This is the second time I am writing this particular blog post. The first time I lost it. I wasn’t exactly impressed, as time here is precious and losing over an hours’ work is saddening. But anyway, enough about that. I’m taking precautions this time round 🙂
We are now in Madina. Putting everything that has happened since the last time I posted would be sacrilege, so I won’t. It’s worthy of 3 posts at the very least. Don’t worry, I won’t make you wait forever. Hehe.
Leaving the house on Saturday morning was both special and sad. I’m sad to leave those I love behind, but I’m happy about many things. Firstly, my heart overflowed with gratitude to the Almighty for granting us the opportunity, and calling us to make the sacred journey. And also gratitude for being blessed with people in our lives who are there for us when we need them.
Leaving also reminded me of a parallel that one of my teachers drew about the hajj, and that is that it is a mirror of death. The only other time that people gather in masses when you leave home is when they carry your body out on the day of your janaaza. Also, as in hajj, you leave all your worldly affairs behind, and all your affairs have to be in order. I might speak more about death vs hajj when we get to the ihraam and other rituals of the hajj.
We have been very lucky indeed to have people we know meet us at every point in our journey. After leaving Cape Town and arriving in Johannesburg, my cousins fetched us to spend the night at my uncle’s house. Also, Azraa (@azipops from Twitter) also welcomed us at the airport with her mom and dad. When we got to the house, Yasien and Ferial (old friends from CT who now live in Jhb) also came to visit. The 2 of them, us, my aunts, uncle and cousins stayed up chatting until pretty late into the night that evening as well. The next day we met up with Aunty Gafsa and her family and some friends who came to the airport. Them, my family and us had coffee at the airport after we checked in and they made a short thikr for us before we left to board.
The flight to Doha was 4 times longer than the longest flight that Fadeelah and I had ever experienced. Qatar Airways is an airline that in my opinion really deserves the Skytrax best airline awards that they’ve been getting. The flight was made as comfortable for us as a 8hr flight in economy class can be made. We arrived in Doha at 22h30, and it was approximately 01h30 when we eventually got to the hotel in Doha that the airline arranged we overnight at. Exhausted and hungry, those 3 hours really called for some of the sabr that people speak of. It was also very strange weather conditions for us. The temperature was only 33 degrees when we landed, but it was so humid and stuffy that I could hardly breathe. I took it as practise for when we reach Saudi and have to contend with over 40 degree temperatures.
A few hours later, Amina (another friend from CT, who now lives in Doha with her husband) came to fetch me and Fadeelah for an express tour of Doha. We went to the souk, and the bay, and had karak at a roadhouse-type kiosk on the bay. We wanted to go the Museum of Islamic Art, but it was too early and they weren’t open yet. We got back to the hotel just in time to get the shuttle back to the airport to catch our flight.
I learned many things about Doha, and Qatar as a whole. It is the richest country in the world by GDP per capita. There is no poverty-related crimes. We went for a walk on the bay and Amina left her laptop in plain sight on the back seat of her Jeep, and her wallet on the from seat, and the car unlocked! Money is no object and they import everything…food, skills, labour, goods. Of the 1,76 million population of Qatar, only 200,000 – 300,000 are locals. The rest are all foreigners. And no that is not a typo, it is really so! As can be expected, petrol is dirt cheap. A litre of petrol in their currency costs the equivalent of R1,70. *shock*
We left Doha at 13h10 for Madina.
The fun and games was over. We were now just under 2 hours away from the start of the serious business….