I wish I could tell you how long we were walking for. It felt like 2 hours.
I checked my phone occasionally, but only to see if Sheikh Tamir texted me Abu Bakr’s number. The time didn’t seem to matter much. We weaved through crowds and traffic and narrow alleys until we made it back to our hotel. My feet were sore and everything around me was hot.
I went to the washroom and took an incredibly long overdue shower, washing away 3 days of sweat and grime. I came out and change into shorts and a t-shirt—but then changed into the clean ihram my friend Asad gave me. Knowing how much walking we’d be doing in the afternoon heat, I decided that out of my entire wardrobe, the ihram was the best thing I could wear given the circumstances. So I packed my shorts and t-shirt for later. I had hoped for an afternoon nap (I was running on the small amount of sleep I had from Muzdalifah) but Saleh wanted to get our Tawaf done ASAP. So we left the comfort of Aziziya again.
We didn’t really know which way to go, so we followed a group of pilgrims toward the freeway on the assumption that they knew where to go. We started asking taxis if they could take us to the Haram. One guy wanted 200 riyals (about $65). We finally found one guy who gave us a reasonable rate of 40 riyals (per person, [though,] as we found out [after we got to our destination]). So we got into his minivan, which had a middle seat that [didn’t lock into place and] slid back and forth and squeaked whenever he stopped or accelerated. We spent the first 10-15 minutes driving in a circle with the windows down as he shouted “HARAM! HARAM!” to any potential customers (of which none took him up on his offer—and I wondered if people mistook him to mean he was shouting “haram” as in “forbidden” and not as in “Masjid Al-Haram” (meaning “The Protected Mosque”)).
At one point, he pulled over and asked another taxi cab how to get to the Haram. I must say, even though I wanted to walk this was far more entertaining. He had no chill, and would swerve and cut off wherever the opportunity came. Driving here is very opportunistic, and at times chaotic. Many vehicles have bumps, dents, scratches, missing fenders, broken lights. I once saw a guy rear end someone; the driver got out, yelled a bit, then they both drove off. I also saw a car stop, drive into a pole sticking out from a girder, [back up,] then keep going.
[Our] intrepid cab driver drove us to an area just on the outskirts of the haram (though not before trying to cut off a bus). We got out, walked to the Haram, waited about 20 minutes for Abdulrashid to use the washroom (and who, after all this and fighting off his sickness, looked and walked like someone who had no more cares to give to the world), then went into the Haram and prayed Dhuhr [prayer].
We were on the rooftop of the Haram, so our Tawaf took longer than on the lower levels, but was considerably more relaxed. Only one area got a bit crowded, but for the most part it was relaxed. It took about 45 minutes. By the time we finished, it was about 5:30 [and we prayed the Asr prayer]. And now we had to make our way back to Mina. First, though, Saleh wanted to exchange some cash, so we went into one of the nearby malls. We hadn’t eaten a proper meal since breakfast, so we grabbed some chicken burgers from KFC. It was the first KFC I’d had in 8 years, and, well, it wasn’t anything revolutionary. More bun than chicken, and the fries were bland (like microwaved McCain frozen fries).
Anyway, it came time to pray Maghrib, so we prayed in the Haram courtyard. I prayed that we would get back to Mina safely, because we didn’t know which way to go or how long it would take to get there. We started walking down one of the streets, toward a tunnel that had “Aziziyah” [written] on one of the signs. And as we began walking, who did we see:
All day we were constantly on the move. There was little time for us to pause and rest.
The beginning of Eid Al-Adha, the second festival in the Islamic calendar, marks the beginning of what are called “The Days of Tashriq”. Around the world people celebrate these days with feasts and gift giving. For pilgrims, however, it begins with one of the most grueling days of Hajj.
These are days to remember God. During every act of Hajj, you remember God. There is very little time to stand still during these days. You are constantly on the move as you imitate the practices of those who came before you. What many people don’t realize is that much of Hajj is actually about honouring Prophet Abraham and his family. The Ka’bah, as I mentioned earlier, was built upon foundations laid by Abraham. As pilgrims traverse the distance between the hills of Safa and Marwa, they are imitating Abraham’s wife Hagar, who traversed those exact hills seven times in search of water for her and her son. When pilgrims stone the pillars of the jamarat, they are reminded of how Abraham stoned the devil who came to tempt him. And the slaughtering of the sheep is indicative of Abraham’s great test, where he was commanded to sacrifice his son, but was instead allowed to sacrifice an animal instead.
Rest came rarely on this day. And the farther we walked and the longer the day drew on, in the back of my mind one thought continued to surface: how were we going to get back? At the end of all the rituals and walking there was still the journey back. And the sun was setting. Whenever that thought came to my mind, I felt a pang of dread. It’s roughly a 2 hour walk from the Ka’bah to Mina, and when your feet are sore from walking all day the last thing you want to do is walk all night.
But internally, I knew we would find a way. If a person only learns one lesson from Hajj, it’s to put your trust in God. Trust in God and He will open the way for you. Then it’s up to you to walk it.