The tale that I wish was not true

This place has been the center for spiritual pilgrimage for so long and I am here as well. Very thankful to Allah for giving this opportunity. The time is a bit pass 2pm. I am staying on for the Asr prayer. There is no point to go back and forth giving away your health to the unforgiving heat wave. I would like to tell you about last night.

We arrived from Madinah around 9pm. Getting into Mecca was not a problem. The traffic was okay but it built up as we went further towards al-Haram. By 9.30pm we reached our hotel. Well we went in for a shock. Not in my entire life that I came across this type of “hotel”. Maybe a few times I saw in the classic Arabic movie on Astro when I could not sleep. We went up in an old lift where you have to open the door like a refrigerator. And you could see the floors running down pass you as ascended to the upper floors. The door with a battered lock greeted us, like someone had a bad day needed a release and kicked the ass out of that door knob. There was a fridge, a closet, an air-cond that sound like a train engine, five beds with tattered linen that I think have not been washed since the days of pharaoh. That’s it and a modest WC. I guess it’s ok and can live with it. Around 10.30 pm we went down for supper. I mean down, really down into the dungeon like the one in that Merlin story. Is this our dining area? I just could not believe my eyes. There were a few tables surrounded by all sort of broken TVs, some old stuff and a few shirtless Bangla preparing food. It’s scary really. I walked to the table as if I did not see anything. I tried to pretend but come on how could I? If I saw one big ass rat passing by I’d be out of here. Luckily there was none. So I ate my supper with those shirtless Bangla still cooking and doing stuff in the kitchen. I hope they did not prepare this food for us. I was right thank God as there is a room down there where they are staying and they prepare their own food. I mean there are people living down here as well. I checked the place out and found about 20 pairs of slippers outside the door. Just could not believe myself. The food was okay—edible that is. Well I was hungry, anything seemed tasty. Those people are still there making the place their home. They are hairy and ugly and by then I have to stop eating. Excuse me but I have to puke. Is there a toilet here somewhere?? Yes everywhere, so you can puke just about anywhere down here in the dungeon. I really need to get my money back; this is major breach of consumer rights. They said “ penginapan sederhana di Mekah” (modest accommodation in Mecca) but this is nothing near to that, this is a rat hole!

So there you go my whining story about the place where we called home for about 6 days while staying in Mecca. I mean it was really bad but we have quite a large group and none of us complained. There was even a big corporate figure from Bank Islam in our group and he smiled all the time whenever the state of our living quarters came up during tea. I just feel that it isn’t fair. Whatever it is the things are done with and whoever got the big chunk out of our suffering and hardships has got away already. May Allah compliment our hardship accordingly. So if you are planning for an umrah trip in this near future consider my tips here :

1. Look for a direct flight to Jeddah or Madinah. And don’t underestimate the short transit period; it could turn out to be the longest trip of your life. The big hassle during the transit is not worth to be endured with. Save your energy for a good and healthy days in the holy cities. Expect to spend up to rm400 more on the ticket but believe me you would not mind.

2. Accommodation in Madinah is okay. So most operators will brag about how good their hotel is. Do not fall for this as most hotels in Madinah are good and near to the mosque. They are also easily available.

3. The accommodation in Mecca (as I have experienced above) makes a lot of difference. Go for the best deal on this one. The best of course the ones in the Zamzam Tower. But there are also some affordable ones around this area(as I found out later during my walkabouts after the prayers). But with the renovation going on in and around Masjidil Haraam the operator will use that as the excuse. Get the fact straight and shop around for the ones with the best accommodation. Reject right away if transportation is in the equation. Well we will take you there and bring you back to your hotel. Nope believe me things will get very chaotic when transportation is involved.

4. Other than that things are pretty much ordinary. I know that we go there for ibadah but one thing you could not resist is shopping. A lot of “heart throbbing” stuff with dirt cheap price tags. So bring a lot of money and go for it. (aaarrrghhhh I did not want to tell you that but then again you might know it already). Whatever you do; do not forget your intention to increase your iman and taqwa. Being there is already a big accomplishment so don’t worry about it.

5. In end it is ultimately the trip of your life and the money well spent. Enjoy it!.

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