It’s been a year now. A year since I visited the House of the Divine. A year since I gave my salaams to my beloved Prophet (saws). A lot has changed in that year, change while on umrah, and change after coming home. But one thing remains the same - I want to go back.
I just hope that when I go back, space for women will improve.
See the red circle in the top picture? That’s where women are “allowed” to pray in the Haram courtyard. There is ample other space, interspersed amongst the columns, but if you want an unobstructed view of the Kaba in your salat as a woman, there is literally one place to get it. See picture 3. That’s my view shortly after dhur one day. I sat for hours in the hot desert sun to get this location - a space in the women’s section in the courtyard. Except my view didn’t stay unobstructed for long - as the time for ‘asr grew nearer, the religious guides went around the rest of the courtyard, herding every woman they could find into this small enclosure. So by the time we rose to pray, 5 women were occupying the place one could reasonably hope to pray in. So many things I could say about these guides, but I won’t…
I spent a lot of time after I came home from umrah angry. Heck, I’m still angry. But I don’t let that anger impact my faith, and I hope that I can channel it towards positive change. inshaAllah.
(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has approved a 62 billion riyal plan to modernise the transport system in its holy city of Mecca, including building a bus network and metro system, state news agency SPA said on Tuesday.
More than 6 million visitors from across the world visit Mecca every year for the Haj and Omra pilgrimages. The influx has strained the narrow roads and outdated transport system.
Four metro lines of a total length of 182 km (114 miles) will be built across the city, with 88 stations, SPA reported.
Construction for the transport project will be carried out over about 10 years, the report said, without giving details of when it would start or how companies would bid for contracts.
While this makes me happy (it can take a bus hours to get in close to the hotels near the haram even in non hajj times), I wonder if $16 billion is enough. The light rail line currently under construction in Saint Paul is closing on a billion dollars, and you need something a lot more robust than that in Mecca.
I did my farewell tawaf in a wheelchair, on the second level of the masjid. On the way out, the Yemeni guy pushing me decided it would be funny to take a running start, hop on the back of the chair and fly down that ramp. I was not amused.
You see that clock and those skyscrapers in the background? Some people say that the Saudi govt. should not have allowed their construction because of their extravagance that could distract the worshipers and may diminish the grandeur of Haram. But I disagree. All those tall buildings, they actually give you a comparison that all the money in the world put into construction could never match the magnificence and grandiosity of Allah’s (SWT) house.
And from a practical standpoint, every pilgrim wants to be as close to the Haram as they can. As the numbers of hajjis continues to rise, the only way this will happen is if taller and larger buildings are built as close as possible.
I stayed in the slightly smaller building slightly to the left of the center. It was such an incredible blessing to leave my room and be in front of the kaba in 7 minutes. So many people who go to Makkah are old and have a difficult time getting around. Trying to navigate the horrible traffic to walk even half a mile to the Haram is dangerous. Being able to house more pilgrims closer to the kaba will be a boon to everyone.
In general, I’m critical of the Saudis’ destruction of our sacred history, but in this case, I can see this as a practical move.
And, from personal experience, once you’re there, you only have eyes for the house of Allah (swt).