29. “Arafat” (The Hajj Journal)

Arafat

September 24, 2015

We spent the day yesterday in Arafat.

Whenever I heard of Arafat, I imagined crowds of white-garbed pilgrims standing on a red hillside, their hands raised and their eyes closed as they conferred with God. I imagined a few pop-up tents in the hilly valley with food and drink inside. But a big part of this trip has been managing expectations versus reality. Or, more accurately, imagination versus reality. Continue reading “29. “Arafat” (The Hajj Journal)”

“What’s Mina like?” (The Hajj Journal)

A row of large white tents in Mina.
Courtesy wikimedia.org

Mina is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Imagine a valley between copper-brown mountains, filled with identical white tents, stretching far past the hazy horizon, and behind the slope of an eastern mountain. The tents were all large, like the kind you’d see at an outdoor event. Continue reading ““What’s Mina like?” (The Hajj Journal)”

27. “Pilgrims” (The Hajj Journal)

A wide view of the tent city of Mina, with rows of white tents in between streets.
Source: Wikipedia

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. Continue reading “27. “Pilgrims” (The Hajj Journal)”

26. “Rooftop” (The Hajj Journal)

September 21, 2015

I’m here on the rooftop of our hotel, between the shadow of a mountain and the lights of Mecca. In just a few hours, I’ll put on my ihram and, God willing, start my Hajj. The evening breeze is warm and agreeable. Lights of different colours illuminate the rooftops yellow, blue, purple. Strings of lights hang from the roof of a nearby hotel. Around me, Mecca hums with the sounds of evening life. Mecca. The Holy City. The Mother of All Cities, as it’s mentioned in the Qur’an. The city where, for 1400 years, Muslims have journeyed to in order to answer the call made by Abraham millennia ago. Tonight is the last night of the old me. Whoever I’ll be after the journey is done is, right now, known only by God. But I pray that I’ll be the best version of myself when I return home.

Continue reading “26. “Rooftop” (The Hajj Journal)”

25. “The ‘Why’ of Hajj” – (The Hajj Journal) (Long Post)

Kaba at day

September 20, 2015

I think a reoccurring lesson of this journey has been learning and understanding what it means for something to be sacred. What it means for something to be favored or blessed by God. To believe and seek what is beyond our explanation, to understand the sanctity of the deeper meaning of things, and to come closer to the Divine and answer the call in our hearts. It’s so far been a journey of self discovery, and Hajj hasn’t even started yet.

Part of the journey has been understanding the things my faith holds sacred. One of the things that stuck in my mind and troubled me was the fact that my first moments with the Ka’ba weren’t the unforgettable spiritual event I thought it would be. I had hyped the moment up so much in my mind, replaying how it would be and how I should feel, that when reality struck I felt guilty because I wasn’t living out the thoughts and feelings I told myself I should have. A thought kept coming to my head, which I had to fight off: it’s just a building… But I knew that it reflected a lack of knowledge on my part: a lack of knowledge of the history, purpose and sanctity of the Ka’ba. And by extension, the other rituals of Hajj as well. Continue reading “25. “The ‘Why’ of Hajj” – (The Hajj Journal) (Long Post)”

24. “Homesickness” (The Hajj Journal)

A man sitting in a chair, writing in a journal.September 19, 2015

Dealing with a small bout of homesickness. Not surprising; ever since going to Camp Maskepetoon when I was 11, I’ve had to deal with varying degrees of homesickness when I’m away from home and everything that’s comfortable. But this isn’t Camp Maskepetoon. This is Saudi Arabia. I had to help one of the brothers in our group recharge his pre-paid phone, and I found myself just listening to the automated voice explain menu options in English. The pre-recorded lines were comforting… On top of that we’re leaving our hotel and going to some place called Aziziyah which is like an apartment and then Hajj starts in just a few days so now things around me are changing… Continue reading “24. “Homesickness” (The Hajj Journal)”

23. “The best actions…” (The Hajj Journal)

September 19, 2015

The best actions are those that benefit others. The Prophet (p) [emphasized] many acts of selflessness, like feeding others, bringing a smile to someone, going out of your way to help someone with their challenges… Many acts of worship that benefit others have more weight than acts that are solitary. A good deed ripples around you, and you may not know where it ends. Continue reading “23. “The best actions…” (The Hajj Journal)”

22. “Jummah” (The Hajj Journal)

Minarets at the Haram

September 18, 2015

The sun is blazing above me and I’m drenched in sweat as I sit in the outside courtyard of the Haram. It’s Friday, so the shops are closed and the people gather for Jummah prayer. I’m wearing my prayer rug on my had to protect my nearly-bald scalp from getting any more burned than it is—a tactic I learned from seeing people doing the same… Continue reading “22. “Jummah” (The Hajj Journal)”

21. “My center” (The Hajj Journal)

September 17, 2015

I returned to the Haram today, intent on doing tawaf again. I stood outside the whirlpool of people, mentally preparing myself to go in. I was on the ground level. The Ka’ba towered over the crowd before me. I began walking towards the entrance into the centrifuge of people (check analogy), ready to just dive in. I felt the same way one does before diving into water. I paused, listening to the roar of footsteps, sounding like a water fall. A deep breath, and I was in. Continue reading “21. “My center” (The Hajj Journal)”