So after all the excitement of getting the visa and getting ready for our move - we caught a bug, a norovirus - it's horrible! If anyone caught it as we left - I apologise as it's contagious. Unfortunately my girls were feeling poorly and are actually still recovering from it. But, I knew I had to do an Umrah, in fact I wanted to visit the Ka'bah so much to thank Allah for his numerous favours upon us. I wanted to repent, to pray, to feel the peace, to taste that sweetness of Imaan once more.
|Mount thawr which hosts Cave Thawr|
[We live right near it - south of Makkah]
It is Muharram, the first month of the Islamic Calendar. The Umrah visas are not open yet to International folk so my husband told me it shouldn't be so busy. We went after Isha prayer on Friday evening - the sky is not dark here at all, it's a navy blue - the kind of sky we get in British summers. We live close to Jabal Thawr [Mount Thawr] on which is a special cave you may have heard of - Gaar - Thawr [Cave of the Bull]. It's where the Prophet [pbuh] and Abu Bakr as-Sideeq hid from the persecutors on their migration to Medina. This is south to the Haram - whereas Medina is actually North of Makkah. So the Prophet pbuh and Abu Bakr as-Sideeq came to the south of Makkah to hide even though they were headed north! I didn't even realise this until now! There's loads I learnt on this Umrah trip actually.
So we drove to Khuday Carpark which is the closest car park for residents, out of towners to park up for free and catch a taxi to the Haram. We did just that. All in all from our flat to the Haram, it's about 15 minutes, depending on traffic. We didn't take the double buggy. Ammarah was happy as usual to walk and my husband held Hibah. It was just surreal being here with my husband and kids! As I mentioned I was here 4 years ago before marraige with my dad during Ramadaan - it was such an amazing experience mA. But, with my children and husband, it was just surreal - felt unreal. As we approached the Masjid - I couldn't recognise it, it looked different - there were so many cranes! but not just that, there were new WC and wudhu areas for the men and women in front of the masjid. Of course it was very much needed too.
I kept trying to remember the street I would walk up 4 years ago - it was Ibrahim al-Khaleel street, which I spotted on the right hand side of the Zam Zam Towers - and there was the clock tower which Ammarah was amazed by when we could see it in the distance as we were driving up. It is HUGE! Some would say it is a bit overwhelming and overpowers the Ka'bah...but I kinda like it now. Makkah is full of mountains, and the fact that the clock tower rises above the mountains, I can actually spot where the Ka'bah is and thus know the direction of Qiblah. It definitely has some benefits.
|Our Eid ul Adha Song made up by Ammarah and I.|
[to be sung to the tune of 'There was a farmer who had a dog and Bingo was his name-o']
As we went into the Masjid, we walked between a few crowds of people [It was actually a bit busy because of the weekend] through pillars and temporary tawaaf ring pillars I could see the black cloth of the Ka'bah. I felt a sudden excitement inside. I just kept saying to Ammarah 'Do you want to go round and round the Ka'bah?' She was excited too! See, in run up to our move, Ammarah and I made up an awesome song because I wanted her to understand and relate to the vocabulary [yep, you just can't get the teacher training out of me!] So it was amazing, just amazing taking her around the Ka'bah, picking her up a few times because she was overwhelmed by the people at times. Then swapping her for Hibah who was extremely tired by then. And at Safa and Marwa which I really found more peaceful to do this time, maybe because Hibah had fallen asleep and I could relax by then.
Whenever I walk between Safa and Marwa, I can't help but think of Hajirah and the anxiety she must have felt being all alone. I was walking at a normal pace. I was reminded that she ran between these mountains seven times when men and boys of all ages dressed in 2 pieces of white cloth ran from behind me, some walked at a fast pace. The men are expected to do this between the green light zone! But our dear Hajirah ran between these mountains 7 times looking for water! In my last lap of Safa and Marwa, the girls and my husband walked with me. I showed Ammarah Mount Safa - the excitement on her face was adorable especially as we sang our song.'Hajirah ran 7 times between Safa and Marwa, Safa and Marwa, Safa and Marwa, Safa and Marwa, she was looking for some water.' I discovered Mount Marwa's peak was also preserved - I don't think I ever saw this 4 years ago - it was a lot busier in Ramadan. See the mountains of Safa and Marwa have the masjid built right around and between them but the peaks of the mountains are still visible as below.
|Mount Safa - where the sa'ee begins|
With this, my Umrah was complete alhamdulillah. May Allah swt accept our good deeds and intentions, forgive us for our errors and wrongdoings and guide us and our children to continue following the footsteps of the Prophet pbuh. Ameen!
A few important tips:
1. Make a small prayer book to take with you - with your written personal duas and any duas others have requested.
2. Take a drawstring or carrier bag for all the shoes, a bottle to fill with zamzam and even a light weight prayer mat.
3. Take some light weight socks - your feet can start aching especially if the floor is cold as it was between Safa and Marwa.
4. When taking children, pace your Umrah, ie feed them, make sure they are happy so you feel at ease when performing your rituals.
5. Teach your children the vocabulary if they are young as mine, but if older ensure they understand why they are going, what they will be doing etc.