Thursday 4th December – 6th Zil Hajj

Ghassan, a Saudi officer, looks at Muslims pilgrims while they pray at the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad at the Haram in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on December 4, 2008. More than two million Muslims head to the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, to make the annual Hajj pilgrimage. All fit and financially able Muslims are expected to perform the Hajj at least once in their life. (UPI Photo/Mohammad Kheirkhah)
As mentioned earlier, the roadways outside our hotel are closed to traffic and large groups of pilgrims continue to trek outside on their way to visit Mina, a place I have not yet visited.

Signs are going up on buses, hotels and street walls in a variety of languages advertising phone numbers, trips to the Haram and matters pertaining to Hajj. There is an atmosphere that something really big is about to take place, one which is pregnant with expectation. The police and sanitation crews are everywhere. But, surely, the latter needs to do a much better job. However, there is so much littering that the crews seem unable to keep up. The roadway needs sweeping or better yet, washing. Quite a few cats, strays perhaps, were visible but they seem quite healthy and fat, however not a single dog was to be seen.

Construction work seems to have come to a halt for this period of time. Huge cranes and signs of construction can be seen, but no work is actually being done. One can only assume that  it is so in order to keep the roadways as free as possible for the millions of pilgrims who are wending their way to this blessed place.

Drivers here always seem to be in a hurry. You will not believe the kind of crazy driving that was witnessed. They seem to have no patience as horns are popped incessantly, drivers are aggressive and many of the vehicles are covered with dents . Someone from our group said that dentyne is the special brand of vehicles used in Saudi Arabia! Drivers think nothing about reversing on the roadway or make U turns. And always they seem to be in a hurry.

Just after Isha and dinner, our group leader, Sheriff, held a reminder session to again outline the activities for the Hajj.. On Saturday morning we are to leave for Mina in our Ihram. That will be the 8th Zil Hajj. He advised us that we are to pack and travel lightly.

He has prepared us mentally for the crowds and the traffic. We were  cautioned that it will be up to us to carry out the rites and rituals. Sheriff combined the solemnity of the occasion with light banter, the hallmark of a good motivator, not discouraging but motivating us.

The area around the Haram on Dec 4, 2008 (picture by Al Jazeera)
And not for the first time, Sheriff welled up with emotion and fear of Allah as he mentions Allah’s many favours to mankind_ “Which of the favours of your Lord will you deny,” he quotes in Arabic and English.

Following the briefing on the way to my room, I checked in with Rasheeda in her room.   Apparently Nabsie called at 5:15 p.m. and also texted us. We texted a response assuring her all was well with us, barring the cold, which everyone seems to have and ended with  sending our love to them.

Back in my room, we have a visitor - Asad. We learned from him that the last group of Trinidad pilgrims from Omar’s group arrived yesterday - Wednesday. The first group of forty had come in three days previously; the other group of thirty odd had come in the next day. My heart went out to them for they had left Trinidad since on the 25th of November, with the other group due to leave on the 30th. They had missed flights, had problems with visas and were subjected to all manners of  trials.