|This sight of a not-so-busy entrance into the Masjidil Haram is a rare, rare scene.|
Just 5 minutes walk from the nearest Starbucks.
Thusday, 31st March 2011 - Walked with Arjuna to Starbucks with my laptop to Starbucks only to find (to my great dismay) that there isn't any internet connection. And then late as usual, made our way past rows and rows of people praying in the ZamZam Tower, to reach the Masjidil Haram (Main Mosque in Mecca, in which resides the holy Kaaba), struggling against the flow of people who had just finished their afternoon prayers and were just exiting the mosque. I said "Hayy" to the Kaaba and had a rather lovely prayer.
Friday, 1st April - In the morning fate played a joke on me when I fell sprawled in the stairwell while lugging my morning coffee. Soaked my shirt in caffeine, so had to rush upstairs to my room for a change. But by the time I returned to the hotel's small cafeteria, found that the milk to make another cup of coffee was finished. Sigh. For Friday prayers, me and Arjuna (who was kindness personified) went to the Masjidil Haram again. I finished the prayers for all my family and friends (they gave me a long list), but in the last sujud (prostration during prayers), instead of asking for anything, I just said "Thank You, God... Thank You... Thank You..." I have no imagination sometimes.
A Shaykh. Returning from prayers we had a great lunch and shared a table with 3 Malaysians who were working on a government hospital project some 400km outside Mecca. They were in town for a break and to perform their umrah. One of them was a mureed (Student) of a Shaykh who I am informed is the 38th generation of the Prophet's family from the line of Hassan, one of the two grandson of the Prophet (The other being Hussein) through the marriage of Fatima az-Zahra (his daughter) and Ali (his cousin and 4th Caliph of Islam). Our new found friend invited us to join their evening (Maghrib) prayers where they will do tahlil and salawat (invocations of praise for the Prophet) with the Shaykh, something that is tolerated by the Saudi authorities, who generally considers such practices as bida'ah (innovation and heresy). Alas, we didn't manage to pay a visit to the famous Shaykh. Perhaps, next time.
On Friday night I went back to a shop near my hotel which sold me beautiful fairuz tasbihs (turquoise rosary beads) for a mere SR15 (Saudi Riyal) yesterday. But the shopkeeper insisted that it is worth SR35. I tried explaining to him, "But...but... you sold me these same tasbihs for SR15 yesterday!" but to no avail. Ah... the crazy, beautiful and wonderful people of Mecca.
A couple more postings, sunshine, and my extended journal on my pilgrimage in March-April 2011 shall be coming to an end. I recall that before I left for the pilgrimage, I had all sorts of preconceptions and some misgivings about the trip. But I just left it to God to lead me wherever God would. And in some way, He brought me back home, to a home I never even knew I had...
What am I, but a stray pixel
From an inscrutable imagination,
Of a heaven long forgotten.
Wandering the shores
And finding strange footprints
Resembling my own,
Trailing out of some Untamed Sea.