Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Travels in foreign lands-XLV (Journeys to Saudi Arabia-VI)

During the night, Salah-ud-Din asked me if I would like to visit the Kaaba. It was the best time to go there as the crowd was less and we could see everything at ease. So two of us walked to the Masjid Al-Haram. As we neared the gate, I was in for another surprise. The view inside from the gate looked as if the Kaaba was in broad daylight! The lighting inside had been positioned in such a way that there were no shadows and it was as bright as the daylight. From a distance one gets confused whether it is day or night. We offered prayers and sat inside for an hour or so. It was very peaceful and serene. Next morning we got up late and did not also observe the fast as we had to climb a number of hillocks of historical importance. Salah-ud-Din had promised to show us most of the places. We started with Jabal-e-Noor, the mountain of light where the Prophet (PBUH) was revealed the holy Quran. It is a rocky mountain visible from a distance. We had climb up through a trail going up along one side. In the beginning the trail was gradual but then it became steep and it was quite tiresome to walk in scorching sun. Near the top of the mountain is the cave, Gar-e-Hira where the Prophet used to pray and receive revelations. One has to descend a few steps to enter the cave. After going inside the cave and offering prayers we climbed to the top. Sajju and Tuffy were by now quite thirsty. Luckily on top there was a man with a huge ice-box selling cold drinks. He was very happy to know that we were from Kashmir. He too came from Kashmir but from the Pakistan Administered side. I thought to myself that only a Kashmiri is capable of selling cold drinks on top of such a holy mountain! From the top we had a panoramic view of Makkah and could see the Kaaba in the distance. From here Salah-ud-Din showed us another mountain, the one called the mountain of Saur which was our next stop. After crossing a number of fly-overs and driving some distance we came to the foot of Jabal-e-Saur. One has to go inside a locality to reach the base of the mountain. The climb was steep right from the start and went straight up. The rock had a strange print on it and appeared like printed cloth! It took us almost half an hour to reach near the top. There are a few caves on left and right near the top. Just below the top is the famous cave where the Prophet (PBUH) took shelter with his companion while he was being pursued by the people from Makkah. After the persecution of Muslims had reached its peak, the Prophet asked them to migrate to Madina which had offered to take all Muslims in. He also left but was being pursued by the Quraish from Makkah. They had announced a prize for anybody who would kill him. Before proceeding to Madina, the Prophet took shelter in this cave on the mountain of Saur. Once they were inside, a spider had woven a web on the mouth of the cave and also pigeons had put up a nest there. The pursuers searched all the caves but did not go inside this one because of the spider’s web and the pigeon nest! Thus God had protected the Prophet (PBUH) and he was able to proceed to Madina. After going inside the cave, we went on the top. Again we had a panoramic view. On the top the wind was making a whistling sound. We stayed on top for 20 minutes and so and then descended back to the road. From here Salah-ud-Din took us to the plain of Arafat and to the Jabal-e-Rehmat. This is the mount on which the Prophet delivered his last sermon. This mount is quite small compared to the other two. It is also sandier and there are bushes on it. There is an obelisk on top. We also visited the place where people stone the devil during Hajj. Those days the passage was quite narrow and there were many accidents during Hajj due to stampede. Now the way has been streamlined and there is absolutely no crowding. After visiting all these historic places we went back to my sister’s flat. It was already late in the afternoon. Before going to the flat we went round market to see what all souvenirs people were taking. These were mostly electronic items. The shopkeepers in Makkah seemed to be arrogant and unfriendly compared to the people of Madina! Their attitude was, “ if want to buy it, do it or get lost!” My sister had offered to take us to Jeddah to sea the waterfront in the evening after breaking her fast. The drive to Jeddah on the motorway took us about an hour. One can even drive at high speeds during night because the highways are usually fully lit in almost all Middle Eastern countries. One does not need to switch on the headlights! Jeddah is a modern city with lights and shopping malls. There are quite a few Europeans and the people of other nationalities moving around. The waterfront is quite long. Kilometres upon kilometres with palaces and recreation areas. There are also many sandy beaches. There were crowds of people enjoying the lights and the fountains on the water front. We went along the area for sometime and then had a round of Jeddah before proceeding back to Makkah. This had been the longest day so far. Next morning we planned to leave early as we wanted to make it back to Hail in one day! (To be continued….)

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