Saturday, April 19, 2014

In Taif, then for Umrah, and then rest: Day 1, Wednesday, 16th April, 2014 - II

It is usual for people to try and do the Umrah after the sun has set, as the heat becomes considerably less and reduces fatigue. I did my prayer and changed into the ehram from my room itself. 

I left my hotel room at half past four, and crossed the main street to the taxi stand opposite ... the place from where pilgrims and others are taken to Makkah by the Saudi taxi-men. However, after I had booked one of the taxis with another co-traveller (we usually take one out of four seats to share the costs ... and we would have to wait for two more co-travellers before we could actually start), a police car came alongside and the cop asked the taxi driver to park on the side; he asked for that man's papers. We knew something was amiss. I tried to ask my co-passenger, a Pakistani. He, however, was as clueless as I. The cop next came to both of us and asked us to hand over our Iqamas (the ID card expatriates are all mandated to carry with us at all times). He asked us to vacate the cab. Within minutes, another junior cop got into the vacated taxi and drove it to a winch-car that had just appeared from, as it seems, thin air. He drove the car on to the ramp of the winch, and the winch-car driver fixed the wheels with some devices, and the cab was driven away. The driver of the taxi simply stood there, dumbfounded at his bad luck. 

I learned from the cop that the taxi stand for Makkah had been shifted from this place to a new place about 1/2 a km away. He asked me why I tried to board the cab from this place, whereupon I told him that I usually took the cab from there, and I wasn't aware that there had been a change of rules. He accepted my plea, returned my ID after entering the number on the back of some form and showed me how to reach the new pick-up point. My co-passenger and I both walked to the new place, which is at the junction of Shaher Street and the road diametrically opposite to Hassan bin Thabit St. After a considerable haggling over prices and juggling over which passenger would sit where, my taxi finally took off at half past five in the evening. We travelled smoothly, or as smoothly as is possible under the circumstances, but we reached the Haram mosque a few minutes before the adhaan for the Maghrib prayer was played over the loud-speakers. I ran to the ablution area, did my wudhu, and joined the congregating masses outside the haram gates. After the prayer, I went inside the Haram. The crowds were a lot more than I had expected, but saying Allah's name and his pardon for my sins, I began the Umrah. I completed my seven tawwafs just as the Ishaa prayer was being called out. I found a place opposite the post of Prophet Ibrahim (A.S.), prayed the two-rakaah special salah in his name, and stayed put at that spot to join the Ishaa prayers. 

After the Ishaa prayers, I went to the Massa area to complete my "saai" - the seven up and down trips from and to Safa and Marwa. By the time I finished these walks, it was half past nine, and my legs were really aching. During my walks, I noticed not less than three women who had tied a small kid on their wrists with a leash. The child seemed not to care in each of the cases. The mother was immersed in her prayers while the child moved within his mother's range of the leash, skipping, jumping and running until the leash pulled her ambition short. The sight was humorous as well as pitiable for the child. However, under the circumstances, I see no other way the child could have been managed. 

After my "saai", I left the haram, retrieved my slippers (which I had carefully stowed away in an easily locatable and yet private spot to prevent it from being pilfered), and walked out to reach for a cafe or restaurant to have dinner and tea. Just before I could reach one of the many malls inside the big watch-tower hotel, an Indian man approached me and asked me if I  needed a hair-cut (the Umrah must be solemnised with at least a partial hair-cut, but I have heard that you get more blessings if you can get all your hair out. I went with the guy to one of the salons inside the watch-tower mall and got myself a trimming. Then I walked inside the mall to discover one of the restaurants with seating inside the area. This is where I ate my dinner, consisting of a chicken biryani and a soft drink. 

Having eaten my fill, I began to ask around for directions to the taxi-stand for returning to Taif. This used to be an easy task earlier as the stand was located bang outside the Haram. Now, it has been shifted over a kilometer out ... it was a painful task for me to walk to the place. However, thankfully, I got into a cab soon after reaching the stand, and I returned to my hotel in Taif around mid-night. 

I guess I went to sleep about an hour or so later. 

During the tawwafs and the saai, I tried to pray for whoever I could recall. Inshallah my umrah will be accepted by Allah.

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