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Farewell to Makkah

Non-Muslims are not allowed in the holy city of Makkah (Mecca). And photography or video making is discouraged.

So sadly, outside of Muslims, no one gets to experience the beauty of Makkah. I wish there was a way around it but I understand and respect Saudi’s attempt to keep the site holy and restricted to pilgrims for one purpose only.

But, no worries, I managed to make a video of people walking around Kaaba which is the black structure you see in the middle. It is the sacred site for Muslims. As part of your Umraah (mini version of the holy pilgrimage), you are supposed to walk around the Kaaba 7 times.

I shot these two videos around 4 am in the morning. The crowd you observe here is ’bout 9 times less then what you typically see during the normal hours of the day.

And this one is the fast-forward GIF version:

With these, I bring my Jeddah diaries to an end. I bid thee farewell!!! And hope (again) whoever desires to, may they embark on their own spiritual journey one day when the time is right and the soul is prepared.

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Medina

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi also called the Prophet’s Mosque is an absolute architectural marvel! In my travels to Europe, Middle East and Asia, I have not witnessed a structure as grand and beautiful as this! The minuscule details carved into stones and marbles throughout the mosque are breathtaking. The art speaks a thousand words. And only peace diffuses into the heart.

Photography is discouraged and in some places, strictly not allowed. Yet I couldn’t resist the urge to sneak out my iPhone to capture a few shots.

Unfortunately I barely covered the mosque indoors.

I didn’t want to be that tourist who has to walk the embarrassed path to security!

  

    

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Colors of Jeddah

Malls are abundant. Fashion is…well…shocking!

On the streets, women are covered in black “abayas“, head to toe.

But fashion displayed on mannequins reveals an unexposed Saudi woman.

My experience roaming in the malls reminded me of the scene from Sex and the City 2 when a group of Arab women offer Samantha a place to hide from the angry, screaming men on the streets. Hidden behind their abayas was couture heaven!

Malls are indeed couture heaven!

However, what you see here are pictures from our visit to a souq which is a name for any open-air marketplace.

                                  

        

And here’s a selfie of me and my sister after a full day of shopping…(me on the left, my sister on the right)

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Randomness continues in Jeddah

With only a few days in our schedule to venture out into the city and explore it’s “rawness”, I decided to click my camera as frequently as I could without a preordained thought. So I don’t miss any moment. Any memory.

These pictures were captured either roaming the city of Jeddah or en route to Makkah (Mecca) and Medina.

              

and last but certainly not the least, driving by, I caught a glimpse of Texas!!!!

Journey to Makkah (Mecca)

“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

Whoever quoted this must have visited the city of Makkah. 

The holy city received over 6 million visitors last year during Umraah (mini holy pilgrimage) season and close to 20 million visitors in the holy month of Ramadan (which lasts for 30 days).

Can you imagine finding spirituality amidst millions? I can’t! But you may. In your own way. In your own time. 

I don’t believe God intended for me to find a solitude retreat at Makkah. That I can find in the corner of my bedroom on a prayer rug. He wanted me to know amidst the inevitable chaos we call life, I hold the power to find and create my own peace. For God is Everywhere you need Him to be. 

Pour your heart out

On the journey there…

Gate into the City of Makkah

Quran Gateway

More than a million cars were parked in designated parking slots last year during the month of Ramadan (source)

The Clock Tower

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Masjid-Al-Haram

The City

Last year, the Makkah municipality received an average of 2,555 tons of waste mainly from the Haram and central Makkah region each day of the month of Ramadan (source)

The Holy Water

We stayed at Hotel Dar-al-Ghafran located in this tower – thumbs up!

Kaaba

and when the crowd takes over…

To Al Safa and Al Marwah

One last look…

These pictures were taken at the end of our Umraah. And Kaaba was photographed the day after a few hours before Fajr (dawn).

I hope any who wishes to, embarks on their own spiritual journey one day wherever it may take them and bring back with them a greater and renewed sense of responsibility to oneself and humanity. Spirituality is empty if it fails to teach you humility.

Day 2 – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

ok, I don’t wear a hijaab.

And I don’t take selfies.

I put on a hijaab (because you have to in Saudi)

Now all I wanna do is take selfies 😛

I survive on one bowl of Special K cereal + one hearty meal a day in Houston. If I eat more, I crash.

In Saudi, my stomach has magically transformed into a tank!

I can’t stop eating. And I can’t stop admiring the display of fashion in this city. No, not on real people. I mean on mannequins. But if it’s on a mannequin, it means someone desires it! I’m just trying to figure who? And where?

But first, here are a few shots of our late night drive down Corniche which is Jeddah’s version of Ocean Drive. Our flight arrived at 6 am. This drive took place around 11 pm. That’s because I was sleeping in between. Jet lag!

First stop, Pinkberry and Starbucks! I know, not very adventurous of us but be patient. We get better!

The sister (on left) standing with our gracious host, her mother-in-law:

The sister attempting to finish her pinkberry drink:

Rest sippin their Starbucks:

Stay tuned! Coming up – Food Porn and Fashion Diaries!!!