I wonder if we’d gotten it done at the awesomely-named “Secure Haircut Programme”, which I saw on the side of the highway leading into Mecca, if our service would have been more friendly.
Afterwards, Abu Bakr and Abdulrashid—both elderly men, mind you—both decided to use the washrooms, of which the lineup was like a Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Saleh and I waited, and when Abdulrashid came back, we waited more. Eventually, though, he didn’t show up. I tried getting his number from Sheikh Tamir, Saleh tried looking for him, but to no avail. We felt guilty about leaving Abu Bakr behind, but we had no choice.
It was a long, hot walk back to Aziziya. We cut through the Bin Dawood superstore, and the air conditioning was like a kiss from heaven on our hot, sweaty skin. The streets were overloaded with cars and the sidewalks crowded with pilgrims.
Returning to the hotel in Aziziya was a small comfort. Throughout our time in Saudi Arabia, our accommodations seemed to gradually become less and less comfortable—and this was intentional, according to Sheikh Tamir. Our hotel in Medina was a moderate, 4-star affair; once we got into Mecca, it was a ritzy 5-star marvel; Aziziya was like a dorm room with tough mattresses and shared washrooms; then Mina was a tent with cushions. And after spending the night in Muzdalifa, sleeping outside on just a wooden matt, I was grateful for the hard mattress in Aziziya and the private shower.
All this and it wasn’t even noon.