We saw Abu Bakr walking right beside us, and so we caught up with him. After exchanging laughs, Abu Bakr said to follow him to one of the hotels, where a guide from the falcon Travel group was waiting for the bus to show up. After losing us at the washrooms, Abu Bakr was just one step behind us the whole way. He even went back to Aziziya shortly after we were there. Then he came across the Falcon Travel group and hitched a ride on their bus back to the Haram. Now we were just waiting for the bus to return. I had been praying that we find a safe way back to Mina, and SubhanAllah, here it was. Se we waited.
The Falcon Travel group showed up. But no bus. We waited nearly 45 minutes when the guide got on the phone to see what was up. Due to the accident, traffic was backed up—and that’s putting it kindly. We walked back along the traffic jam to try and catch the bus. But it was nowhere to be found.
At this point, people around us were taking taxis. One of the main tunnels was blocked and only a few vehicles at a time were allowed in. Those who were in a rush hired one of the many motorcyclists to take them through the tunnels, between traffic, and back to Mina. Our group continued walking. I had run out of water, again, and since I was still wearing my ihram I was sweating all over. Tired, thirsty hot, sweating, I continued walking along the sidewalks with the group, almost to the outskirts of Mecca. The guide was phoning the bus. I was dead tired. When suddenly, the bus arrived across the street. We piled into the mercifully air conditioned bus, my skin practically singing as it cooled down. In the bus’s cooler, there was bottled water that was near freezing, and it was probably the most beautiful bottle of cold water I’d ever drank in my life. I relaxed. Everything was going to be ok. I knew it would be a long drive through the traffic jam, so I slept. In fact, I fell asleep so quickly it’s astonishing.
Then I was woken up.
We were being told to get off the bus.
The traffic police weren’t letting busses back into Mina. I hadn’t even fully woken up when I was standing on the side of the road. I grabbed one cup of water which I was saving for the long walk ahead. Half asleep, I began the hour-long walk back to the south side of Mina. [My feet and knees were sore and aching.] But I smiled, and said Alhumdulilah. Because I knew this was part of my Hajj package. I was determined not to get upset or down.
[I kept telling myself this:] “In the way of God, one must be indominable.”
So I walked with Abdulrashid all the way back to our camp in Mina, without directions to get us there. I relied on land marks and my memory, and thank God we made it back safely. When we got inside, I was getting ready to finally rest for the night—it was about 12:30-ish when we got back—when I noticed my bag was missing. Specifically, the bag that held this journal. I’ll be honest, out of everything I have with me (including phones, camera, money, etc.) this journal has been most precious to me.
I started looking between the sleeping bodies, around the cushions we slept on, on the overhead racks, and one brother graciously got out of bed to help me find it, may God reward him. It was nowhere to be found. I knew again that this was a test. I let it go. I went to sleep, deciding to look again tomorrow. Obviously I found it: it was underneath Abdulrashid’s cushion, and he was sleeping on it. But it was the ultimate cap to a long, trying day: a test of having to let go of my most prized material possession. But one thing I’ve noticed in my life is that when you accept that you need to let go of that which is lost—because, truly, everything in life belongs to God—God opens a way for you to find it, or replaces it with something better.
I never walked as far as I did on that day.
Most of the day was spent on my feet with barely a moment to rest. We seemed to walk endlessly onward, with barely a plan in sight other than getting to each required destination and sticking together. In the back of my mind I would sometimes worry about how we would manage to get back to Mina once the day was over. However, I had no time to worry. The only thing I could do was keep moving forward, and trust that God would open a way back for us. I didn’t know how, but I just had to trust that it would happen.
The traffic jam I mentioned in the journal entry was, in fact, as a result of the Mina Stampede. At the time I had no idea what had happened. Among our group, rumours started spreading. The first I heard was that someone had fallen into the Jamarat basin and was killed. Next was that a Saudi prince had come to stone the Jamarat, and his body guards kept people away from him, and in the crush people started getting hurt and there was a small stampede and people died.
Instead, it was one of the deadliest accidents in Hajj in modern history.
Over 2000 people were estimated to have been killed in Mina on their way to stone the Jamarat. The exact cause of the stampede is still not fully known, but basically two large groups of pilgrims intersected each other onto a single street and created a bottleneck. Panic and fear set in as people were crushed as they tried to escape.
I missed it by only a few hours.
In Mina, you’re cut off from the rest of the world. There obviously wasn’t any wi-fi, and the cell signal was good enough for calling and texting, but probably not much else. I didn’t know what happened until the following day, when everyone on Hajj was given free international calling for the day. I thought it was just a nice gesture, but it turns out it was so that everyone could call home. I called my parents and learned about the stampede from my Dad. It’s strange being so close to such a tragedy, and yet being completely in the dark about it.
By the end of the day I was exhausted. If ever there was a culmination, a climax, of everything you experience in Hajj, it was on this day, the day of Eid. My patience was tested, my body was physically pushed to its limits, and all the while I told myself to keep my trust in God. And at the end of the day, that’s what Hajj is all about: bringing yourself closer to God, trusting in Him, and keeping yourself moving forward.