This is an exchange between Computer Guru and myself wherein I informed him of my mistake, thinking I was leaving Edmonton on Monday instead of Tuesday.
He: Oh dear what are you going to do for 24 hours!?
I’ve added a book link to the blog post ! Stay outta trouble!Love us x
Me: What fun is that staying out of trouble??!! Hanging out at the airport drinking a nonalcoholic beer having a vegetarian pizza and meeting great people. Probably more fun than Montreal where I would have to sort of speak French. Oh la La La . Sort of watching World Cup. Portugal and Uruguay. Boring! I am in a great mood. Ticketed finally for Jeddah. More on blog.
So now you know where I am going. I sent this pdf last week to approximately five chosen people, so they have been in the know. It is entitled: The Strange Tale of Fatimah’s Pilgrimage.
Fatimah is my Muslim name, bestowed upon me at the Islamic Center in Abu Dhabi. It was the name of the Prophet’s daughter, an Instagram post describes her as the woman who loved the Prophet the most. When in Abu Dhabi I was called Sheikha Fatimah by myself and others. Sheikha means Queen.
On becoming a Muslim a person vows to believe and adhere to five pillars. One pillar is to make the pilgrimage to Mecca (Arabs use the spelling Makkah, which is phonetic). The pilgrimage should be made if one can afford it. Although I was in the Middle East and it was more accessible, my viewpoint (at the time) was that I could not afford to risk my health, covid was rampant and Makkah teems with worshippers. I was also unable to obtain my fourth booster shot from the UAE and would be vulnerable to covid.
My return to Canada has brought me peace of mind, as well as, the fourth and fifth booster jabs and an enhanced flu shot. However, to prove myself as a true Edmontonian decided to stay in Edmonton the first winter, not flee like a ‘snow bird’ to warmer climes.
However, one morning, when scrolling through Instagram, found an ad advertising tours of varying length to Makkah and Medina. Both are located in Saudi Arabia, close to one another. I responded, providing my telephone number and email, thinking that a trip in February might be a remote possibility.
I was involved in a most complicated telephone conversation with my American health plan provider when I received a call from Edinburgh Scotland. The call was directed to voicemail as the health care call was important. Upon completion, saw that no voice mail message was left but decided to call and find out what this all about. I do not know anyone in Edinburgh so was curious.
A man answered, I explained who I was, that I had a call from this number and wondered who they were.
He: I am from eJourney and I am calling to get more details from you about your trip to Makkah.
Me: Oh I see. I made an inquiry saying February 2023 but this was very preliminary. Could go at any time however as I am retired.
He: Do let me find out more about you and tell you about our company. We are a Saudi company who have been providing safe pilgrimages for years. I am a guide, accompanying tour groups. Tell me about yourself,
So I did, actually at some length. Saying I was a 79 year old recent revert, living now in Canada. That I was retired, lived alone, and entertained myself by writing a blog.
At this point he laughed and said he had a confession to make.
He: My mother’s name is Fatimah by the way. Me: Oh my goodness! It is a common name but that is still incredible.
He: Most of our clients are Arabs. When I saw your name decided to Google and see if I could resolve the mystery. Why would a woman with an American number be thinking of going on such a journey?
Me: Oh my goodness!! You typed in Alexis McBride and up I popped, the very first thing.
He: Yes indeed. I have been reading your blog. I am so happy to be talking with you.
The conversation lasted for some time, with much enthusiasm from both of us. My flexibility allowed different alternatives which he said he would look into and provide me with a package that would be ‘tailor made’ for me.
Quickly he did and it was exactly what I wanted. In the meantime I explored other alternatives with other companies. My pilgrimage is the most extensive offered, December 1-21 staying in nice hotels in Makkah and Medina. He will be my guide throughout, meeting me at the airport in Jeddah accompanying me on the ride to my Makkah hotel. We have had various communication since them. After I charged the down payment to my credit card had the following conversation.
Me: I am absolutely excited by the way!! I cannot believe it.
He: Me also. I talked to my manager and they excited to meet you also in person.
Me: I am convinced that Allah the Great Planner made these arrangements,
He: Alhhamdullah this one of the most highlight of my career to have here and serve you Ms. Alexis
Me: WOW and All praise to Allah. I will love to tell you of my reversion to the faith when I see you.
He: Yes Ms. Alexis it’s now officially you’ll go the Makkah
Me: I am a most observant Muslim woman. People do not believe it. It is only Allah I have to impress.
He: Will do our absolute best to make it unforgettable trip for you Ms. Alexis may Allah expect you Umrah and give me the power to make a spiritual trip for you.
Me: All praise to Allah. My excitement grows like magic. What airlines will I be flying on?
He: The airlines per your request Ms. Alexis will be Qatar Airlines. May I have the passport for the reservations.
So I sent a copy of my Canadian passport despite the fact that my USA one has a far more flattering picture.
Me: I am happy to be going Qatar Air. You are treating me like Sheikha Fatimah. They called me that in Abu Dhabi.
He: Hi Ms Alexis it is so perfect thank you so much, for us we are treating all of our customers like Sheikhas.
So that is it. I emailed my Computer Guru Chris with the news.
Me: An amazing story! I am going to Mecca and it is all because of this blog! The guy wondered why an Alexis McBride would be going on a trip. Googled me and the blog popped up. I was amazed and he followed up right away.
He: Be careful.
Me: Me??? Be careful??? If I was being careful I would not have started the blog in the first place. If it is fraudulent I report it to the credit card company. It is a legitimate company.
He: Okay. You reached out to the company first.
So everything is coming together. D Day was planned with less precision. Made reservations to get to Montreal with Air Canada on November 28 so I will be there with no connecting flight problems. The wonderful manager of this building volunteered to give me a ride to the airport. That is a first – never remember ANYONE giving me a ride to the airport. Unbelievable things happened because of it but I do realize it has taken over me and my entire identity. “
My holiday from blogging has ended but it has had an immediate effect. I became more accessible to people, made two new Edmonton women friends (I think) and became closer to others, ease and convenience.
Only special people get this pdf telling them of this trip and how it all came about. I am not talking about it on the blog, nor on Instagram. Will both blog and Instagram when I am on the way. There are reasons for my secrecy. Both funny and not funny at all.
I did not edit this – if there are mistakes it is too bad. The people I am sending this to are few – at this point. May put it on the blog when I get there – or maybe not.
I am so enjoying the freedom from blogging. I never realize how it has taken over me and my entire identity.’
It is now December 1, 2022, have been regularly conferring with my Saudi guide as I reported in an email to Uganda Rashid.
Me: I have not met my Saudi guide but he has a really nice voice and he is a really nice guy. I wrote: You ate a nice guy instead of you are a nice guy. So I accused him of being a cannibal. He has an unpronounceable name. Guess I will call him Hey You. It is almost prayer time. Do you pray five times a day? By the way, I do not think you are a Muslim, you said you were but I doubt it. However I am sure Hey You is. Hahaha Sheikha Fatimah.
I have not received a response as yet, do not think I will but suppose I might. Actually do not care either way.
The photograph is was posted on Instagram with the following caption.
Me: Ready for the flight tomorrow The hijab is a gift from a wonderful new friend. Was going to wear red Canada baseball cap and sparkly red hijab but my Qatar Airlines flight leaves in the evening. Game will be over.
Not left my Montreal Airport hotel as yet. But as I am thoroughly ticketed, have not lost my passport and will certainly be on time – it is a go. I have a short stopover in Doha – been to that airport several times before on my prior aborted trip to Qatar. Most of the time was spent at the airport or quarantined in a hotel. Not stopping on the way back from Jeddah. It is unseemly to mix business and pleasure AND pilgrimages and tourism.
Do not mix business with pleasure cautions people to keep your work separate from your private life; don’t do business with friends. It is a proverb: business before pleasure. Discharging one’s obligations must take precedence over devoting time to pursuits meant solely for one’s own gratification.
Surely discharging one’s obligations to Allah must take precedence over devoting time to tourism even if it might involve the World Cup 2022.