The Return Journey

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4 years since the last. 3 weeks since the last, again. Yet the heart has been longing to see them again and again.

It was unplanned, at least for me. I had other holiday plans in mind since a year and a half ago, an autumn or winter holiday. When the older brother mentioned about this, I couldn’t say “Nay, I’ve made plans” although a little voice in my heart said, “I have  a long travel list you know.”  How selfish.

I thought about my mum’s yearning to be there again, “before it is time” she said. My nieces’ would be first experience. Life’s uncertain twists and turns of our health and other rizq. I’m glad I did make that trip.

It was emotionally different. The strong determination in one of my aunts to do what she had intended to do (for example, the hike up to Gua Hira’), the yearning in my mother’s eyes, the unspoken du’a seen on my uncle’s face, surprisingly deep thoughts and reflections by my 11-year old niece and of course, the self inner desires for this life and the hereafter.

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Every umrah experience is different, I’ve heard. And oh so how true it is. One thing for sure, I wasn’t as strong as 5 years ago!

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It’s sad that we can no longer take a peek of the Kaabah through the entrance of the mosque. One good change: they seem to finally successfully segregate praying areas for men and women.  Like what everyone would say, I miss the serenity I found in myself, amidst the chaos.  Perfect weather, a first for me in Makkah. Highest was 27 degrees celcius but the wind, masyaAllah!

Tawaf wida’, the last tawaf. I didn’t expect bidding goodbye was going to be this tough. I could maintain my composure in the previous trip. That last time, after sunnah prayers and supplications, I stared at the kaabah for a long time and stood up to leave.

But in this recent trip, I kept turning back countless times to steal glances of the majestic kaabah as I walked away from it. It was hard, terribly heart-wrenching.  Even my 11-yr old niece, Cinta, said, “I think I will miss this place” and admitted she cried a bit.

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Madinah

It’s strange how, especially during Subuh prayers, you just “zoned out” and find yourself being “alone” with the Imam, and this warm feeling to know that beloved Rasulullah is near. That everything would be ok as Rasulullah is there.  Nothing more magical than this feeling.

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Chasing the purple-orange painted sky in Madinah. That was my routine after every Fajr prayers in Madinah. It was the same sky that I fell in love with more than 4 years ago and determined to see it again (and again). Staring at it gives me renewed hope.

During one of the Subuh prayers, as always mum and I waited for majority of the jamaah to leave the mosque. While waiting, I saw a young Turkish woman. I commented to mum “Look at her red scarf mak! It’s so pretty. Especially the tiny crocheted flowers at the border.” A unique scarf. But well, Turkish women are pretty and would look great in anything.

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In Haramain, most of us would stay from Asar to Isyak in the mosque.  Especially in Madinah, since our hotel is quite a walk to the female praying area. The same “strategy” applies after Isyak – wait for crowd to subside. We headed to the female exit. Mum as always was clinging on to me from the back. As we walked, someone tapped me on my right shoulder. I thought it was mum or someone I knew.

I turned to see an old Turkish grandma. She signalled for me to wait. She was holding a white plastic bag and rummaged through the bag, searching for something. I was wondering what it was “slippers?” as I could only see white.

Processed with VSCOcamShe took something red from the bag, and handed to me eagerly, with the widest, sincerest smile ever. I looked in my hand, and was surprised to see the red scarf with crocheted flowers! Still in shock, rubbing her shoulders, I said “MasyaAllah, syukran!! Ya Allah!”

Poor her cos within a split second, other jemaah rushed to her for the scarves! I guess it’s just not our culture to ask for something if someone doesn’t give you.

Mum was equally in awe of what just happened! I’ve been surprised with gifts of dates, biscuits and tasbih beads. I couldn’t sleep that night thinking of that incident. It’s just a scarf. And it wasn’t something that I badly wanted. It wasn’t the scarf really. It was more of the in-my-face reminder that Allah is All-Knowing and seeing every single thing.

In fact, HE is there, always been there.

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*Photos shot on Samsung S4. 

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