Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Barakah Madinah - Madinah Al Munawarah, Saudi Arabia

We arrived in Jeddah at about Maghrib and we were heading to the holy city of Madinah. There are about 40 of us and the group  encompasses adults of all ages. Though I prayed for easy and facilitated journey, never do I expect one with no hiccups at all. I imagined, a spiritual pilgrimage is like a plate of food embellish with the mix of spice and a splash of tastes. This is my second visit to Madinah, the city of the prophet and I really can't wait the excitement and warmth of the ambience.  The people of Madinah is well known for their warm, kind and gentle characters.  After a long commotion in Jeddah when the passports of a couple in our group were taken by a stranger, we finally got onto our bus to Madinah. 

Feeling comfortable, I recollect my memories more than ten years ago, when I was in this blessed city.  I still remember while rambling alone in the souk, the shop keepers would call me to give dates and nuts. Fearing and remembering not to take any gifts from strangers I shook my head with hesitant.  The shopkeeper kept calling me "Siti Rahmah" and waving his hand rigorously towards me but realizing that I was seriously refusing his gift, he shouted "Barakah Madinah...barakah Madinah" and automatically I walked towards him, extending both my hands for him to drop the nuts and dates. He was smiling cheerfully and saying some words in Arabic. Who would in their sane state of mind to refuse the barakah of Madinah (the blessings of Madinah). Those are among the memories of Madinah I cherish forever.  

In the darkness of night, suddenly I was awoken by the heat wave in the bus and I realized we were in the middle of no where and our bus had broken down. Everybody got off the bus and we were told that a new bus will be coming in a few hours. We walked around and found a small mosque not far from the place and alhamdulilah we could pray, stretch our feet, and nap while waiting for the replacement bus. After about three hours the new bus came and again we were heading to Madinah.

We arrived Madinah in the early morning and amazingly, Madinah has changed so much since the last time I was here...huge hotels filled the city and we were lucky to be housed in Bahaudin Hotel, about 50 meters from the mosque's gate. Not only the city has changed tremendously but the souks not far from the mosque has disappeared and now the rows of shops are neatly organized in the buildings.   

The next four days we were busy moving from the hotel to the mosque.  The first day,I entered the prophet's mosque, my heart was throbbing, will I be granted the honor to enter the Raudah. The waiting was intense as the path to Raudah was opened to the public. Things can be easy or difficult depending what is destined for you but putting your best effort to enter this sacred place remains the wish of everyone who visits Madinah.  My teacher used to say "walk consciously and watch every steps you take in Madinah as you are walking in the footsteps of the prophet." Remembering those words, my feelings are overwhelmed with tears and joys!  Ya Nabi salam alaika...

Friday, January 3, 2014

Tea in Sahara - Erg Chebbi, Morocco

Morning tea served in the middle of the desert with goats' dung around the table :)
It was such a memorable place to have tea - the desert! In the middle of the desert, we were served the herbal Berber tea.  Ali invited us to have a sip of this magical drink and he told us the flavor of the tea can be altered by pouring it at different heights. We looked at one another and I sensed that it must be the way the tea was presented - on a little table lined with scruffy table cloth with goats' dung all over the place. I spoke in my language to the girls, "Let's have a drink and don't offend our sincere host." I picked few strands of grass or maybe herbs from my tea and quickly gulp it down my throat and not to think of anything.  
The water for our tea comes from this well in the middle of the desert

Last night when we arrived at the camp, we were served the same tea under a canvas of stars in the sky and the dim light of the candles, and no one complained but today in the broad day light, they started to see the tea differently. 

Ali invited us to the well of fortune which has provided him and his guests the supply of water. The small well is well covered with a kilim to keep it safe from the sand. Anyway, the sweet Berber herbal tea will boost our energy before we start riding our camels through the desert.   
Beber tea