Saturday, August 29, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
I’ve never felt so close to God
I never knew I could miss the Prophet so much
Until I stepped onto the Holy Lands
Hubby and I considered our Europe trip last December as the ULTIMATE holiday ever since we got married. Yeah, it was the furthest destination we’ve ever been to together. Well, we felt really good having had the chance to see all the nice places, absorbed the different culture, shopped for loads of designer goods and snapped like over 2000 pictures! But the excitement ended right upon returning home, upon stepping onto the Malaysian soil. No, wait! The excitement ended once we’ve distributed souvenirs to families and friends and saw their delighted faces upon receiving the gifts and after showing the ‘Photobook’ I created for the pics we took. Luckily we used mostly cash for the trip, if not the excitement will surely be short-lived if we had to pay off our credit cards kan?
A few weeks later after the trip, I casually threw the idea of going for Umrah to Hubby and he agreed. But it wasn’t anything concrete because he said,” We’ll go one fine day”. Well, one fine day can be any day kan? And me, being a consultant, one setback of being one is that I can never properly plan my holidays because consultants’ schedules are always ad-hoc, it all depends on when certain projects are secured and when they should start. And trust me, it can be anytime!
Anyway, I told Mum and Dad of our intention. And the people that I planned to go with were certainly them as I would describe the Holy Lands as their second homes, looking at how frequent they go there. They have been visiting these lands every 2 years and lately, it has been something like an annual thing for them. In March this year, Mum came back with a quotation from the travel agent, and Hubby and I were lucky that we could go missing from work for the 2 weeks of the intended dates in the itinerary.
Well, the summary :
We flew direct to Madinah from KL via Saudi Arabian Airlines. Journey took around 9 hours with a 30 min transit in Riyadh. Immigration in Madinah was pretty all right. We arrived around 8pm their time, so some of the counters were closed and the queues were quite long. Other than that, no questions asked. But we noticed that some men were taken their photos and some were even taken their thumbprints. Guess they have their own ala-terrorists database kot!
Dallah Taibah. A 4-star hotel. We were given a suite with 3 rooms and each room were filled with 3 twin beds. Orang Arab kan besar-besar. The hotel was recently furbished and everything looked new. The hotel is located right in front of the mosque specifically the Bab Nisak i.e. the main doors to the Ladies Entrance.
Tours, like most of other Umrah pilgrimages, trips should be already organised by your travel agents. The trips are normally called ‘Ziarah’ and they are categorised into 2 namely Ziarah Dalam and Ziarah Luar. Ziarah Dalam means visit within the Mosque while Ziarah Luar means visit to Masjid Quba’, Jabal Uhud, Masjid Qiblatain, Masjid Tujuh, Dates Farm, Dates Market. Some tips, take your ablution before heading to Masjid Quba, buy your dates at Dates Market as they are cheaper compared to Dates Farm (like 50% cheaper). For souvenirs shopping like abayas and scarves, Madinah offers better quality ones. Shopping can be done around the hotels as there are plenty of shops around the mosque and hotel areas. My personal favourite place is Ben Dawood. I went crazy buying chocolates, fruit juices and cheese there. Those chocolates that you can’t possibly find here, you can definitely find them there. Ben Dawood is basically a better version of Cold Storage/Village Grocer /Mercato.
Food is provided at the hotel as this is already included in the package. But I did go try some falafel, shawarma, kebab, Arab version of roti canai and Kudu, their ala McDonald’s for their cheese nachos. Sedap!
We flew to Jeddah from Madinah via Saudi Arabian Airlines. Journey took 30 minutes. From Jeddah we were fetched by the travel agent to Makkah. Since there were only 6 of us, we went on a van. Journey from Jeddah to Makkah is around 1 hour. Told Hubby, would prefer to fly from Madinah to Jeddah the next time too Insya Allah. It’s so convenient.
Zam Zam Grand Suites – True to its name, this 5-star hotel definitely reflects grandeur. Once you enter, it’s as if you enter some Arabian Nite setting. Very rich and elaborate. You can see that those staying there are those rich Sheikhs. The hotel is above a 5-storey shopping mall ala our Pavilion here. So, everytime we need to go to the mosque we definitely need to go down to the mall. The entrance to the mosque from the hotel faces the Door No. 1 i.e. King Aziz door. It’s just 10 meter away from the door and if you’re given a room with the mosque view, depending on which floor you’re on, you can definitely see the whole mosque including the Kaabah. The Azan’s from the mosque is piped-in into the room where you can hear the Azan every time. On Fridays you can even hear the Friday sermon right from your room. As for TV, there’s IPTV for you. My favourite channel is Huda TV. If the local networks here can think of a contemporary way to spread Islam to the young ones, Huda TV is a good reference point for them! Hey, Astro Oasis and TV9, check out Huda TV!
When you're in Makkah, the thing that you wanna do most is of course, perform the Umrah itself. The tawaf, the saie, the prayers. I felt so connected to God while performing Umrah. We had our talks all the time I was there. It was as if I had nothing else to think about other than Allah when I was there. It was as if I was in a care-free world! Oh, how I miss being in that world again!
Apart from Umrah, you'll be brought to the historic sites including Arafah, Gua Hira and many others. And as what I do best i.e. shopping, it was really easy for me because there’s a souq below the hotel. I went pretty crazy shopping for cotton material and scarves. And I tell you, the material is beautiful and different from what you can get here..Enough said :)
I walloped lamb Samosa and mango juice (specifically Caesar brand) almost on daily basis. Got the former from a kebab stall next to the hotel and the latter from Bin Dawood. Hehe..If it’s not for the Tawaf and Saie, I bet I could’ve piled on pounds and pounds of extra weight home!
Hmm..writing about this makes me miss the Holy Lands so much. Especially now, as the days are creeping into Ramadan month..It’s been 2 months since I got back but seriously looking forward to be 'Tetamu Allah' again. In the mean time, I aim to be a good wife, daughter, sister, friend, Muslimah, InsyaAllah…Happy Ramadhan everyone!