Welcome to my page

Salaam and welcome. I made my pilgrimage in 2012. I wanted to share my experiences and advice - so that those going in future know what to expect, or those who just want to know how I got on!

This blog is a mix of advice and diary excerpts.

Sometimes I was so caught up in the experience I didn't write, other times I was compelled to write. Some pieces will have been written from memory.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Journey to Makkah

I guess the beginning of our Hajj was the journey. And boy was it a journey. Hold on tight people this is going to be a long post.

First we had to travel from Leeds to London. Thats a cab to the station and then a 2 hour and 15 minute journey which went well.

Once in London we had a few hours to kill so we went to pray Dhuhr and have lunch. This meant spending a whopping £17 on the left luggage service!  Lunch was fabulous and I ate waaaay too much. I have not yet discovered a decent Turkish restaurant in Leeds so we headed up to Hala (http://www.timeout.com/london/restaurants/venue/2%3A23022/hala ) as thats a fave of mine.

So we then had the great Piccadilly line to tackle with our suitcases in rush hour. We managed it - but my God did that train remain determinedly full to the rafters all the way to Heathrow.

Heathrow terminal 3 (personal pic)
So we reached Heathrow Terminal 3 full of excitement. A teensy bit early but thats ok - we are nervy travellers (well I am!) and prefer to be early than miss a plane. We went to pray Maghrib and I got chatting to a few sisters taking requests for duaas and met a couple who had missed their flight and were distressed (irony).
And dear reader this is where it got messy.
We had indeed missed the plane. As you will know from my first post we were not informed of our flight. We spent 5 stressful hours trying to get onto the flight we thought we were meant to be on as standby only people kept coming at the last minute and the estimated 34 spare seats went down to about 4. Rather cruelly the agent's accomplice picked a few from the group that he wanted to go through.  The range of emotions I went through was horrid, from crying to yelling at various people.
So exhausted we went to find a hotel. That night we stayed at the Premier Inn which was a reasonable £86. The bus that took us there was a not to reasonable £12.  An awful night was spent - I barely slept - and when I did it was to have nightmares about not making flights. I was relieved to get back to the Terminal the next day - determined to get on the next flight.
This time we were made to wait about 4 hours. There were only 4 seats on the plane left and this time the Egypt Air man was prepared. He had made us list our names the night before. The first 4 people on the list were to go. The first name he called was Khadijah. Khadijah was an elderly lady who's son we had befriended, and her son Abdul-gani was second. The next name was my husbands! and the last - was me!!!  We had to cough up £250 each which was fine....I would have paid a lot more....I was going to Hajj - this was do or die!
We had to rush through to the Gate to board and that was manic. Khadijah lost her handbag in the process, and then her son decided to leave the gate to go back to look for it. Stress-a-rama. We ended up waiting to board for a little while as the flight ended up taking off late.
As soon as we boarded we were shown to our seats, it was then I realised my £250 had bought me an upgrade!
Leg room baby! (personal pic)
We had leg room! a seat that went up like a bed. A pillow, a blanket. And the food! it was a three course meal. The starter was so generous I thought it was the whole meal! We prayed. I chilled watching a film and the flight was pleasant. Oh yes. Pleasant.
We arrived in Cairo - and this is where the fun part began. What I didn't realise straight off was that we were still standby passengers.  We now had to go through the whole standby process again. We queued for ages to be seen - they took our passports and boarding cards and promptly disappeared.
Diary excerpt from Cairo: Cairo Midnight-ish October 19th
Waiting again on the kindness of an EgyptAir worker to get us a flight to Jeddah. Should be tired and crabby but we are in quite good spirits.
The cleaners seem to have befriended us, though I get stalked everytime I use the loo, and she insists on having a full conversation in Arabic. I don't think she believes I am English!
There are a few characters in the airport - I would say if you love to people watch then the airport is the perfect place.
There is a crazy lady, definitely English who seems to be stranded here as well. She isn't doing hajj - thats for sure. She had decided to amuse herself by having a walk on the travelator going in the opposite direction whilst having her huuuuuuuge yellow backpack strapped to her. Honestly you couldn't make it up. She yelled at a cleaner for playing bird noises on his phone to amuse a child.
Currently sat trying to go with the flow and not worry about where the luggage is. Can't believe we were meant to be in Makkah last night but here we are in the limbo that is Cairo airport.
It was a miracle we got here to be honest. Its not just me and the Mr, theres a little group of us. Theres another Algerian man and his mother - who loves to talk 19 to the dozen to me and does not speak a word of English. Theres also a British revert brother (he later turns out to have pure Irish parents but was born in Britain). He is proper on his deen. He was meant to be on the earlier flight and knew of it but was arrested under the terrorism act. He has a proper beard and dresses very 'sunnah' - as in ankle swingers. He has been invaulable guiding us through Cairo and heloing us arrange to get on a Jeddah flight- he also speaks Arabic!. Its safe to say we are having an adventure and we haven't started Hajj yet.
Cairo airport - just after midnight October 20th
Apparently the luggage has not been sent on the flight we were on. Just when I thought we were home and dry we have hot another snag. We are trying to get a 2am flight to Jeddah where we will then be in proper Hajj craziness. I think we haven't had our quota of crazy yet!
We also need to arrange our hajj draft, another thing our kindly agent has omitted to do. Honestly I am building up an arsenal of complaints about this man. I think to keep my hajj pure I will have to hide from him.....SubhanAllah!
Trying to be positive. I think if heathrow send our luggage on a direct flight we may meet it at Jeddah. Fingers and toes crossed!
Cairo airport - fajr time October 20th
The luggage has been located! We are still in Cairo. The 2am and 4am flights were mythical - I certainly didn't see them on the departure board! Nevermind we have our luggage sat with us so whatever flight we make its coming with us, Alhamdulilah!
As I write this the guys are doing fajr in jammat. As soon as they are done I am going to pray. Considering sneaking some clean clothes out of my case. This journey really feels like a true journey.
Theres a guy from Ghana who has been stuck in this aiport for 5 days. He was ripped off by a travel agent in Ghana. He was meant to go to Johannesbourg but ended up stranded in Cairo, and has been on standby ever since to go back to Cairo. He was meant to have started a job and new life in South Africa. So here he is in the terminal, the airport have not given him his luggage (after 5 days!) and he has very little money. He has barely eaten and worn the same clothes 5 days running. This has really made me realise my situation is nothing to his.
After fajr.
After fajr prayer we were moved on to the special Hajj departure lounge. We have been here hours. A few of us braved the showers. I made do with a few wipes and a change of outfit - the showers were just flooded and nowhere to hang clothes/towel etc. I have managed to catch a few naps - and Mr kindly took a few pics of me draped over my suitcase snoozing! (will upload when he is back!).
The ladies looking after the toilets are obsessed with me! (again). One asked 'Masri? (Egyptian), No I replied somewhat afraid to disappoint. Instead of being disappointed she smiled and started blowing me kisses!
The supervisor has rckoned we will be on the 2pm plane. So yes the 2 o'clock plane exists.....but it was the 2pm not the 2am plane. Shame as we landed in Cairo at 9pm on the 19th! LOL. We plan to pray dhuhr and combine Asr as we are travellers and then insha'Allah we are on our way.
20th October 2pm-ish - Cairo airport
We have boarding cards!!! The plane is at 3.30. I am so relieved to have my pass, and know that I am getting a plane today. Sheer exhaustion has set in and my eyes are irritated beyond belief. a combination of tiredness, air con and tonnes of ihram fluff ! Its like tumbleweed, all the guys changed here and because ihram is made of cheap towelling the result is loads of fluff!  I personally changed into a long white scarf - kind of a short khimar. It had straps to tie to your head but I honestly couldn't work them out so I just pinned it! I am being a little different and wearing a purple abaya rather than the regulation white.
*Women are not required to wear white as part of ihram. The requirement is that the face in uncovered and as are the hands.*
Technically a woman's ihram is wearing whatever she normally wears (within the realms of acceptable hijab). So some women have worn regular abaya and scarf. Some have changed into head to toe white. One lady looked like she was getting married - she looked gorgeous. Can't say the same for me, I am sure the lack of sleep has rendered me scary looking.
A condition of women's ihram is to NOT veil; but I have noticed a few women ignore this. I am assuming this is because they follow the Hanafi school of thought which states the veil must not touch the face, hence the baseball cap style of niqaab. It looks odd to me but thats all down to personal choice.
Hajj style niqaab (web pic)
Mens ihram is 2 pieces of cloth is white with no stitching. No stitching is allowed for men at all including footwear. Plastic flip slops and crocs are in abundance! The clothing is meant to make men equal. We are all hujjaj whether you are a prince or a pauper. However the quality of the ihram differs. Some are patterned and some have poppers (permissible) which I guess avoids the scary chance of falling off or flapping open! No stitching = no underwear!
I am mentally preparing myself for a long wait in Jeddah. Considering we landed in Cairo at 9pm last night and are flying out at 3.30pm - I can't imagine a wait that will rival this! (well I remain positive about that anyway!).
We need to get our hajj draft sorted at the airport and then get a bus. i am hoping the stories of hot food at Jeddah are true, food today has consisted of a few chocolates, crisps, a banana and a wafer bar. I doubt I am losing weight despite not eating much!
(L-R)Khadijah, Mr and me! (personal pic)



1 comment:

  1. LOVE this! Please upload again soon. This is like a good book that you don't want to stop reading lol. Love the last picture - y'all so cute!