Our days in the Holy Lands were coming to an end, and the emotions were high. We woke up at 3:30am to go to the Haram for our Fajr Prayers. Quietly, Asif and I walked to the Haram. Tomorrow, we would not be here, not so close to the House of God.
We prayed on the 1st floor instead of going to the rooftop, as we wanted to get as close to the Ka’ba as we could after Fajr in order to perform Tawaf Al-Wida, the Tawaf of Farewell.
After Fajr, we made our way down and inched as closely as we could to the Holy Ka’ba. Our hearts were heavy, and for some unknown reason, the tensions in the crowd were also high. This was the hardest and most challenging Tawaf, with people losing patience and pushing their way through; more so than every before. But it was also the best Tawaf that I had performed. It tested our patience when we were shoved, and also during the times when men told my husband that I was too close to the Ka’ba as I was a woman. Every single time, I turned towards the blessed House and felt a calmness amidst the chaos. It was indeed the most memorable Tawaf of our whole trip.
After performing the Tawaf and the 2 Rak’ah for Tawaf, we made our way back to the hotel to have breakfast and then to sleep for a little while. At around 11:35am, I woke up, as Dhuhr time was near. The Haram had consistently been crowded since the afternoon of the day before (Friday). I prayed in the ladies lounge and at 1:00pm, Asif and I made our way back to the Haram. We wanted to make the most of our final afternoon at Masjid al-Haram.
On the ground floor, we sat in front of the Ka’ba and my mind wandered back to the time when I had imagined a completely different picture of how I thought Makkah would be. I compared that to what I was seeing now. I reminisced back to Madinah, and then to the first time I saw the Holy Ka’ba. Soon, we were moved further back as the diameter for Tawaf extended. There was no space to sit on the ground floor and if we weren’t a part of the Tawaf, we were instructed to move very far back under the covered area or upstairs. We headed up and found a space on the first floor with a perfect view of the Holy Ka’ba.
Asif and I sat until around 2:30pm before heading out of the Haram. We went and ate Pizza for lunch in ZamZam Towers, which was quite a novelty since we had not eaten at any restaurant outside of our hotel since day 1 of our journey. At 3:00pm we went back to our hotel to double check that we had not missed anything in our packing. Our scheduled time for departure was 4:00pm but we had been warned that it was tentative and it could very well be delayed.
Our bags were ready. I made my way to Room 306; where the UK girls were hanging out. At 4:00pm, a few of us came down to say goodbye to the US group as their buses had arrived. Our buses had been delayed, and we were told to go back to our rooms and wait for the announcement over the intercom.
Everybody had mixed feelings. We talked about how heavy our hearts felt being the last day, and what we loved most about this spiritual journey. Whilst talking, Ola and Sabira set up shop and began threading eyebrows for everybody; an early Eid gift as it would be Eid-e-Ghadir a few days after we arrived in London.
The time for Maghribain prayers set in at 6:40pm and as we prayed Salah, an announcement was made over the intercom for us to make our way down and board the buses. By 7:15pm, all UK Hujjaj, were on the bus. It was a manageable crowd as we were the last 30 people in Makkah from our group. Everybody else was well on their way home.
It was when I sat in my seat on the bus and stared back at the clock tower, that I felt an overwhelming urge to cry. I couldn’t stop the tears as we drove further and further away from Masjid al-Haram. The only question I kept asking myself in my mind was ‘Will I ever come back?’ I don’t remember how far into the journey we were, before I managed to doze off.
I vaguely remember food boxes being distributed at a checkpoint and at 10:30pm I woke up, just in time to hear the announcement that we had arrived at Jeddah airport.
We came down from the bus and were directed to a mosque that had no roof. It was absolutely beautiful but extremely hot. Our passports were with our group leaders who were ensuring all government procedures were correctly carried out.
We ate, we slept, we laughed, and we even walked around to see what more there was to the ‘Hajj Terminal’. Everybody was just overtired. It was either ‘Take us back to the Ka’ba’ or ‘Can’t wait to get home’. We still had no real concept of routine and timing as we had been sleeping at odd hours over the course of the journey, so at 12:30am, we were all sitting around and eating chips (fries)!
Around 1:00am, a few of the volunteers directed us to where we could purchase ZamZam Water. For 8 Riyals, each individual was allowed one 5-litre bottle. The queue was endless, but women were immediately sent to the front. Oh the perks! If only we had been prioritized like this in the Holy Mosques!
1:30am and we were summoned to make our way to check-in. From one long line to another, we passed security and were finally in the departure lounge.
Our flight that was scheduled to depart at 5:10am from Jeddah airport ended up departing at 5:50am, leaving us with barely enough time to go from one gate to another in Cairo. Alhamdulillah, we landed in London, England, safely at 1:45pm, where we were greeted by family and friends.
We were excited to see our parents and family, but an empty feeling left us craving to return back to Makkah. Our family members were beaming with joy and welcomed us home.
Truly, our true spiritual journey had only now just begun.
Welcome home Hujjaj of 1437/2016.