Jeddah King Abdul Aziz International Airport: Hajj Terminal
Last Friday, 21st December, was the last day of stoning of the jamrat in Mina for the Hajj pilgrims now in Makkah. With that, they will have completed most of the obligatory rituals. All that remains was for them to make the short 5 km trip to return to Makkah and perform the obligatory tawwaf and sae’i.
A short trip it may be. However, with three million pilgrims intent on getting back into Makkah almost at the same time, it is a huge challenge for the pilgrims, as well as, the Saudi Government officials who plan the logistics.
Just imagine thousands of buses ferrying three million passengers towards one point of destination within the space of a few hours. During this mass exodus, Makkah shall be choked full of traffic. A journey which would normally take not more than 15 minutes would now stretch to 3 or 4 hours, minimum, as the buses inch their way into the city.
Not surprisingly, many buses will fail to reach their final intended destinations in order to drop off passengers at their respective hotels.
What follows will be the sight of hundreds and thousands of pilgrims getting off their buses making the long trek to their hotels on foot. Each one will be lugging their bags behind them, forcing their tired limbs to the limit, mindful at the same time, that there is the obligatory tawaf and sae’i still to be performed.
Alas, once the tawaf and sae’i is completed, a huge sense of relief, joy and happiness breaks out.
The mood will now much more relaxed. Pilgrims congratulate each other with a huge smile and a sense of triumph reflected on their faces. They make jokes and tease each other as they call one another ‘hajji’ and ‘hajjah’, their new salutary, well-earned title.
But for those who had come to Makkah on the earlier flights, it is now time to start preparing for the trip back home.
And ‘preparation’ would include, of course, the customary last minute shopping. No doubt, the focus of the Hajj trip is to be close to God. However, spending and contributing to the economic and social well-being of the Makkah inhabitants is also said to be a sunnah. So, it would be a normal sight to see husbands and wives going out in pairs returning a few hours later, smiling sheepishly, with a handful of shopping begs in tow.
With just about everybody going on a shopping spree it was hard not to be infected by the shopping bug. Personally, I had to restrain the Mem Besar from over-spending. Alhamdulillah, she understood my reasoning - but, only just.
With the shopping over, suddenly a mixed feeling of happiness and sadness overcomes us.
Happy because we are now starting to think of our loved ones left in our homeland. The smiling faces of our children, parents, brothers and sisters even start to appear in our dreams as we sleep.
But yet, we will feel sad at having to leave this glorious city Makkah Al Mulkarramah, the blessed city, which has been our ‘home’ for the last one month. For the experience afforded by this sacred city – with virtues unparalleled by any other city on earth – is just overwhelming.
This is the place where our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW was born. Makkah is the city where the first house of worship for Allah, the Ka'abah, was built. The Masjidil Haram is Islam's most sacred mosque where prayers are rewarded 100,000 times more than prayers in other mosques. This is also where the Zam-Zam well and the Hajar Aswad are to be found. And the list goes on.
As one sits in the King Abdul Aziz International Airport, in Jeddah, waiting for the plane which will fly him or her back home, already he or she will have started to miss Makkah and Medinah the two holiest cities in Islam. Yes, the longing will already have started.
In fact, in a do'a recited by all pilgrims after performing the tawaf wida' (the final tawaf before a pilgrim leaves Makkah for home) he will have begged of ALlah in front of the Ka'abah:
"Oh ALlah, bring me back to the Baitullah, provide me with the sustenance to return to the Baitullah, and let not this day be my final day of appearance before the Baitullah".
As for me, even as we entered the Malaysian airspace, and as I looked down at the lights dotting the streets and the buildings in the far distant below, the fond and exceptional experiences in Makkah Al Mukarramah kept playing in my mind. I hope it will remain indelibly etched in my memories forever.
And may Allah give me the strength and the means to visit Makkah Al Mukarramah, again.