At the time this was written it was Saturday, December 3, early afternoon, 1:25. At the time it was revealed that: “This is the most utterly amazing place I have ever been but it is not without its difficulties. The major difficulty was (and is) ? the jet lag which comes and goes, and comes and goes. Another difficulty is that my guide, Hey You (until another nickname is found), is ill. Therefore he did not meet the plane as promised. Another member of the eJourney staff scooped me up but he did not speak English. To make matters worse, my wifi was not connected. It was not exactly what was expected as we sped throughout Jeddah to our destination – the destination being the Mecca hotel. There were moments when I felt I might be being sold off into white slavery, but no such luck. Cars and confusion everywhere but we did reach the hotel and I was met by a manager and a young woman (who has since become my constant companion). She spoke English, was most charming and had a gap between her front teeth, rather like me. We immediately bonded. I was checked into the hotel with ease. Me and my bags arrived in Room 606. I almost fainted. Such luxury I have never encountered. The room is much larger than my humble Edmonton apartment. It does not have a kitchen, one is not required as you will learn. It is beautifully furnished, tasteful and important art upon the walls. I have never seen a shower with more shower heads.
I enjoy the views offered by my Edmonton apartment. Formerly grass and trees, the art deco newly named Queen Elizabeth building, small buildings marked the terminus of underground tunnel. Very few people are ever seen, sometimes I do think that there has been a mass migration – uncrowded streets and people seldom make an appearance.
My view here could not be more at odds, poles apart, divergent. It is unimaginable as it is teeming with the faithful at all hours of the day and night. They resemble tiny black and white aunts – the women in black and men in white. It seems as if all of humanity has been gathered in this place and this time. .
Text exchanges have occurred between Hey You and myself. I praised Khadijah, the 20 year old Saudi woman who shall be assisting me.
Me: She is really excited. Everyone in the company are loving your story. BTW they envy me to be the one who serve you. This is a blessing.
He: Wanted to check on you and if you need anything from the hotel let me know.
Me: They are great and I am good. I have never stayed in such a posh hotel. I feel like a Sheikha.
He You are our favorite Sheikha.
Me: I guess all I need is a Sheikh – maybe not Hahaha
He: Its a bit way out of our business scope bit who knows we might start a new business.
Me: Great idea! With a car you can take it on a test drive. Not sure what is possible however in the faith.
So with him ill my expectations have not been fulfilled and things are not, as we say, working out. My experiences in Dubai and Abu Dhabi were different as everyone spoke English, to some extent. This is not true in Saudi Arabia.
But do let me tell you of my breakfast experiences. Some communication with Hey You
Me: Having breakfast. Great fun once I found it. Why is the restaurant on the prayer room floor, pray tell? Hahaha
It seemed there were hundreds of people at breakfast – a buffet of massive proportions and variety. Again, never have I ever seen such a lavish buffet breakfast. I could have exactly what I wanted, having no husband or children to question my choices. I had a potato breakfast – mashed and hash browns because I felt like it. With cheeses and cold meats on the side.
There were scores of men, women and children and men creating pandemonium which is a wild and noisy disorder or confusion. The best synonyms to describe the scene are: mayhem, furor, hubbub, hue and cry, rumpus, fracas, hurly-burly, maelstrom; bangarang; hullabaloo. Scores of young rather handsome waiters would tend to your every need. Bringing coffee, carrying your plate, clearing unused plates. And laughing and joking with me, in both English and my rudimentary French. A young man from Tasmania, fluent in French says Bon Jour, and I respond laughingly. .
To say the least I was an oddity. Perfectly appropriate dressed in my abaya and hijab but alone – all of the other women present were with husbands, families or occasionally groups of other similarly clad women. Some women only had eyes showing – I waited patiently to see how they would manage to eat and drink. It was not a pretty sight actually – they would lift the face mask, quickly shove food into the mouth and lower it again. I have a rational mind – this does not make much sense to me, particularly since the Qur’an admonishes both men and women to dress modestly, that is all. It therefore seems like a situation where Muslim men are oppressing women. That is contrary to the Quran. Allah and Mohammed. But, I am sure, that if I lived in their culture, I would knuckle under – it would not be worth the battle as both men and women would harass your ‘wrong doing’. Knuckle under means to submit to someone else’s authority or to give up power and control.
One group of men held great fascination for me. They were jovial, laughing, enjoying one another, in high spirits. They were in marked contrast to the other men in the cavernous room who were strictly presiding over others who were seated around them. I bravely went up to the happy men.
Me: Could you please tell me what country you are from? You seem to be having such a good time.
They: We are from Indonesia.
Me: I have heard of the practice of the faith in Indonesia. You have more Muslims in Indonesia than any other country but the Islamic faith was molded into, and with your, traditions. The faith can be like water and reflect and become like the underlying background or color. But this has not happened in the United States nor in Canada. I would like to visit your country and see this.
They: We would love to have you visit. Come and be our guests.
I was immensely popular with the wait staff and the maitre d’s. People gathered at my table asking me questions. I did not have my blog cards but showed them my blog and Instagram account. They promised to follow me.
There was some confusion as to what was going to happen next but I was well cared for. There is a special lounge for special guests. I am most welcomed, the men so very helpful. The director, who speaks English, assures me that this is my home and that he and his staff will care for me. They do. Called upon to perform the strangest of tasks. He says that I remind him of his grandmother. There is an al a carte breakfast, tea time and evening food. Again the room is beautifully furnished with tables and sofas. There is a huge television, its vision shall be portrayed. However the greatest treasure, for the book worm in me, is a library of books which speak of the Islamic faith and of Saudi Arabia, in English and in Arabic.
It is from this collection that I explain the Pillars of Umrah:
- Towaf (circumambulation of the Kabah.
- Sai (walking between the two mints of Safa and Marwa).
There are obligatory acts of Umrah
- Ihram from the prescribed locations (mawaqit)
- Shaving the head or cutting the hair for men and cutting some hair for women
There are also 7 prohibited acts. If these are conmmited compensation must be made by performing one of the following three acts: slaughtering sheep, feeding six poor people or fasting three days.
All I can say is this. I shall behave as I have no desire whatsoever to slaughter sheep. I doubt that the adage: try it, you might like it, would apply.
Try it, you might like it. You absolutely must do this. Google Try it you might like it Gif and the most amusing images will appear. Try it, I assure that you Will Like It.