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san francisco 2014

One day I’m in the heart of Arabia, performing Hajj amidst more than two million Muslims, and a few days later I find myself walking up and down the hilly streets of San Francisco. I had two days between these trips to unpack and repack. Two days!

Masood is unwell so we’re just taking it slow today for him to recuperate and for me to update this blog. While we were quite healthy during Hajj, alhumdulillah, I began coughing twenty-four hours after we returned home. I have never had this sort of cough in my life: the kind that racked my body, kept me up all night, made me sound like a toad with pharyngitis, and felt like I’d cough out my lungs any minute. I insisted that we slept in separate rooms until I was no longer contagious but Masood thought it was a ridiculous idea and now, five days later, he sounds like a toad with pharyngitis.

hajj 2014 blog

Hajj has been quite a unique experience. Every person performing Hajj will tell you a different story. I had voraciously read other people’s experiences through their blogs or articles online and have mentally and physically prepared myself to face what seemed to be the most difficult and strenuous journey of my life. But by the Almighty’s Grace, I had the most comfortable and luxurious Hajj experience. In fact, towards the last couple of days, I pondered on the ease with which all the rituals were being performed and, for a second, wished for some sort of hardship to justify Hajj. They say almost all prayers are answered during Hajj; I can testify to that fact because the very next day I was almost crushed in a sea of people pushing and shoving, fainting and crying. Really, one should only wish for good things.

I still have a couple more weeks before we fly back home to Dubai. I am so excited to share with you all the details of Hajj but I need to be in the right state of mind and place to do that. So I’ll probably begin writing about it by end of October.

In the meantime, I am deriving immense pleasure from checking and comparing the weather every three hours. I’m glad we are able to escape the desert heat even for a few weeks.

weather report

Oh, and I’m still upset over the fact that my first view of the Golden Gate bridge has been obscured by thick fog.

golden gate bridge in fog

On a more positive note, we took a hop on/hop off bus (and sat on the top, of course) whilst crossing the bridge and it was like sailing amidst thick clouds. It was also incredibly windy and cold. Quite an experience, I should say.

Thank you to my friends and readers who have followed my updates on Facebook. You guys are the best and make me feel loved. To the bloggers that I admire and follow, I miss  reading you guys!

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hajj 2014

Click here for Hajj updates

In about fourteen hours, we are about to embark on a journey that is the most important one for every Muslim, insha’Allah.

We received our e-tickets only six hours ago and our passports three hours ago. I was so stressed out I couldn’t sit still in one place. You see, we have been planning to perform Hajj for almost two years now. We wanted to be in a position where we are financially secure because we want our parents to be with us on this trip.

It was a couple of months before Ramadan when we began actively seeking out travel agents.  Masood and I do not have the same nationality which means neither of us can travel from our respective countries together. Due to the huge number of people applying for Hajj, the Saudi government has allotted a certain number of visas per country, and being a national of that country is one of the requirements to be able to apply for Hajj. Fortunately, the United Arab Emirates have a few Hajj quotas for expats like us. However, Hajj from the UAE is extremely expensive. Most of the agents quoted AED 71,000 (or roughly $20,000) per person. But given that we do note really have a choice, we went and asked around extensively, made countless phone calls, and personally visited each and every Hajj agent in Sharjah and Dubai. By Allah’s Grace, we found one such agent who we could afford (still way above our budget but considerably less expensive that the rest) so we went ahead and applied.

The next bump in our road was that locals are prioritized, which is fair enough. So we had to hold our breath and wait for whether or not there were still visas remaining after the locals have applied. We had vaccinations done for meningitis (Saudi requirement), had  the mandatory blood test done, and submitted all the necessary documents right after Ramadan, but it wasn’t until today that we finally have our passports and tickets in our hands.

There was so much uncertainty until today. This is the reason why I haven’t announced the Hajj trip to anyone except for a very few family members. I’ve uttered too many ‘insha’Allah’ these past few weeks because I wasn’t sure whether we’d get the visa or not. It was only today that I made the official phone calls to friends and relatives. Allah has accepted us to perform Hajj, alhumdulillah.

My suitcases are packed and the house is clean (I always make sure the house is neat and tidy before I leave for a trip). Now that I am able to sit down in peace and look at the visa carefully, I am suddenly nervous. This will probably be the one and only Hajj experience that I’ll ever get in my life (Hajj is obligated just once in a person’s lifetime, whenever he or she is financially, physically and mentally able to) and I’m afraid I might mess it up. I am traveling as a guest of Allah and I wish to be more closer to my Creator during and after this journey and I want to return home as a better person.

hajj trip 2014

Several friends have requested that I blog about our Hajj experiences. That, and the fact that I regularly receive numerous emails on my Umrah posts is inspiring me to share my journey with you. While most of my time will be spent in prayer, reflections, and worship, insha’Allah, I’d also like to take a few moments to share photographs and updates with you whenever I could. There won’t be time to blog ‘live’ but I’ll try to post updates on the Facebook page.

Please pray that our Hajj goes smoothly, that we’re able to perform all the rituals as perfectly as we possibly could, and that we remain healthy throughout the trip. I have made a list of names of everyone I know (including my online friends and readers) so that I can make dua for you, insha’Allah. May Allah bless every Muslim with the gift of Hajj.

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