I still remember that day, I was a bit shy at the beginning, shy in terms of never had the chance to wear the official Hajj clothing ever before. I was browsing through the old emails in my outlook inbox, when all of a sudden an email with the title "photos" from my old friend Adnan was showing there, it took me instantly back to the day he told me he was going to visit me and Sam again in our apartment in Jeddah, back in the days.
Well, Adnan was first our flatmate, until he resigned and moved to Riyadh; he had wanted that day to come to Jeddah for a sleepover and a trip to Meccah. It sure wasn't my first, but was surely my first attempt to do the renowned muslim Omrah. Sam, my wonderful flatmate had given me his clothes, all washed and cleaned, and showed me a guide on how to wear them, and all the regulations and rules to go with the Omrah. I have to admit though, such an occasion having its own formalities and structure had definitely added to the glam of it.
I remember arguing with the taxi driver and then dropping off at a bus station, where we thought it was better (cheaper and faster) to ride a taxi instead. I had my famous backbag all along, filled with water mainly and a few snacks. The car had Indian and east Asian passengers, leaving us the only white people in there. I also remember the driver stopping for prayer on the road, me offering the passengers some food and water, my ass getting stuck right to the door, etc..
Stepping foot in Meccah that night was one of the most hectic things to have ever done in Saudi, it was last week of Ramadhan and there were at least two to three human beings in every square meter in that place: I felt my heart hitting the ground, how on earth would I be able to do the Omrah with all these people around? It was little time before I found myself inside Meccah, and by little I mean about 40 minutes, 40 minutes of hitting bones with bones, feeling the sweat of other people on my skin, pushing among long lines of people and finding myself walking in circles. I eventually made it.
Well in fact, the inside wasn't THAT crowded, you could easily stroll through with little trouble. Zamzam water containers were everywhere, men and women of all nationalities spread around the place either reading the Holy Book or praying towards Kaabah. Again, this wasn't my first time to Kaabah, but it sure was my first Omrah. I remember expecting to feel astonished, to sense the overwhelming flow of belief and tranquility fill my heart and soul. To my surprise, I felt nothing. I tried hard I swear, but it just wasn't there. Telling myself that I should give it some time, I decided to take it to the center round, there was the almighty Kaabah with people. It just didn't make sense to me, I was already there, with full readiness and respect to what I was about to do, well dressed inside and out, and ready for the Omrah, yet I didn't feel it, while other people who were obviously there for the manifestation of it, and who took Islam as being a handful of hollow rituals, were actually pushing each other for the black stone for instance, bumping into each other because they wanted to finish the 7 turns fast, yelling at each other while at it, and eventually disturbing everyone who was there for the real essence of it.
It hit me that, I was somebody that was obviously not fit for such a place, yet I made it there. I felt so guilty for taking the place of somebody else, among which was my mother. I felt so mad at those people around me that were taking the place of a lot more people too. I started telling myself that the awareness and readiness I had had in mind simply lead me to frustration and failed expectations, while the absence of it lead me to humming a gentle tune that gave me a slight inner satisfaction, at least compared to what I had around me at the moment. I remembered little children, they know nothing about prayers and rituals, yet they're the happiest.
In case you're feeling the kicking urge to rectify what I had said about Islamic rituals, think again, for the people that know me, know indeed you should be taking your mind away and what you had been taught before, it's a heart to heart discussion, not an open seminar about your religion. Friends have told me to give it time and they might be right. Others have advised me to go back to religious rules and scriptures in order to fill up my faith meter. But it's not the case.
At the end of Tawaf and Sa'i, I had to seclude myself in some corner, changed my clothes in an instant and was the same old Natheer back, in a tshirt and a pair of shorts. As I said, I still was feeling guilty at the end, I felt it wasn't my place, nor my time, and hence I was relieved it was all done with. Somebody else would've dreamt of coming to the place I only saw as a pile of concrete and shiny marble floors.
Before closing on, I have to admit a few things. I had been suffering an intolerable back ache for the last 3 days prior going there, I had asked my friend to help me pour some Zamzam water on my back, which worked as a charm in taking the pain away, no kidding at all. One more thing, the bits of peace I found in such a place was in the silence and tranquility in observing everyone around me silently reading Quraan and reciting dua'a, something that turned these humans into monks, and turned that place into a holy cosmopolitan commune for people alike to come and pray for a god they shared in common. This had truly left a mark in me I would never forget.
I still look back at that picture and giggle telling myself "what the hell was I thinking?" ^_^