The Journey Kuwait-Taif-Mecca

As Salam, I am back, safe and sound, Alhamdulillah. We reached our dusty Kuwait's home at 3.51 in the morning, 3rd Mac 2012. We started...

As Salam,

I am back, safe and sound, Alhamdulillah. We reached our dusty Kuwait's home at 3.51 in the morning, 3rd Mac 2012. We started off our journey to Mecca with 3 years old Erin and came back home with a 4 years old instead because 3rd March was her 4th birthday. Masya-Allah, what a great birthday gift she got for herself this year, a trip to Mecca and Madinah.

I was actually contemplating of whether or not to post about this trip. Plus, my husband doesn't really encouraged me to post about it too. He worried about what people might think. The more I ponder, the more hesitant I got and the more reason for me to pause, sit back and re-think, hence the short hiatus. Anyway, I came into conclusion that Allah knows my intention very well and as long as it is for good deeds, I have nothing to worry about. Peoples are entitled to their own opinion but I'm not worried about that as Allah's judgement was all that matters to me.

Anyhow, I learned and gained so much knowledges through out this trip I felt the needs to share and spread it here and thus I asked Allah s.w.t to protect me (and us) from riak dan takbur, accept our good deeds that we perform only to please Him. Rest assure I will not disclose much on our ibadah topic as for me, it is between us and Allah s.w.t, but I'll talk more about the journey itself and my oh my, I am more than happy to share few tips that I think might be useful for bakal Haji & Hajjah out there specially those awal marra ( first timer) like me. I am neither expert nor knowledgeable in Umra' but try my best I must, to convey what I learned, Insya Allah and may we can benefit from it.

سْــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِالرَّحْمَنِ اارَّحِيم

Our trip were divided into 4 phases.

Kuwait------> Taif, Saudi Arabia = 706 miles or 1135.95 km

Taif ---------> Mecca = 39 miles or 62.75 km

Mecca-------> Madinah = 210.46 miles or 338.70 km

Medina -----> Kuwait = 602 miles or 968.62 km

In short, it was a veryyyyyyyy long journey, by far the longest road trip I've ever been into my whole life and it will only be natural for me to be very very nervous about it. I prayed and asked a lot from Allah s.w.t. Mostly general things like I asked Allah to bless us with safe journey going and return and accept our Umra', I asked Allah to melapangkan our journey and also our hearts and may we got benefits from it, I asked Allah to menyatukan hati my husband and me in every decision we have to make so that we can prevent ourselves from unnecessary argument, and I prayed even to the smallest and most details stuff like may my girls doesn't need too many frequent visit to toilet :)

We were told by our driver that we'll be starting our journey as early as possible to avoid heavy traffic and unnecessary delay at Saudi border. As I mentioned in my post before we went to Umra', we opted to go Umra' via road. Why? Because it is something new to us and could be once in a lifetime experience from the way I see it. It's an opportunity not to be missed as the moment we go back to Malaysia for good, this option was rather impossible.

:: Our ride for 2 weeks. It is spacious and more than enough for our small young family and Subhanallah we had smooth sailing and pleasant journey, beyond comfortable. Alhamdullilah Allah blessed us with extra rezeki and made it easy for us from the beginning till the end ::

:: Mr husband at Saudi border, after fingerprinting ::

Back to border story. I've used to stories from a friends and relatives who came back from Hajj or Umra that Saudi immigration at King Fahd airport wasn't really the most efficient and systematic immigration based on their experience. Well, the one we had at border was no any difference. You need to really plan your journey and scheduled you trip wisely else, be prepared to camp at the border. Our driver told us, crowd is worst especially on Wednesday and Thurday night because Friday is public holiday so everyone will start their journey into Saudi after work on Wed or Thursday. In some cases, specially when a lot of tour buses involved, the custom clearance process could took up more than a day. There's a case where the bus and it's passenger already arrived at border around Wednesday midnight and could only leave border on Friday morning. Masya Allah, may their patience and determination be realized by Allah s.w.t and may they get rewarded with Jannah.

As for us, we made a move from our home at 5.50 am and reached border an hour later. I saw only a small crowd and a bus in queue so it wasn't that bad. We need to went through at least 3 checkpoint in Kuwait's custom and many many more in Saudi border, then we need to queue for fingerprinting and get our passport stamped. Fingerprinting exception goes for those who have entered Saudi before, they just need to get their passport stamped and kids also were excluded from this process. It took us an hour to clear everything and I couldn't get anymore relieved to climbed back into our car because it was freezing out there. It's 8 degree Celcius by the time we were there and we're not geared up with proper jacket at all. No one mentioned to me that we need to get out of our car for fingerprinting and I've made few quick look on Mecca weather forecast and it was forecasted that Mecca will be hot and humid (35-36 degree C) the whole week so I only prepared light cropped jacket for me to be used in Madinah later and none for my husband because he refused to bring any. Ha ha ha ha served us just right! There's no proper shelter or waiting area at the finger printing area. Only a small shed space and it had already being filled up to the brim when we arrived. Luckily I insisted on bringing with us the girls leather jacket. Alhamdullilah nonetheless, our process went smooth and doesn't take up on too much time. We proceeded entering Saudi after that, and stopped by at a bakala there to get our Saudi prepaid cards, chips and milk for the kids and also toilet fix.

We were advised beforehand by close friends to bring some food together because we are going to have indeed a long journey ahead of us, exactly 16 hours before we reached our 1st destination aka Taif and I instantly planned on bringing nasi lemak or meehun goreng or mee goreng. However, after brief discussion with my husband, we decided to brought only light snacks and finger foods. The main reason, sebab malas nak banyak banyak bekas kotor, plus we didn't really familiar with road and area we're heading to and I didn't really know how their R&R are going to be. From what I heard, from Kuwait to Taif, there were none and if there's one, it is far cry from the one we had at PLUS he he he. So sandwich it is, plus Kak Ieda generously baked us a yummy chocolate cake a night before to be taken with us on the road and thanks to her, her chocolate cake helped us survived hehe.

Actually, I'm just exxagerating because you certainly won't get starving unless you're a very picky eater. There's numerous mat'am mandi ( restaurant mandi) along the journey. Or shawarma shops or even bakala so you can always top up your rations.

Enough about foods and let move on to the journey itself. Starting from Saudi border, it's all two lane or three lane straight highway until Taif, and even Mecca. It's pretty much straight line from point A to point B with only very minima of one or two junction involved and the scenery, Subhanallah. We kept clicking our camera because it was something new from what we usually have in Kuwait. Saudi rural area was pretty much untouched so the beauty of it still preserved and for once, I finally felt like I was in Middle East for real.

:: You'll get pretty much view like this all along your journey. It may looked boring to some, but I was thrilled ::

The girls was super-psyched at first specially when we encountered a herd of wild camels or sheep but halfway through the journey these was the most view I got from them.....

:: Tired traveller 1 ::

:: Tired traveller 2 ::

Around Zohor time, we make a stopped for Solat Zohor and jama' Asar and also to refuel the tank. Our short stop this time was at this tired looking gas station with a small musolla in the middle of desert. The musolla was not owned by the government but built by the local people there, explained the poor condition but alhamdulillah, at least we have a place to pray. Since the Musolla Al-Nisa ( ladies prayer room) was in a pretty bad shape, with a lot of tahi cicak everywhere and filled with sands, plus the toilet was not working, I prayed at the men's section instead after my husband and our driver done. This ( the bad condition for ladies prayer section) is a norm because you won't really get to see local woman outside so you'll found most of the ladies section in any small musolla was lacked of maintenance, simply because it was rarely used. It's very rare to see local woman in the shop, market or on the road unlike Kuwait. Kuwait was more modern and open minded in terms of the freedom given to their ladies while Saudi was practically on the opposite. Woman was not even allowed to drive here. I like to look on this scenario from a positive side, that Saudi men (government) do loves their woman very much and all the rules was made to protect them. All the job was done by the man, while the woman just stay home and taking care of the house needs and the children. All banks and restaurants have closed ladies section and priority was given to the ladies section so that the women doesn't have to queue for long and berebut2 with all the men in public. That's a lot of love!

Please don't get me wrong, I never ever meant to say only Saudi men loves their women and man of other nationalities, doesn't. I'm only stating my personal opinion on what I think the reason behind the rules that forbid Saudi women from driving and do other things that women in other country allowed to, that's all.

:: Playing around while waiting ::

:: Wild camels ::

:: Some small town we passed by on our journey ::

We stopped again once we reached one of the big town for lunch. If I'm not mistaken, we stopped somewhere between Al-Jamajin and Al-Majmaah. There's only a few big town along the road to Mecca. The first one is Harf Al-Batin. They even have Hardees and KFC and few big hotels. After this town, you'll be encountering a lot of secluded village with not much sighting of villagers. So should you have no liking for arabic cuisine, it will be wise to buy enough food from fast food restaurant there.

:: Family section ::

:: Our humble lunch. Dujjaj mandi ( Nasi Mandi Ayam). The portion as usual, more than enough to fed us four ::

We proceeded our journey shortly after lunch without any stops except for refueling the gas until Maghrib time. I couldn't register where we were stopping this time for prayer as it has gotten very dark but rest assure, we still have a long way to Taif.

Our driver didn't have GPS with him, but what he used was much more effective than GPS.

:: He used this map instead. He called this his manual GPS because the map was very details with each town's name, the length between each town and even gas stations. As you can see, I marked our starting point and destination in blue arrow. Saudi is indeed one huge country ::

:: Silky dunes. It was so much prettier live than on a picture. My humble camera was unable to capture the beauty of it and didn't do justice to it's awesomeness, it seems ::

:: Picturesque view. Subhanallah ::

Once we're done with our prayer we hit the road again straightaway as we still have few hours of journey left. As it's already dark, we didn't get to see much view so everyone just minding our own business while my husband chit chatting with our driver to keep him company and to avoid him from feeling sleepy.

A little bit on our driver. His name is Wasim, a middle 40s with tall and thin figure Pakistani guy, spoken very fluent English and Arabic and he used to be a factory supervisor. He resigned recently and opted to became a driver for Umrah and Hajj travel agent. In fact, we were his 1st assignment but personally he had been to Mecca 5 times for Umrah and 1 time for Hajj. We asked him why he left his stable and secured previous job and decided to become a driver instead, because logically thinking, his choice of job description was somewhat degrading and he told us that he only gained dunia from his previous job but he gained dunia and akhirat, Insya Allah from his current driver job. Masya Allah, I was in awed and I had high respect for him. Characteristically, he is a simple minded man with a very humble personality and he taught us so many things related to Islam especially on Rasullulah s.a.w's history. He's so knowledgeable specifically when it comes to his religion matters and his most said line is Barakallahu fikum which means: "May the blessings of Allah be upon you.". We used to say thank you, syukran jazilan or just syukran in anycase I want to thank someone, but he used barakallahu fikum everytime, everywhere to everyone. Good value we can take example and follow, Insya Allah..

Back on track, we reached Taif on 11:50 pm sharp where we'll be staying overnight before proceed to Mecca the next morning. We didn't do any prior hotel booking because there's a lot of small inn or budget hotel can be found around Taif town. Just walk-in to any inn/hotel along the road and you'll be guaranteed a room. We chose Dar-Al Arab because it's the first one we encounter and we're way too exhausted to find for other option. Plus the hotel located within walking distance to a few fast food restaurant like Taza Chicken so should we get hungry later after midnight, which I doubted but Erin and my hubby did, we can just walk and grab something to eat without disturbing our driver. He had been driving for 16 hours so he need his much deserved rest for the rest of the night. All the room was pretty standard in term of facilities and amenities offered. We opted the cheapest one we can get. For 150 riyal we get a really spacious room comes with two bedrooms, one kitchen, one bathroom and washing machine. It's curtains and bed sheet was torn and worn out, all the furniture are sort of old fashioned and the bathroom doesn't even have shower head but the room was clean and it was more than enough for us. We're going to check out tomorrow after Fajr after all.

The next day, we check out from hotel around 7 am. I already had taken my sunat shower from hotel and donned on my ihram garment. My husband decided to take his shower and wore his ihram at miqat Qarnul Manazil.

:: Good morning Taif ::

:: While Malaysian police preferred hand language and whistle to control the traffic's flow, Taif's police officer went up a notch by controlling the traffic light manually from the controller box he he he ::

:: Junction to Miqat Mosque, Al Kabir Mosque ::

Once arrived at the miqat, my husband and Wasim immediately went into man bath area to take shower and I had to wait for them to finish. After they done, we then went to the mosque together for solat sunat ihram and said our niyah.

:: Most of the car that used for long distance travel in middle east will be coated with another layer of temporary paint, just like the above picture. It is because the wind here contained small particles of sand dust and under high speed, the dust can cause serious damage to your car paint. By the time you end your trip, the layer will be gone with the wind ::

Once everyone ready and have say our niyah, we proceed to Mecca. My heart started to racing uncontrollably by this time. I had mixed feeling and so many what if questions in my head.

What if things doesn't turned out as I hope for?

What if my kids became cranky and un-cooperative and I lost my patience before Baitullah?

Or worst, what if Allah doesn't permit me to see Kaabah because of my sins?

What if I forgot everything that I had studied for the past few months and became blank?

I'm nervous, excited, thrilled, scared.. all kind of emotions and thoughts came pouring my mind at the same time. Anyhow I managed to keep myself cool down and focusing on my dzikir and prayer. From the moment I decided to perform Umrah I had repeatedly told myself that I will redha for everything and I will learn to accept whatever that Allah s.w.t have decided for me. If he decided to punish me for all my sins when I was there, I'll redha and could only pray for His mercy because it will be better to be punish in dunia rather than in akhirah. I was constantly be reminded of the ayah "Kun Fa Ya Kun" which literally means if He wills a thing, is only to say to it "Be! and it is!".

We then, silently utter our talbiah while watching the view and scenery, prayed and hoping for only the best as we entering Mecca.

Labbaika Allahomma Labbaik. Labbaik La Shareeka Laka Labbaik. Innal-Hamdah, Wan-Nematah, Laka wal Mulk, La Shareeka Laka.

In Arabic لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لَبَّيْكَ لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ، إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ وَالنِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ لاَشَرِيْكَ لَكَ

:: Road to Mecca ::

:: Junction where only Muslims were permitted to proceed. There's another signboard where we didn't get to snap which basically directs non-muslim to another junction away from Haram land. Only non-muslims with official permit from government of Saudi can enter Mecca. I was actually quite puzzled on one of my day in Mecca because I saw few westeners in Masjidil Haram area but based from their work garments I can say that they was there under work permit. They should come with the construction company that was responsible to develop and reconstruct Mecca city and few new hotels around Masjidil Haram ::

:: First glimpse of Mecca city. Mecca is geographically mountainous with uneven hard rock surfaces and hills ::

:: I was told that this used to be site of Rasullullah s.a.w original home, now turned public toilet. Why public toilet you may ask. It is a precaution action taken by Saudi government to avoid people from worship the site and lead to bidaah's activity. Wallahualam ::

We reached Mecca around 11 am. Since the road to our hotel was too congested, we asked Wasim to drop us anywhere nearby and we will walked to Masjidil Haram by foot. He dropped us near the entrance of Babus As-Salam and left to find parking while us proceed entering Masjidil Haram from Babus Salam entrance and perform our umrah to which I will tell more on next post.

Till then, I shall leave you with below pictures of Baitullah and even after almost 2 weeks leaving Mecca, each time I look at this picture I had goosebumps and somewhat longing feeling and I bet I'm not the only one.

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