Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Travels in foreign lands-XLVI (Journeys to Saudi Arabia-VII)

After saying good bye to my sister we left Makkah next day early in the morning. On the return journey I was keen to see the place of Badar where the Muslims had fought their first battle. For this one has to take the old Makkah-Madina road as it does not fall on the motorway. The road is somewhat narrow and passes through a mountain valley. We reached Badar around noon. It was quite hot. Salah-ud-Din took us straight to the grave yard of the martyrs of Badar. It is as simple as the Janat-ul-Baqi in Madina. No tombstones! Only pieces of stone to mark the graves! However, outside there is a huge stone panel on which the names of the martyrs are written. The stand dunes near Badar resemble exactly the scene of Badar shown in the Message film by Moustafa Akkad. Badar is a small town. From here we took the valley route to Madina. Just before Madina Salah-ud-Din showed us the tomb of Hazrat Hamza, the uncle of the Prophet (PBUH) who had stood by him always and who was martyred in the battle of Uhud. Later on he took us to Masjid Sittain. These are seven small mosques associated with various people connected with the Prophet (PBUH). From here we went again to the mosque of the Prophet (PBUH), the Masjid Nabwi and offered prayers. The ride back to Hail was smooth and we reached late in the evening. We had a very rewarding journey of few days and I was able to visit most of the historical places. The film Message had created scenes of earlier times when the Prophet (PBUH) was himself participating in various campaigns. Comparing these with the present day conditions made me think about the people of those early times. They must have had tremendous faith to travel for weeks on camels and horseback through the desert to reach these places. Now we have air-conditioned cars, hotels, chilled soft drinks, and ice creams and still feel hot! I had travelled through the Arab world but the modern Arabs seemed to be given to ease and luxury. They had got used to all the artificial things and had in fact been addicted to eating sweets, drinking colas and ice creams by the Americans and the rest of the western world! However, I was also able to see some Bedouin tribes who still had faith and stuck to old ways! The present day “Arab Spring” is in fact a revolt against the luxury and materialism to which the Arab Youth have been got addicted by their rulers dwelling in criminal luxury bordering on absolute corruption and debauchery. The revolt is against the Kings and Sheikhs who have imposed themselves on these people in total disregard to the basic tenets of Islam. They have been helped in this campaign by the western world which is primarily interested in the energy sources of the region. But a change is sweeping these Sheikhs, Kings, and dictators off their feet and there is bound to be revival through the new generation. After spending a couple of days in Hail with my brother and his family, I left for Riyadh on way back home. I spent a day with Dr. Sofi and other friends where I recounted the experiences of my travel. The same year, I had another occasion of visiting Saudi Arabia and I again repeated the travel with Salah-ud-Din but this time I was alone as my two nephews were busy in school. It was a refreshing experience. An anecdote of the second travel was about the Saudi visa which I had obtained in New Delhi. I mentioned to my very good trekking friend Sir Robert-Wade Gerry, the British High Commissioner in India that I wanted to visit my brother and sister in Saudi Arabia. I requested him if he could speak to the Saudi ambassador to give me a visit visa. He did this and the Saudi ambassador called me and gave me a visa for visiting the entire Kingdom! When I landed at Riyadh airport, the immigration officer got confused. He asked me to whom I was going to visit as the visa did not mention this. Normally, all visas issued in India indicate the person to be visited. Mine only said “visit”. Moreover, the visa has to mention the name of the sponsor. In my case, it simply indicated that it had been issued under “orders”. The immigration officer consulted his superior who told him to allow me to go! I had the same problem while entering the checkpoint near Madina. The Policeman asked almost the same questions and even said that the Embassy in Delhi had committed a mistake. When I forcefully demanded to see his boss, he got panicky and let me go. I was first time able to travel with authority in the Kingdom where most of the people from the sub-continent are given second class treatment. I am closing the series of “Travels in Foreign Lands” with this episode. I travelled through different countries. It has been very nostalgic for me to remember all these travels, sometimes quite thrilling bordering on real adventure. Many of my friends have suggested that I compile these in the form of a book with pictures. I would definitely like to do that but need a reputed publisher to accomplish the task in a decent way. I would be grateful if my readers could suggest a publisher and put me in touch with him. Apart from travels abroad, I have already written about journeys through different parts of the State on both sides of the Line of Control. There are still some memorable travels which I undertook across India. I may write about these after sometime to complete the picture of my lifelong travels! (Concluded)

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