September 26, 2015
It’s currently the second last day of our stay in Mina. Most of Mina is leaving; God says in the Quran that pilgrims can leave after 2 or 3 days, so most of Mina is filing into busses or going to stone the Jamarat then going back to the hotel. We’re close to the road, so the dull hum of busses remains almost steady, as well as the mix of voices outside. An announcement continues to play in a loop, advising us not to go to the Jamarat between 10 AM and 2 PM for safety. People keep trying to come into our tent through our back door. It’s locked, but I pushed one of our big water coolers against it for extra protection, after an overly eager person almost shoved the door right off. I can only hope this is the closest I get to being in a refugee camp.
Our camp is one of the more luxurious ones. On my way back from Jamarat, I’ve walked through camps of people sleeping on the street, people begging, garbage bins overflowing. It’s a common sight to see girls and women sitting in the middle of the road (in Mecca) some of them amputees, showing the crowd the stumps of their arms. People walk around, imploring pilgrims for “sadaqa [charity] for Syria”. I had one person try to sell me a dua for 100 Rials (He told me something like his father was a martyr in Syria and the implication was that somehow his dua was more likely to be accepted).
September 27, 2015
We’re getting ready for the last leg of our journey. Saleh and I have to walk to the Jamarat one last time, and then to Aziziyah, all in the heat of the day, carrying our packs from Mina. I pray the crowd won’t be big, and that I’ll have the strength to make it the whole way. Mind you, after our city-wide trek on Eid Day (we must have walked at least the distance between Leduc and Edmonton), God willing we’ll be ok.
Saleh and I stayed in Mina the extra day while everyone else was leaving. His logic was that if we went back to the dorm in Aziziya, we’d basically be doing the same thing as we were doing in Mina—which is not much. I missed the dorm and the food and the shower in Aziziya, but at least in Mina, we would get extra reward just for being there. Plus the roads would be less cramped and busy if we waited the extra day, so it was hard not to agree with his logic.
We spent most of the extra day inside. I got to catch up on my sleep and do a bunch of writing. Saleh brought me out to the street vendors and bought me a long white thaub (which, I’ll say, I wish I’d had at the beginning of my trip). We left to go stone the Jamarat late at night, when we knew few people would be there. It was a pleasant evening hike with few people. There weren’t many people around the Jamarat basins either, so we didn’t have to risk getting whacked in the head by a rock from an overzealous worshipper who decided to test their baseball arm from a distance.
When we returned back to our camp, it was time to pray. We walked down to one of the other groups’ tents and joined them in prayer. They didn’t speak English, but it didn’t matter; we were all Muslims and so we all immediately knew how to pray together. When we returned to our tent, there was a small group of people from another travel group inside. At first it was surprising, but they thought that the tent was empty (which, in all fairness, it was since Saleh and I were the only ones who stayed behind). They may have been from Montreal, but this was just speculation as their French accent and good English sounded uniquely Canadian. We sat and talked with them for an hour or so. When they asked me to recount my story of how I became a Muslim, I obliged. I enjoyed their company.
There are so many people you meet on Hajj, these beautiful one-time meetings where your life intersects with a total stranger’s. We were across the world, and yet the people you met would feel familiar within minutes of speaking to them. Whether it was the man on the rooftop of the Prophet’s mosque (link), or the Iranian man who showed me pictures of his country at the Haram, or a friendly face like the Imam from Wetaskiwin, these moments remind you of the human connection we all feel. All of us are descended from on soul, our forefather Adam, and so at the end of the day everyone is just part of one human family. “Being human—that’s being Muslim,” said one of my tent visitors in Mina.
The next morning Mina was clearing out for good. The kitchen staff was gone, along with most of the food. People were starting to take down the tents, and they were waiting for Saleh and I to leave. I felt like we were the last 2 travellers, ready to stake out on the dangerous road back to the comfort of the Aziziya dorm; ready to make one last journey. I was anxious that the trip would be exhausting and dangerous in the daytime heat. Before I left, I took one last look at my tent. The tent where I spent most of my Hajj days, eating my breakfast out of boxes, surrounded by people I didn’t know, in a land that I knew little about, but all with the same purpose as everyone else: to fulfil God’s command.
With that, Saleh and I left with all that we had packed with us, a few water bottles for the road, and a prayer that we would make it safely.