Thursday 18th December,2008

This morning we are all set and waiting to go to Madinah. Sheriff, has already left to collect  our passports. At the moment we are in our rooms, with BBC World News on the TV. oil is at $39.78 per barrel. This spells big trouble for T&T.

We left for Madinah at 3.30 p.m. We had to stop forty minutes later to change buses because the original one was short of two seats. While we were waiting for the exchange to take place I couldn’t help noticing the Arab gentleman who came and spread a mat on the ground on a vacant piece of land. Shortly afterwards another man joined him. Then a little boy, no more than eight or nine years old came and sat with the two older men.

That, I thought, was a refreshing sight. There were so many things right about that scene. One generation was passing on useful information to the next;  traditions and the culture could be preserved and bridge the generation gap. Our western world can surely learn from these Easterners.

My excitement to see the terrain of Arabia outside of Makkah was heightened. On the way, we had limited daylight time because of the lateness of the hour. The land I saw was that of a valley, a huge expanse of barren, dusty land with encircling  mountains in the distance. It was a fascinating site. There was a herd of sheep in the distance and wondered at the source of their fodder.  Here is a couple of camels in a Bedouin’s yard; a the scene that I can look at for the entire journey.

The sandy terrain of Arabia
The land here is flat, just the way I’ve always envisioned a desert to be – very much unlike Makkah, where the hills and the hillocks and the mountains dominate the landscape.  Now the context of  the term ‘desert Arab’ is better understood; I can understand the Quranic verse that says “ The desert Arab say they believe, but tell them no… that Iman, that faith has not yet entered their hearts…”

This is a hard and unforgiving land; one must be strong and sturdy to survive here—one must be resilient and rugged to survive in this land. Perhaps this is why they seem to bend the rules so much with regards to their driving and their social habits. They do what is necessary in order to survive.

The light is fading fast and I can’t see anything outside the window again, disappointment sets in as the realization sets in that I would not see anything more for  the rest of the journey.  No chance to gaze upon the landscape that Allah’s Beloved Messenger [s.a.s] also may have seen.  But remembering we’re are on the way to greet him [s.a.s] comforts my mind which turns from one of  disappointment to one of anticipation.

We made a couple of stops along the way at various check points. At these stops we disembarked, used the washrooms, prayed and at one place purchased dinner. Actually, at our first stop, we were given a snack pack of cookies, juice and a litre of zam zam water.

We arrived at the hotel at 11.00 p.m. Dinner (again) was awaiting us. We were allocated rooms. There were some  hiccups with regards to this exercise. In the end I ended up sharing a room with Enite Ali and Azard ‘ Japo’ Ali.

 My first impression of Madinah is one of peace, of tranquility and orderliness. It is the opposite of Makkah, where busyness seems to be the order of the day.  Madinah is cold—very cold and we are glad to be inside the hotel where a warm meal awaited.  Soon everyone was in bed.