The dream of every Muslim is to wake up in Mecca. I am now realizing the dream. There are some glitches however because I cannot find the prayer rug. It is a necessary staple in all Saudi hotels. The front desk is not at all helpful either. The WiFi is not working on all of my devices. Nothing is perfect seems to be the motto of the morning. Panic has not set in as prayer times are relaxed when one travels. I am traveling. .
On the other hand, there are glories. Yesterday a friend WhatsApped the Saudi National Anthem in English. The sunny way to start the day was to listen to its stirring words. Made me feel downright patriotic. You can listen too, it shall be attached to the blog. I politely sent a thank you note.
Me: Thank you! I love this. I will play it every morning after Fajr prayer. Thank you so much. I am in in Mecca now.
It is difficult to believe that he is a short train ride away and that I shall be with there in Medina for an entire month. I feel supremely blessed.
A woman from Malaysia, also send a good morning greeting. I casually and randomly met her in July at the Medina Prophet’s Mosque. We have stayed in touch. Her good morning greeting was a sticker showing tulips. She received a good morning greeting in return. A photograph of a bouquet of flowers.
Me: Bouquet from a friend who greeted me at the Jeddah airport.
We are having a long text intimate (actually) conversation. She sent a photo of her daughter, donating blood. We talked about my friend, the woman who greeted me at the Jeddah airport.
Me: We laughed so hard my sides hurt.
She: I had a friend like that. But she passed away last year. It made me so sad.
Me: I am so sorry to hear she died. It must be so difficult. You must find a new friend to laugh with. Maybe me.
She: Yes u. I would love that so much.
We then talked about what we did when we felt sad. Everyone seeing us as happy people, thinking we were never sad. My secret?
Me: I hide when I feel unhappy and find comfort with Allah (SWT).
She said she found similar solace.
My sadness reached a peak the other evening. I began to cry in the lobby of the Riyadh Hilton (of all places). People gathered about me in a state of shock – not believing it. Went and hid in my room, found solace with our Creator, emerged the next day.
Ended that day with a hot rock massage at the Spa. Melissa is from the Philippines, worked in Jordan and now in Saudi Arabia. I definitely plan to go back and see her when I return to Riyadh, not to the hotel but I can book an appointment with her as an outside guest.
I am now taking you back to yesterday. I wrote from the plane.
Now on a jet traveling between Riyadh and Jeddah. This is rather unbelievable Why so? For many reasons. There are guys in towels dressed in white towels as well as many members of a football team (not American/Canadian football but soccer) I am waiting for a handsome man to sit next to me. It has not happened. Instead there was a switch of seats. The woman one seat over moved over to sit beside her fat husband dressed in a towel.
When I say dressed in a towel I mean they are on a Umrah pilgrimage. I am most respectful of the gesture. The Prophet (PBUH) dressed in similar fashion when he went to Mecca on at least one occasion. But he traveled on a camel. respectfully donned simple coverings only when he began worship. He did not travel on a jet wearing two white towels. It seems inappropriate to me, as if they are making some sort of statement. Women do not face this dilemma as we are required to simply cover ourselves, dressed modestly in a hijab and abaya.
This is a definition of unbelievable: scarcely credible, inconceivable, unthinkable, unimaginable; unconvincing, far-fetched, implausible, improbable, impossible; hard to swallow, mind-boggling, mind-blowing.
Fasten your seat belts, what I am about to write about s even more far-fetched, hard to swallow and mind-blowing. Not only one handsome men, but two came to sit in the vacant seats beside me. Two pilots – Saudi Air. (No, I am not sitting in the cockpit. )The two pilots are returning to their home base of Jeddah after flying to Bangladesh. They are both tired and have the unfortunate luck to be sitting next to me. But I can entertain myself endlessly by writing. They are speaking Arabic to one another – but I have you, faithful readers. Who needs handsome pilots???
I did text AK who is in Riyadh. We were going to motor together but he changed his mind but will meet me in Mecca tomorrow. So sayeth my schedule which is never wrong.
Me: You will not believe this! I was the first person on the plane. The very first. Needed to wait to board. Two pilots were facing east – in submission to Allah (SWT) on their prayer mats. It was WOW!
He: That is WOW!
I am most fortunate to be a Muslim. If not, would have been freaked. Westerners would be frightened,
They: Oh my God. Why are they praying??? Do they not trust the instruments on their plane? What will happen to us??? I am not boarding that plane – no way.
Me: Silly people It is Dhuhr prayer time. If anything, it will ensure out safety.
Now not on plane but writing from Mecca Hotel.
I left the Riyadh Ring Road Hilton never to return again. I once sang the praises of the place. Then as I grew more familiar with the place realized that it was the staff, the workers who made my stay a pleasant experience. If some discomfort occurred it was not the hard working staff that was responsible, it was always most evident that it was management, some silly policy, neglect on their part or a total lack of communication between the various departments. The Mismanagement affected everyone, both staff and guests. I (and others) were made to feel worthless, disrespected. Every day of my weeklong stay was marred by something going wrong. Again, not the fault of the workers, but they were not provided with necessary resources. Mismanagement created an environment that was evil as both staff and guests felt disrespected, not treated in a humane fashion. I spoke to staff about the situation, finding total agreement. Told everyone I would send them a message on today’s blog. I am, it is from the Quran.
The Prophet said whoever among you is evil let him change it, with his hand, if he can not do so, with his tongue, if he cannot do so, with his heart which is the weakest level of faith. (Sahih Muslim 49).
I am very approachable, everyone talks to me, explaining their motivation, working in these evil surroundings. They are putting in time – this is an interim job, waiting for a better opportunity. Said they were using the Hilton, as much as the Hilton was using them. But that can be a slippery slope for both. The constant turnover hobbles the Hilton, the workers often loose self respect, become lazy and perhaps miss a job opportunity because their contract keeps them slave. Department heads (middle management you could call them), do an excellent job, desiring and obtaining a positive Hilton job performance review on their resume. But again, their timing might be off. Besides an inefficient, dehumanizing employer is neither a good teacher nor a good role model.
I pride myself on being a fixer, can find solutions to problems very readily. But am putting on the brakes, this is not a good pastime. The functioning of this hotel is not my problem When I live in Riyadh, I will never need to stay in a Riyadh Hotel. Just like when I lived in Edmonton, I never had to live in an Edmonton Hotel.
We are soon to land. The two tired pilots sitting beside me are fast asleep. My charms have been wasted but this blog is getting written. The pilot predicted turbulence when we took off and when we landed. He is correct. It is awfully bumpy. Bye now.
Back to today Friday morning at this hotel. I am going to close off and deal with the problems I have encountered in his hotel.
You shall now see the Saudi National Anthem, photo of the flowers that greeted me upon arrival and a photo taken at a Mecca restaurant – the lamb chops absolutely delicious.
I just remembered the funniest thing that happened when I got off the plane. Crew and many passengers were clustered around the exit doors. Happily I reported:
Me: It is great to be here in Saudi America NO, Saudi Africa NO I mean Saudi Arabia. I am going to come and live here.
Honest! That is unbelievable:Saudi America? Saudi Africa? What was I thinking? I was not.