My wife and I went to haj in 1998 .It was quite difficult to leave your kids under the care of friends and neighbors. We got the haj visa for two weeks only; so leaving them for such a short time would not be too much for everyone. We are very grateful to our fellow Malaysian students (mainly the girls) for their support and help. Even the Arab brothers chipped in to help in taking care of the kids. We left for Heathrow airport in the morning, catching the morning train to London. We travelled light with two bags;one for each of us. From Victoria Station we took an express train to the airport where we will meet with the others. Our group comprised of 10 couples and 3-4 singles. The haj trip that year was organised by a Malaysian group from Leeds. There were a couple of doctors in the group from HUKM doing their specialisation course ; so we were alright !.
The flight to Jeddah via Cairo was due to take off around 2.30 pm but was delayed until close to 4 pm. But later on we found ourself in the latest edition of Boeing 777; so it was quite okay. The flight was okay with good food and personal screen for watching videos or playing games. It took about 4 hours to reach Cairo.
In Cairo (L-R): Dr Ahmad(NPC), Me, Dr Ahmad Saat(UiTM), Dr Azlan (UiTM) , Dr Daud(UiTM)
We changed into ihram and get ourself ready for the journey of a lifetime to al haram asy syarif Makkah al mukarramah. The commuter flight from Cairo to Jeddah leaves every two hours. Ours was in the early morning and we reached Jeddah after an hour or so later. The immigration checks in Jeddah was so agonizing; not because of the thorough checking but due to slow and complicated process. We didn’t know Arabic and only a handful of the officers spoke English. I was shocked to see my bags being opened even when the lock is on. “Don’t worry, we’ll close it back”, said one officer; and he did. There was no single scratch whatsoever. I started to worry on the level of security in this country. We managed to pull it through and out by Fajr. The trip was arranged by us and no agency like Tabung haji or anything like that waiting to help in this land strange for many of us. While the group leader trying to negotiate for a bus to Makkah we could have a bit of rest and finished our morning prayers. Around mid morning, we were on the way to the holy city. A brief stop at one place (can’t remember the name) ,we were given a bottle of zam zam.
The journey to Makkah took about 2 hours and we reached Baitul Haram by Zohr. The bus took us straight to the mosque, but we could not get off because the regulations say that the driver has to hand us over to a local host (sheikh) together with our passport. We had made an arrangement with a Malaysian living there to be our host; only if we could find his place somewhere around here. The place was called al-Misfalah. It took the driver about three hours to find it. Pak Cik Abdul Rahman has lived in Makkah for more than 50 years; he is from Kelantan and married to one of Tok Kenali’s daughters (Mak Cik Yam, as we came to know her). We were going to rent his madrasah during our stay there. Al-Misfalah is largely populated by Kelantanese and Patani folks; it’s more like my kampung rather than Makkah. PakCik had about 20 khadam (mostly Bangla) and Makcik had her own personal khadam (4 of them which mainly from Indonesia); so I think he’s doing quite well. The house was a 7-storey building which during that time only four levels were ready to be occupied. Each floor was elegantly decorated and filled with luxurious furnitures. We settled ourself in the madrasah and got ready for tawaf qudum (tawaf selamat datang). We would do that after the Isya’ prayers ……
Next : The Kaabah