Sunday, May 19, 2013

Umrah 2.0

I have not been keeping my word about updating my blog after our umrah trip recently and I'm truly sorry. A lot of things happened that kept me from blogging (yeah, excuses, excuses..). Firstly, we were stranded in Makkah for 3 days (I'll tell you about it later). Then, I caught a bad cough which lasted quite a while. After that it was 2 weeks of General Election fever (no..I wasn't a one has to do one's part in an important way-of-life-affecting event that comes only every 4 or 5 years). After the GE I went to Adelaide and Melbourne for about a week to see the children and grandchildren (and the hubby to stock up on his Corelle..). We got back about 2 days ago and I'm still upto my eyeballs with dirty laundry (we have a tiny washing machine which is just waiting to breathe its last..).
Well, anyway this entry is about our second umrah which experience was rather different than the first. This time around we came in a group of 13 altogether. Since our umrah last year the hubby had wanted to bring his mother and elder brother (who sits in a wheelchair due to a stroke some years ago) to perform the ritual or ibadah. There were also our daughter, my brother-in-law's wife and son, the mother-in-law's sister-in-law with her three children. One of the children brought along her own mother-in-law and a brother-in-law along (gosh, didn't realize so many in-laws involved..). On the night of our flight, so many people came to send us off (sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews and aunt's daughter-in-laws etc..the whole extended family; the usual crowd sending family members going for umrah). I can't help but remember the umrah we went to last year where not a single person sent us off...a break from tradition...
Well, our first leg of the journey was to Colombo on MAS (Air Asia had scrapped their flights to Colombo) arriving night-time. We spent the night at the Transit Hotel at Bandaranaike International Airport. We were supposed to board Saudi Arabian for our next part of the journey but there were some trouble with the tickets which were supposed to be upgraded and the hubby didn't realized until too late... So we were stranded in Sri Lanka for like 36 hours until the hubby fixed the problem. (SubhanAllah, we had help and assistance from kind strangers in a foreign country...) In the meantime, we left the airport and stayed at a hotel a few kilometers away for the night. It wasn't planned but somehow we managed to enjoy our stay (because I was secretly disappointed at first that we weren't able to step out of the Allah has granted my wish then). The next day, 28th March we continued our journey on board a 'Sri Lankan' to Jeddah. From Jeddah the hubby had booked 2 vans (which were actually too cramped for the 13 of us and our luggage..) for the trip to Medinah. It was nearly midnight when we started the 4-hour drive and it was quite eventful to say the least... First we encountered a burning vehicle along the road (which caused us some anxiety on top of the stress of observing Arab-style driving...) and then one of the vans blew a tyre and after changing into the spare (which was too small for the van), we went from one garage to another to get another tyre and I had actually dozed off when they finally got one..
The hotel in Medinah was very comfortable (Al-Ishraq) and came with complimentary breakfasts. We didn't get to stay very long in Medinah as we had spent time in Sri Lanka. This time the hubby brought some of us to visit the hills of Uhud and the burial place of the martyrs. And that was when I lost my camera...(yes, the camera that we won at the lucky draw at PERMINT's Family Day.. *sigh*) so most of the pictures below were from other people's camera (thanks guys) and from my phone and ipad.
From Medinah we travelled by bus to Makkah except for the hubby, his mom, brother and sister-in-law; they went on a taxi (due to wheelchair accessibility). As usual, stopped at Bir Ali to cleanse and prepare for the umrah ritual (and the men to don on their ihram cloth). In Makkah we checked in at the Swisshotel which was as comfortable as the hotel in Medinah. The hotel was also very near Masjidil-Haram so the elderly and wheel-chair bound people in our group didn't have to travel far to go to the mosque... While in Makkah we also managed to visit the places that people go to for their Hajj and also the Jabal Rahmah. 
After about 5 days in Makkah we were then ready to go to Jeddah to catch our flight home. However on reaching the Hajj Terminal we were told that our flight was delayed. We even had to sleep on the floor of the prayer area for the night hoping for a flight the next day. But was not to be... We were told that flight would be delayed for 3 days and we had to go back to Makkah...all expenses paid (hotel rooms and food 3 times a day ) by the airline (yeay...alhamdulillah!) So off we tripped back to Makkah, though the hotel that we stayed next was quite a way from the mosque and not as luxurious (but hey, who's complaining...). So, alhamdulillah, praise be to Allah, we got to spend more time in Makkah (and got to perform the Tawaf Wida' twice..) and that's the story of how we gave thanks to Allah for being stranded in Makkah... Here are pics from our travels:
The daughter and her aunts (hubby's cousins) in Bandaranaike
 International Airport

And what do you drink in Sri Lanka? Ceylon tea of course..

Happy ladies stranded in Sri Lanka..

The 'tuk-tuk' of Sri Lanka

The plane taking us to Jeddah..

Group picture outside the Prophet's Mosque in Medinah

Outside the Quba Mosque near Medinah

The Kaabah and the sights of the on-going renovations..

Now, this is something that you shouldn't do at the Kaabah..

The cleaning guys...God forbids if you get in their way..

Hubby and daughter buying dates in Makkah

The hotel where we stayed in Makkah

The hotel where we stayed in Medinah

Very comfy indeed alhamdulillah..

Enjoying breakfast in hotel - really good food, masyaAllah

People praying in the mall outside the Masjidil-Haram..

The girls were always happy in spite of being stranded at the Hajj

This is the view from the Swissotel (we were on the 36th
 floor-feeling sorry for the people below having to walk
 some distance to the mosque..)

And this is the view of the Swissotel from when we had to
walk (looking up and feeling sorry for ourselves for having to
walk so far to the mosque..haha..actually we would be rewarded
 more for walking further, insyaAllah..) from our other hotel
 during the last 3 days in Makkah..

People praying on the side-walk in Makkah..

I couldn't resist posting this delightful picture of a cute baby
 I snapped (with my phone) outside the Masjidil -Haram

Okay...home at last..alhamdulillah

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