My first visit to Makkah (Mecca), from Riyadh by saptco bus
By: Shahida Sarwat Fozail
The article was written by Shahida Sarwat in June 1997 for "The Desert Times" a newsletter which I published for our friends' circle called Desert Friends in Riyadh. I will be putting up some more article from the newsletter that was in private circulation during 1997 to 1998.
Shahida Sarwat is my dear Bhabhi, wife of my friend Syed Fozail. They now live in Malaysia, along with their two sons.
When I reached Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to join my husband Fozail, my heartiest desire was to perform Umrah. The first thing in my mind was to visit the holy city of Mecca. By the grace of God, just after two months after my arrival here, I went for my first Umrah. That lucky day came in the Holy month of Ramadan.
Travelling from Riyadh to Mecca
On 21st Ramadan we (me and Fozail) left for Mecca by Saudi Public Transport Co. (SAPTCO) bus. (SAPTCO provide public transport across Saudi Arabia and some parts of neighboring countries.) We boarded the bus at about 4:30 pm.I was feeling very excited and continuously asking many questions to Fozail about Umrah as he had already performed one before.After about 15 minutes the bus started, the bus was not very comfortable, but not bad either.After about an hour later, there was an announcement in the bus regarding Maghrib prayer time and asking all the passengers to have our Iftaar and break the fast.As we were travelling, couldn’t hear Maghrib Azaan, the timing to break the fast was announced by the guide on the bus.The bus authorities had provided Iftaar in a box (some food items to eat as our Iftaar).
After travelling for some more time, the bus stopped at a refreshment point.There are several refreshment points on the highway between Riyadh, Jeddah and Mecca. A typical refreshment point will have some eateries, washrooms, gasoline service station and a mosque.We got down from the bus and offered our Maghrib prayers (evening prayers) and had some food. After spending about half an hour there, the bus resumed its journey towards Mecca.
After travelling 3 hours non-stop, the bus stopped again.This time for some more refreshment and Isha prayers (night prayers)!We had our dinner and performed Isha prayers.The bus halted for more than one and half hour before it started its journey again.
We reached the Meqaat (place for assuming ihram) at about 4 a.m.Meqaat area is divided into two large block - one each male and female.There were countless bathrooms and wash area in both the blocks.Here we take a bath and put on our Ihrams.Fozail told me that after getting ready with Ihram, I should wait for him outside the men’s block near a tree.So I was waiting for him but even after more than half an hour, he did not turn up.I was getting worried.I got confused and thought he might have forgotten the designated place and searching me somewhere else.I began to panic and was about to cry.Suddenly I saw him briskly walking towards me.Actually, there was the heavy rush in the men’s block and that’s why came late.
We offered two rakhat nafil prayers and proceeded toward the bus.There we came to know that all the passengers had already reached there.We were the only couple who came late... and it was very embarrassing in front of all the co-passengers.The bus began its last leg of the journey toward the holy city of Mecca.We reached our hotel at early morning as dawn was breaking.The movement, we entered our room, we entered our room, the sound of Fajr Azaan echoed... Allahu Akbar... from the centre of the Haram!
We missed our Sehri (eating something before dawn for the purpose of fast) that day.
I wanted to take some rest because I was very tired.But Fozail told me that we should proceed to Masjid-ul-Haram. From the hotel, it was just 10 minutes walk.We entered the Haram, and as soon as I saw the holy Khan-e-Kaaba, I quite forgot that only a short while ago I had been terribly tired.
Al Haram, Makkah Al Mukarramah
the holy Mosque in Mecca
Zam Zam - The Holy Water
My heart filled with such feeling that words cannot describe it and I couldn’t control my tears.It looks so magnificent; the area around it was so neat and clean, that one cannot imagine it.While I was doing the Tawaaf I saw an African woman who as unable to walk, but sill doing the Tawaaf on her knees, without taking anybody’s help.This shows the intensity of her love for God.
After completing our Tawaaf we went to wash our face and hand with the Holy Water – Zam Zam.The water was very cold that made me feel fresh and rejuvenated.Later we proceeded to do our Saaee i.e. walking between Safa and Marwa seven times.And then we got our hair trimmed off.Thus I completing my first Umrah.
Then we went to a terrace and from there it looked so nice that all the people circumambulation around the Kaaba in a peaceful manner.It shows that unity among the Muslims.We stayed one night there. Actually, I don’t want to come back from the holy place, but I was helpless.I had to come back.So by the Grace of God, we returned to our home in Riyadh after performing the Umrah, but I will not forget the each and every moment of those 2 days.