Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Day I visited Madina and Makkah (Part One)

Last April 2014, I had the opportunity to travel to Saudi Arabian cities of Madinah and Makkah to perform an umrah. We took a 9 hr flight from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah with a Saudian aircraft, Flynas. Flynas ia a Saudian low cost carrier, like Malaysia's Air Asia. We departed KL at 12.45 pm and reached Jeddah at 5 pm (Saudi Time).

Earlier, we were told that we will be exiting at Haj Terminal, however, it turned out, we had to go through a Saudian terminal. By the way, King Abdul Aziz International Airport (KAAIA) has 3 terminals: International, Haj and other terminal is strictly for saudi aircrafts. This imposed problem for us as the guides who waited for us were at haj terminal. It took us 3 hours more to start our journey to Madinah.

The queuing at  immigration counter was not that smooth as there were many passengers from different airlines were also arrived at that time, however we were lucky enough to get speedy stamping of our passports. Collecting our baggage was not that long. However, waiting for our guides to arrive from another terminal and fetched us took a long hours.

Only after 8.00 pm, we were escorted by our guides to the awaiting MPV at the airport parking. There we had our dinner of packed food and mineral water. Then we proceeded to travel northward to Madinah. Since it was dark, we spent our time sleeping and 7 hours later, we reached Madinah. We were housed in the Madinah Mubarrak Hotel for six days. This hotel is a walking distance to Masjid Nabawi.

I for one  had difficulty of adjusting to Saudi time as Saudi's  2.00 am is our 7 am. By 4 am we have to get ready for subuh prayer. While putting the bags in our room at thirteen floor, I found the room has a faulty air conditioner. Phoning the front counter several times earned me to change room to another room at the far end, still on the same floor. If I did not insist strongly, I don't think they will change my room. Well, by 3.00 am, all settled and I also forget to tell my new room to our entourage.

I had barely one hour to be ready for subuh prayer. For that, I thank myself as I had a good nap while on MPV a few hours ago.

At 4.00 am, there were already thousands of people moving toward the mosque. This is quite unique in the sense that here everybody seems determine to pray in the mosque in  congregation. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had said, "Those who prayed in my mosque, will get 1,000 virtues."

Business at the Mosque Entrance (Masjid Nabawi)

Masjidil Nabawi, located in the central of Madinah is indeed a very large mosque. It had been renovated and enlarged many times to accommodate  a rising number of visitors or pilgrims all over the world. At the left front corner, lies the Prophet Muhammad's grave. This area attracts many visitors and sometimes you can not escape big crowd of all ethnics (all Muslims from all over the world) and a big push as everyone is eager to move toward the protected grave and offer some dua. Some even cried during their prayer and duas.


The prophet's grave

Immediate right hand side of the grave is a space called Raudhah. This is one of the areas where Allah will grant your prayers or duas. This make this place a sought after. It is not easy to pray inside this area if you are not determine to do so. It is always full of people irrespective of time.  If you are a women, there is a time reserve for the ladies to pray inside this area. If you are interested, tell your guide to bring you to this Raudhah.

Not far from the mosque is a large graveyard called Baqi graveyard which "houses" holy people and companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

After finishing our subuh prayer at 5 am, we went back to the hotel for breakfast at level M. Wow, there were many people queuing for the food. This time, we had shared our food with pilgrims from Indonesia. The food caterer is the same. So we ate Indonesian food: tempe, fried rice, fried bee hoon, keropok, gado-gado etc. 

Going into the the lift is a problem. This hotel has a number of lifts (elevators) but small. They can not accommodate a sudden rush of patrons. So, to occupy time waiting, we surf internet on the hotel  free wifi. Free wifi can be reached by a simple hand phone. I found many male visitors here do not care about others when smoke at their floors. I found it a nuisance when I met smokers who smokes in an air conditioned floors.

The room key is in the form of card. I was given a card and this gives problem for 3 of us who occupy the same room. So we requested an extra card which they obliged.

The next day, we were taken tour of Madinah where we toured Uhud, Masjid Quba, Masjid Qiblatain and date market in the orchard. This is a standard visiting program while in Madinah.

We visited Masjid Quba first. Prophet Muhammad says, "Whoever perform ablution at his house and pray at this mosque get merit or virtue of  one umrah". It is just 4 km away from Masjidil Nabawi. Upon arrival, there were already many people performing solat inside. Visitors from Turkey and Indonesia form a large crowd.

Next we visited a date shop in the orchard nearby this masjid. You can all eat whatever dates available in the shop. But I found the price is a bit high compare to the Date Market in the town. However, it is an irony,  the guide can not dictate the driver to bring us to the Date Market.

Dates (Ajwa)

Date Shop at the orchard near Uhud.

We did not spent time here and moved to Uhud. This hill was once a battle ground between the Muslim Madinah and the kuffar where one of the martyred was the Phophet's uncle, Saidina Hamzah. The guide briefed us the history of Uhud and the Uhud war. Around the area now have many petty traders selling all kind of products such as dates, fruits, nuts, clothes etc. They are selling similar products.

At 9.30 am, the heat here is very high, more than 38 celsius, making us very uncomfortable. It may be normal to Madinah  citizens but not us. This make us short cut the visit and proceeded to Masjid Qiblatain. Masjid Qiblatain has two kiblat. Previously, all Muslims in Madinah prayed facing the Masjid Al Aqsa in Palestine, but due to certain reasons, Allah swt asked  Phophet Muhammad to change the kiblat to Kaabah in Makkah. So, all Muslim over the globe now offer prayers facing the Kaabah. Inside the mosque, there is one side of the wall facing Masjid Aqsa and the other one wall facing the Kaabah. This is part of the Islamic history. Our ziarah ends at 10.00 am.

The next day, I joined another group for the visit. We visited the same areas but had an extra visit i.e. visit the largest Quran printing plant in Madinah. The area is situated in the outskirt of Madinah.

Quran Printing Plant
The printing plant is a huge one. Only male visitor is allowed to enter the plant.  As there were many people who like to visit the plant, we have to wait for our turn. The females will stay in the exhibition and selling areas. During the visit, we were briefed that the plant prints 11 million copies of Quran yearly in various languages and distributed all over the world. At the end of the visit, each visitor is given a free Quran.

Those who read Quran and acted upon it will surely get the blessing of Allah swt. Those who read this writing, I like to say that reading Quran is a challenge to all Muslims. Quran can give you  syafaat in the hereafter. So  it is words of God, the Creator. It is from Allah  the creator to His Creations revealed through His Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Quran is for all mankind. A lot of lessons can be learnt from this Holy Quran. Believe in Al Quran is one of the tenets of Islam.

The daily activity here is similar or repeat. Pray at the mosque 5 times daily is a routine and sought after. Here, one should not miss solat jenazah at every solat. It happens every day.

I spent 5 days here which is considered long by a normal package. After spending 5 days in Madinah, we prepared ourselves to go to Makkah for umrah. The last activity  in Madinah is we went to bid farewell to the Prophet.

There were many people at that vicinity. We made dua and say good bye and hope we can come back again in the future.

We started our journey to Makkah at 2 pm after lunch. Ready with our ihram (two-piece white clothes) wrapped our body (for males), we took a coaster and stopped at Bir Ali, an hour journey from Madinah on the way to Makkah. Since the coaster bus is small, all our bags were placed on the roof top and were tied nicely.

Ready for umrah

Bir Ali Mosque

At Bir Ali mosque, we  queued at the toilet to make ablution and went inside to pray. At this hour, there were many pilgrims too.  Stopping here is about 45 minutes and got into the bus again and  make niyyat to perform our umrah. Our guide then guided us in making the niyyat and we started our talbiah ( reciting Labbaikallah humma labbaik......). We reached Makkah at 9.30pm.

The driver parked the vehicles at the basement of the Zam Zam Tower complex. After all baggage were put down and wheeled to the hotel by the hotel porter. We were not sure  where our hotel were actually located. Later, we were told it is at Retaj Suites Hotel. So it took different elevator at 02 to P6. It is quite confusing here. Later, we learnt that it is next to the Grand Mosque.

Once we got our rooms at level P6, the guide gave us the dinner, a packed of rice, chicken and vegetable plus the mineral water. Actually, our rooms are scattered among the floors. I got at level 6, others at level 5 and 8.

The room at Ritaj is really luxury to my standard. The room comes with an attic with 3 single beds and bathroom, tv and fridge  while the lower are bathroom, dining and kitchen, tv plus living. So we were happy to get this room as it has 2 bathrooms.

At 12 midnight, the guide summoned us to the lobby where he will bring us to perform umrah. As we exit our lift, I realised that our hotel is right in front of the Grand Mosque. It took us a few minutes to enter the King Abdul Aziz Gate.

As we entered the mosque, the guide brought us right to the tarmac where the Kaabah is. I noticed the new mataj was properly installed with people on wheel chair performing the tawaf. At least the ground tawaf is not disturbed by the wheel chairs.

After offering solat sunnat, the guide took us to do tawaf 7 rounds complete. It took nearly an hour as there were many people.  Completing the tawaf (encircling anti clockwise 7 times with ablution and with duas ), brought us to perform solat sunnat in front of Makam Ibrahim. Mind you, this area has many people passing in and out and can sometime make you uncomfortable. But you have to overcome whatever your problems. Next is to do sa'e i.e. walking between Mount Safar to Mount Marwah 7 rounds. It takes another 45 minutes and end up at Marwah with tahallul (cutting a few hairs). When you have done the tahalul, you can be free from the umrah do and don'ts. You can change to the normal cloth.

Performing umrah is also to ask God's blessing in pardoning whatever sins that you have committed.

To be continued.

1 comment:

  1. Being able to visit the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah indeed is always a blessing. I note that among the places that you have journeyed so far, this remains top on your list.

    The travel time it took to reach Jeddah with the additional hours of transit wait and the final drive to Madinah sounds grueling. But its good that you were able to catch some sleep while en route. As with long journeys, the additional naps can be the tonic to refresh things up for later tasks. If I were to hazard a guess, the change in the terminal could be due to (1) Flynas – being a Saudi Arabian carrier/aircraft and (2) not officially Hajj season yet. So among the three exit options, they designate the terminal for Saudi aircrafts as the exiting point.

    Among the mosques, shrines, and sites that you visited here, which of these would you say gives you the most serene and calming effect when you pray or make doa? How about in terms of the architecture and build? I don’t know about others but for me, sometimes the interior architecture and the way the light enters and lights up the place can give a serene and calming effect which makes you feel really at peace. From your description, I am particularly intrigued with Raudhah as well as Prophet Muhammad’s grave. Would be nice to empty one’s heart here at Raudhah and tell God all that’s inside :-)

    I look forward to you next chapter...