Hullo there! Long time no write. When last we wrote/read this blog, we were en route to Piarco International to London and Saudi Arabia.
That was more than five weeks ago. Masses of people turned up at Piarco to see the group (of 64) off. Beloved Daughter and I were off buying KFC while the endgame was being played out. We travelled with Omar’s Hajj Group. Each member was handed a goodies bag from KC Confectionery (T’dad’s own homegrown halaal sweetie manufacturer) which enhanced our own bought stock of mints, mints, galore (oh, the fear of falling ill in Saudi:)). On our way into departure lounge a random female handed us another goodie bag (with sahina) and another random lady shook our hands and hugged Beloved Daughter. Touching. The outpouring. The apparent randomness. The unlooked for kindness. That would be repeated over and over again in Saudi itself.
Long night flight to Gatwick, KFC, dinner and breakfast. Prayer in prayer room at Heathrow. Bus to Heathrow through loved and long not-seen London countryside. Prayer in the multifaith room at Gatwick, frappe’s, eating someone else’s KFC, donning ihram, repacking hand luggage, checking in to Saudia Airlines. Long trek to the gate. Roomy comfy seats aboard Saudia Airlines, menu cards, real cutlery, smoked salmon salad, dill fish as entrée, view of the runway on the screen as we took off. Prayer room aboard the airline. Lots of choices on the entertainment media from Quranic recitations to cartoons.
Announcement when we passed over the Haram. Arrival. Prayer and waiting in arrival lounge of sorts. First experience of Saudi washrooms. Clearing immigration, getting luggage, seeing it thrown onto carrier, purchasing SIM cards and mobiles, sharing snacks, second experience of Saudi washrooms. Getting misplaced from brother and group because he didn’t walk in a straight line. Experiencing Saudi’s broost chicken – half a chicken per person, fries, and a sort of roti/chappati/flatbread. Waiting waiting. Boarding bus. Stuck in one place in traffic for near 2 hours (accident on the road). Six hours to Azizia, passed through Mecca. En route, lots and lots of mountains, construction, quarrying/levelling, roads, highways, buildings, metropolises. Stopped at bus depot, washed up, freshened up, received care packages. Another stop along the way for the identification wristbands.
Amazing sight somewhere along the way near Asr time. We stop on a sloping road with wide pavements on either side. Covered in people ready for prayer.