Monday, February 12, 2007

Umrah in Makkah

The Journey

Assuming there are no constraints, if given a choice between travelling by air or by road, I would always choose the latter. I think driving yourself around is way more productive than catching a flight to anywhere. You also get to see more and feel so much more in control.
Our trip from Al-Kh0bar to M@kkah started at 6:45am on Thursday and we arrived at the holy city at 9:30pm in the evening. The 15hours included 1 stop for lunch and prayers, several toilet stops and one long stop at the miqat (the place where you have to clean yourself and recite your intention to perform the umrah). So the actual time spent in the car was roughly 12 to 13 hours.
It sounds long, but the scenery was so interesting and the company was good (we used walkie talkies to communicate with each other and we had berbalas pantun sessions and singing sessions and general chit-chatting) that it did not feel that long.

Just after riyadh, mesa-like formations in the abckground

It's amazing to see how the dessert is not just sand dunes. We saw hills and mountains that were of all shapes and sizes and compositions. There were formations like the Grand Canyon, there were hills that looked like triangular mounds of chocolate ice-cream with dark chocolate sprinkles on top, there were hills that looked like a giant came and decided to pile a few boulders together, there were valleys of layered rock that look like kuih lapis, and there were even some that looked like mounds of black slate chips.
Since we were heading west, we caught the sunset over the dessert. It was quite spectacular.
The kids were okay during the journey. We had a few "Are we there yet"s, but that's expected. We distracted them with the scenery and by stuffing their mouths with food.

Sunset, right before Taif

During the drive, we listened to M.Nasir's greatest hits, which were, coincidently, very apt for our journey, especially songs like "Raikan Cinta" and "KepadaMu Kekasih". We didn't put anything on after the miqat, coz we are encouraged to recite the talbiyah (arabic verses announcing our arrival to the holy city), but the kids kept singing Motley Crue's "Change, now it's time to change, nothing stays the same, now it's time for change..", which, though was not really something you'd normally associate with islamic rites, sounded very fitting.. :)
Throughout the journey I kept expecting something to happen, something that might hinder us from reaching our destination. Deep in my heart I had a fear that maybe I won't be accepted as a guest in the holy place. Alhamdulillah, we arrived there safely and my heart swelled with gratitude.

The Performance

Unlike our friends, who decided to sleep first and perform the umrah rites in the morning, we decided to do it that very night. The boys were complaining about sleeping in their ihram (cloths only) and I was dying to lather some lotion on my dry skin, so we decided to get the umrah over and done with. After having a bit of dinner and I changed into clean clothes, at about midnight we headed towards the Masjidil Haram. This was my first time, so I couldn't help gawking and wow-ing. The mosque's outside compound was really big, and even at midnight, there were people milling about, kids running around, and people sitting around talking and eating. It almost had a park-like atmosphere, which was very welcoming. Taufik brought us to the As-Salam Gate and we entered the magnificent mosque.
I caught my breath as the Ka'abah came into view. I tried not to feel too awed, because it would be so easy to cross the line between believing in the power of Allah and believing in the power of the structure. (know what i mean?).
While performing the tawaf (walking around the Ka'abah 7 times), I felt so humbled and I tried to concentrate but it was kinda difficult feel kusyuk (deep concetration), when at the same time you're also trying to make sure the kids stick together, and you're trying to answer the many questions the kids have, and they keep asking, "how many more?". But there were moments, when I read the dua's and we come to the parts asking for forgiveness, that my heart would feel so overwhelmed and my voice would crack and my eyes would tear up. But it would be fleeting, because Anis and Ihsan would immediately turn to look at me and squeeze my hand to comfort me.
Kepadamu kekasih, aku serahkan
jiwa dan raga, jua segalanya
apakah kau akan menerima penyerahan ini
apakah kau akan menerima ku
dalam keadaan begini

We took awhile to perform the Sa'ie (walking briskly between the hills of Safa and Marwah, 7 times), because the boys' cloths kept getting untied and we had to stop and fix them at almost every turn.We also stopped once in awhile to sit down, because the kids were tired and Taufik was carrying Izani, who, by then, had woken up from the nap he took in Taufik's arms during the tawaf. At one of the turns, Ilham and I even rubbed each other's feet. :)
Ke sana Ke sini lari lari kecil
Bagaikan Siti Hajar mencari air
Terpancur sinar di kering pasir
Bekas hentakan kudus kaki Ismail

We finally completed the umrah at about 2:30am. We felt quite proud of our accomplishement and we walked back to our hotel in high spirits.

The boys waiting for friday prayers

We went to the mosque for every prayer when we were there, except I didnt go for the Friday prayers. After Fajr prayers on the last day we were there, we performed the tawaf wida'. There weren't that many people, so I managed to pray in Hijr Ismail. Taufik took care of Izani as I did this, so I finally had some time on my own. I read the du'a with full emotion, and finally had a good cry.
I can't explain what I felt then. It was like a mixture of feeling like I don't deserve to be forgiven, but wanting so badly to be forgiven for all my sins. There was a lot of fear in my heart, what if my prayers were not accepted? But there was also a lot of faith that He is Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim, loving and forgiving.

The Outcome

I am so happy to have been able to make this journey and to have been given the opportunity to perform my umrah.
I had expected some huge revelation, perhaps the clouds would open up and Allah would shine a light down on me and I'd get a jolt or something, but of course that only happens in the movies.
I do feel a change, but it's softer and more subtle, like a whisper in my heart that guides my actions and reactions.
I find I'm calmer, less stressed out about stuff. It's like my priorities were re-aligned or something, I look at things/situations a bit differently now.
I don't know. I don't know how to explain it.
ha ha. for once, I am at a loss for words. :)

The kids in the mosque compound

I asked my kids, and they said they had enjoyed the trip as well, despite feeling a little tired.
We were a bit sad to say goodbye to the holy city. I felt our trip was too short. There were so many things I had wanted to do. I still felt like I hadn't prayed enough. I felt like a person who had been given an all-you-can-eat buffet but had chosen to eat only one plate. Ruginya... ! (What a waste/shame)

Insya-Allah, I will be back!


  1. Elisa,
    I felt the same way too...there were so many things that I could have done and wanted to do but didnt do due to so many reasons - name it, opportunities, anak2, except health. Alhamdulillah I was in good health during the whole time there. One thing that really touched my heart (and mind as well) was when I first arrived at Madinah, though the excited feelings and anticipation was there but there's nothing deep there. When I first saw Masjid Nabawi and went into Raudah, there was no feeling at least the feeling that I should have since I was visiting the place the Rasullullah lies....Then, the day before we were scheduled to Makkah, I got my period! One week early! Only Allah knows how I felt at that time. I cried and cried. And cried harder when I said goodbye to Rasullulah on the next morning just outside the mosque and then the feeling came. This is Allah Almighty gift for me, he returns that "heart attachment" I should have by taking something else - my opportunities. My heart was full of envy when we arrived in Makkah and I couldn't enter the mosque and complete my umrah. I was in Ihram for almost 4 days, alhamdulillah, Allah shorten the trial for me. And oh my God, the gift of thankfullness and awe when I finally get to see Kaabah -- well, the anticipation, worriness that I might never get to see Kaabah in this trip were all gone. Thank you Allah...

    We will definitely come back, insya Allah.

  2. If some one want to perform Umrah in 2013 i would like to say try to find cheap umrah packages as many companies are offering it from all over the world.