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Was I ready for Hajj?

I don’t want you to think hajj is only about the travel to and from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

But unfortunately, due to all the stress and worries, our heads were in a turmoil and I was worried that I would never be in the right frame of mind to make an accepted Hajj. But then, who can say what the right frame of mind is?

I didn’t want anything to spoil my Hajj, but there I was, haven’t even left Trinidad and Tobago yet, worried that my hajj might be spoiled by all the thoughts going on in my head. I was worried about why it took us so long to get visas. Who screwed up? Did anybody screw up? What about the other group that didn’t get visas? I was trying not to be annoyed with what I heard. I was trying to be *calm* and when upset make dua or pray..

In the years leading up to our trying to make Hajj (2006 when Chennette got sick, 2007 when our other siblings had babies), I never thought it would happen. I never thought I was ready for Hajj. I didn’t think I was worthy. I still didn’t think I was the perfect candidate but then…in our religion there are five pillars:

  1. Tawhid – belief in one God and submission to him
  2. Salaah – perform the 5 daily salawat
  3. Zakaah – give the annual charity, one-fortieth of the money you’ve had for a whole year
  4. Saum – fasting in the month of Ramadhan
  5. Hajj – make the pilglrimage to Makkah, if you can afford it

And, I could afford it. Barely I guess 😉
When I quit my job I made sure I had that money put aside (even though it seemed like a pipe dream) and didn’t touch it for anything.

And Alhamdulillah (All praise is due to Allah), I was finally making Hajj. My stomach shouldn’t’ve been in knots because of travel arrangements…yes it should’ve been in knots because of the great spritual/religious journey I was embarking on. I wanted it to change me for the better. I wanted to be a better person and a better muslim. And I was going to pray hard to change into that person.

Mostly, I wanted an accepted hajj. I know I’ve not been the best Muslim I can be and I know there have been lapses and I wanted forgiveness. Hajj gives you the opportunity for a clean slate (if accepted). But even if not accepted, I still decided it would be my turning point. There were many things I wanted (not just material!!!) and I also had to make up my mind to not be disappointed with whatever I received.

During all the worries about our visas and other groups not making it mom would announce at random, “It’s Allah’s house. When He’s ready for you to come, you will come.” Remember, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) was ready for her to come twice before. And so with dad. Chennette and I were embarking on our first hajj. The obligatory one. And no matter what people tell you about it, you know you’ll never be ready.

And on a side-note, I was very concerned about these infamous stooping toilets or sunnah toilets.


Especially considering certain surprises.

But don’t worry, I will have a post dedicated to that *luxury*.


On Leaving for Hajj

We left on Sunday morning with some trepidation as we had only collected our passports with visas the day before.

The preceding week was very stressful as there was still some doubt that our first group (we had been split into two as we were such a large group) would be able to make hajj. They left Trinidad on the Tuesday before us and since then had missed so many flights and there was some talk of having to pay change of date fees and rebooking fees.

Furthermore, during that week we didn’t hear much from the first group directly. There were many rumours floating around that they were “locked up” and “starving”. They left Trinidad without their passports as the visas had not been issued yet and were supposed to collect them Tuesday morning at Caracas with the visas (the Saudi Embassy is in Caracas) and then continue on with their connecting flights. Caribbean Airlines said they would take people with some sort of photo ID and Trinidad and Tobago immigration said if Caribbean Airlines would board our group then they have no problem letting them leave. I assumed Venezuela was okay with 40-odd passengers being in transit waiting for their passports.

Well our whole group didn’t get visas until Thursday and ours arrived in Trinidad on Friday. So the first group had not left before us as was the plan. But they weren’t locked up. They were staying in a hotel outside of the airport. This was rather stressful. A couple from our jamaat were part of the first group.

During that week we got many calls from many people saying, yes we got it!, yes we got it! (and we would wonder but didn’t you say we got it yesterday?). It got to the point I didn’t want to answer the phone anymore. One Hajj leader, a friend of dad, sent a message with his wife for us to not leave Trinidad without our passport and visa! Don’t!

In that week, we also heard that one group didn not get through at all. Can you imagine a group of 50 paid their money for everything and then their visas are refused?

You must be really careful in picking a group. People may not talk but somehow you should find out for sure whether your group leader is licensed or not. If you can’t find out, sometimes the students in Saudi Arabia might be able to find out for you…I don’t know how…they might be better able to listen to what people are saying. Also, you have to get previous hujaaj to tell you honestly about their experience. And just because it was good one year doesn’t mean the next year it will be so.

So, Sunday morning, we left. We had confirmed bookings. We had visas. The only thing that could stop us was immigration at any point. There was enough layover time at each stop (or so we thought anyway). We were just worried about our fellow hujaaj in the previous group. The hajj terminal in Jeddah closes on Tuesday midnight and our group was scheduled to arrive Monday. If you’re not in by Tueday midnight you’ve missed it. They won’t let you in to make hajj. We didn’t know what their flights were anymore. We heard they would take the same flight with us out of Caracas to Frankfurt and when we went on to Jeddah from there, they would go through Amman and arrive the day after us. Cutting it very closely, yes?

Leaving Piarco (Trinidad) was hard. Our neighbours carried the four of us up. And we were the first to check-in I thought. We were starting to wonder if we were *late* (was it even 4 am??) It’s sad when the whole family is going because there is nobody to wave you goodbye. But then, isn’t it sadder when you’re leaving someone behind because then you *are* waving someone goodbye? Either way ti felt strange.

Thankfully in the throngs that came to see off the last hajj group, friends and family did appear. One group came with samosas and such (pre-arranged) so we’d have some extra food/snacks for the trip. Relatives of the people from the first group came to see us off too, and talked dad’s ear off. Dad was even able to thank one of the persons responsible for our group actually getting our visas.

With all this stress, I decided not to take gravol (much needed medicine for flying…but it puts you to sleep). We would arrive in Caracas around 11 and not leave until 5pm…and I didn’t think it would be wise to be asleep and groggy throughout that stay. The stories we’ve heard!


A House for Mr Biswas

As we were leaving Makkah, en route to Madinah, we saw some “houses”. There were quite a lot of them in fact, unfinished, roofless, windowless, doorless, abandoned structures.

One of them, about two to three hours into the drive, had BISWAS written on the side, in capital letters! Unfortunately I have no photographic evidence (we were in a bus)!

If you’re interested, check wikipedia or

I know, I know, some of you Arabs/Arabic speakers (hmm do any read here?) will come and tell me what the actual significance of the phrase BISWAS is but for now…I prefer to imagine!

Originally posted here.


Hajj: Leaving in a few hours

There is so much I want to say.
There is so much going through my mind right now.

Five years ago when my elder sister made hajj, I was impressed. I never thought I would be ready.

Four years ago when they talked of us making hajj soon…I mentally scoffed (I didn’t think I was ready, neither did I think I was able).

Three years ago when we were planning to make hajj (when Chennette got ill), I didn’t think it would actually happen.

Two years ago, it still wasn’t concrete in my head and we only cancelled some time in October after Chennette’s convalescence.

One year ago…well we intended to make hajj but…we knew about these babies beforehand. You know, they give you about 8 or 9 months notice so we knew although we planned and my brother’s parents-in-law planned to go that we wouldn’t. That would be fun. We all make hajj while our family in Saudi Arabia come back here to empty houses. And my sister in Guyana.

This year, it was still rather…unbelievable but when I left my job last July, I made sure of one thing, that I had my hajj money set aside…waiting…for whenever it would be…waiting…

Well, Insha Allah we are leaving home in three hours to catch a flight in seven hours. We have three flights. We finally have our passports with visas and hopefully everything will go smoothly for us.

I am very excited.

We have Chennette’s sony camera phone, mom and I have motorolas with funky so-so cameras for “snaps” and … elder sister’s point and shoot camera! with only 1GB of storage…so we shall judiciously take pictures because we have no computer!

Don’t expect to see us online…maybe we’ll be able to say hi but who knows…internet cafes? My brother’s phone line is down so no internet…unless he gets it fixed.

We’ll be gone until the end of December…so a whole month!

I’m going to keep a written journal and try to transcribe it when I come home. Wish me luck.

The only sour note is that half our group left Tuesday morning for Caracas on the same flight plan as us and are still in Caracas. The visas were only issued Friday for all of us. And they’re hopefully flying out of Caracas on the same flight as us (hopefully I say because there seems to be penalties for flight changes and I am praying hard we all make it)! We will share our food/snacks/money with them and Insha Allah both halves will make it to Jeddah Hajj terminal on time and able to complete the rites of Hajj this year!

I wish us all who are making Hajj a Hajj Mabrur (I hope I got that right…it means simplistically an accepted Hajj).

I’ll miss you and if your comments go into moderation, I’ll check them when I come back. If you’re not spambots and it goes into the black hole I apologise.

Also published here, my blog!

See Chennette’s post on her blog!


I don’t want to know my blood pressure at the moment


More trials with regards to the visa.
Well latest word is that we got it and hopefully the group sojourning in Caracas will leave today (in two hours).

You should understand in the past couple days we’ve heard, they’re leaving Caracas tomorrow. Oops they didn’t get the visas. Oh they got the visas but not in time to catch their flight so tomorrow. But their luggage has left already. No, nobody got visas. Yes they got it finally we all got it.

So, we’re praying a lot and am waiting to have my passport with visa in my hand.

Insha Allah it will work out.

Mom says in the days of the prophet there was no air-conditioned hajj and buses and marble floors to make tawaf. We have to make our jihad somewhere if not in the actual hajj, in the travel to get there.


No Passports yet

Contrary to my last post, we didn’t get our passports at the hajj meeting today.

I wonder how the Saudi embassies operate in other regions.

Anywayz, not too many details right now, but it seemed there was a problem with the machine printing the passports and they all weren’t done. They should be done by tomorrow which means the group leaving on Tuesday won’t get them before they leave Trinidad on their way to Caracas. Their passports will be waiting in Caracas. I think our group leader has made arrangments so that they are able to travel without their passports to Caracas. Insha Allah that will work out.

Then the other helper (in Caracas waiting for our passports) will bring the rest and Insha Allah we will leave without a hitch on Sunday.

Insha Allah.

But what else did we get?
Our itinerary and ticket printout for the POS-CCS and CCS-POS legs (the Saudi-bound legs are with our passports).
We got two little name tags for hand luggage and two bigger tags for checked luggage.
We got ID cards to enter the tents during the days of hajj.
And the women got their scarves to wear over their hijab/clothes so that we can be easily recognized.

And the nice jamaah with an impressive dome (masjid in construction) treated us to lunch (I didn’t take pictures although I did take the camera…I was hungry: fry rice, stew chicken, green salad, veggies: pepper).

So let’s all pray that the first group goes off okay and so do we.

Word is that a group carded to leave today didn’t because of badly printed visas.


Hajj Visas and Passports

Every year, every group worries about getting their visas.

We’ve heard some groups didn’t get their passports back until the day of travel…in years past, visas actually stamped at the airport.

Once upon a time the embassy used to come through the region, or at least some of the Caribbean islands and set up posts and issue Hajj visas from there. Now everybody (or at least the group leader) has to go to the Caracas embassy.

And rules for giving out visas are even stricter. So many people want to go they have quotas. And they don’t let you go if you’ve gone within the last five years…(well obviously if you’re not one of the group leaders). And then, you never know, it’s up to their whim, you could just be denied!

Can you imagine the stress? After you’ve paid your money and all that and then to find out no visa. Boohoo.

Well, news just in…our hajj leader is coming back from Caracas tomorrow…and…I think everybody got their visas! Woohooo! Alhamdullillah.

One less worry (especially as we heard that a group that left yesterday Trinidad – Tobago – London – Amman/Jeddah didn’t leave Tobago; their London-bound flight had difficulties and thus…they overnighted there. Oh my!)

What that really tells you is as bad as it sounds that we’re going through Caracas, you never know. We can plan to the hilt but there are lots of things we have no control over. An airline could go kaput and we get stranded somewhere. So intentions are important. And mom’s oft repeated mantra, “Man plans but Allah is the best of planners”.

At least…we got our visas 🙂

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