I’m finally in the Middle-East. It is my first time ever in Asia, my second time in an Arabic country and my first time in Saudi Arabia. The classic pilgrimage route takes muslims to Al Madinah and Meccah, two holy cities in Islam with so much history. Al Madinah is well know for being host of the Prophet’s Mosque (Al Masjid Annabawi or Al Haram). Besides this famous religious site, it has other areas well known in the Muslim and Saudi history.
After landing in Jeddah on a Royal Air Maroc flight, I got a coach straight to Al Madinah which took 6 hours to arrive adding 6 hours on the plane from Casablanca… it was awful! I was so tired that I slept the rest of the day. But once I woke up, it was time for the Maghreb prayer at sunset so it was also time to experience the prayers at the mosque and start my visits.
The first look at the Holy Mosque was absolutely amazing, I definitely felt in a new country and a culture that I became far from by living in London. I lost the habit of being taken to a mosque by the call of the prayer which actually rarely happened to me in Morocco as well. The call of the prayer is really relaxing to hear, I love it! I actually took like 4 videos for my Vlog of prayer’s call. Anyway, I reconnected with the Islamic culture in this amazing place and I was so ready to know and discover more!
On the same day, throwback to my days in New York when I went to a shopping centre that was an exact copy of a Western mall with all the american brands few miles away from the Holy Mosque. I was surprised as in my mind, Al Madinah was a religious city but not a place for west’s brands commerce. Although, everything is adapted here. Models faces in the mall are hidden, some stores are open for families or ladies only and names of brands are written in both English and Arabic without any exception. However, items sold are just as revealing as in Europe, Victoria Secret’s lingerie is sold just how it is… no restrictions on that!
Just like everywhere, when it’s the prayer time, all stores close for about 30 minutes to pray and comeback. During lunch time, I was being held inside a restaurant under the dark with the door locked as the staff went to pray. It was so strange! The next morning, I have been to visit the main sights of the city.
First stop was Ohud Mountains where Ohud battles had striked. I had an amazing view from a small rock-hill. Next stop, it’s Qiblatain Mosque which is famous for the change of Qibla from Jerusalem to Maccah. A taxi driver has told me, relieved, that this miracle happened many years ago before the creation of the State of Israel as he doesn’t wish to pray towards Israel. Qiblatain Mosque is actually one of my favourite attraction for far. Third stop was The Seven Mosques, an area that has no religious importance but is an interesting sight to see as it has a concentration of seven mosques all together separated by few meters. I have been told that these mosques are dated from the Ottomon Empire in Saudi Arabia and not at all related to the Prophet’s history. The fourth and last stop is Quba Mosque which is meant to be the first mosque in Islam.
Also, earlier during the day, I have visited the Prophet’s grave inside the Holy Mosque. It was such a unique experience to be there. People were happy to pay him a tribute with a prayer or with some tears towards him. It’s an emotional time for a lot of pilgrims, however, some are not organised and selfishly push each other to arrive closer but this only hurts old people and children. However it’s not the case of everyone like a man who’s attitude was so positive that his smile and face are now stuck in my mind forever, he made me realise that not everyone is selfish and that a smile is always a good way to cheer me up. I payed my tribute to the prophet and left to get some Holy Zamzam water.
The next stop is Maccah, where I will experience the whole ritual of pilgrimage. It is meant to be in few steps that I revised on Internet and heard advice on from people, but I will make it right hopefully. If not, I can do it as many times as I want until making it right. There is so much to write in here as Saudi Arabia is all new thing for me, Morocco is nothing like that as well as any other country I visited before. This feeling of being in a totally new place splits my trip between spirituality and adventure! Stay tuned!