Saturday, March 31, 2007

the other day i remembered a conversation i had with an old English lady that always manages to bring out a laugh from me, so i thought i would share it.

i was walking towards the mosque in town when i stumbled across a shop that seemed to be selling interesting items, i couldn't resist, i guess my shopping gene kicked in at that moment and the cells in my brain called out to my legs to walk and take me to the shop.

i walk in and the radio is playing really loud, some thing from the 80s, i was the only one in the shop apart from an elderly lady sat behind the counter, she looks up at me, smiles and shouts 'HELLO'.

to which i smile back, nod and reply 'hello'.

i start to walk around the shop, picking things up and generally being inquisitive, i felt some one was behind me so i turned around and low and behold the elderly lady is stood directly behind me with a smile on her face, i nearly dropped what i was holding.

she then takes her finger, points at me ands says in that manner that people have when talking to some one whom they think will not understand them 'ARE YOU OK? DO YOU NEED ANY HELP?'

whilst moving her arms every where and breaking up the words to an extant that there was a 5 minute interval per word.

i seriously stood their for a couple of minutes just looking at her, i was in fascination of the way her mouth moved it was like watching something in slow motion.

she thought i hadn't understood so she was about to say the same thing but even louder, when i interrupted her and said:

'I'm alright darling, thanks for asking, if i need your help i will be sure to call you my love'

in a really strong mancunian accent, hee hee hee.

she was surprised and it was so obvious in her facial expression, the mouth open, jaw slack, eyes glazing over, she then shook herself out of the trance, smiled and said 'ok then love, give me a shout if you need me'.

so i went back to looking around the shop at the same time listening to the radio as the news was being broad casted and at that time the hottest topic was the lockerbie trial, the radio was really loud so you couldn't help but listen to what the news presenter was saying.

i noticed that the lady was asking me questions, so i looked towards her and said : sorry i didn't catch what you said'

lady: ' yes luv, i was asking where you are from (she was still talking in slow motion but not as loud'

me:'well i am from a little village called Manchester'

lady: 'theres another place called Manchester'(obviously sarcasm was not her strongest quality)

me: ' no, i mean I'm also from Manchester like yourself'

lady: 'oh i see, but where did you come from'

me: (ok think about this white african, do you really want to say Libya and scare her, obviously she has been listening to the radio, and all this talk of Libya is going to cause a reaction, well dearest readers i decided that i would tell her that i, white african, am from Libya) well i am from Libya....

lady: 'Libya? Libya? Libya? ummmmmmm never heard of it lovey to be honest'


me: '!!!!!!!! you sure, you have never heard of Libya being mentioned ever in this shop (the radio presenter had just said the word Libya)

lady: 'no luv, your the first'

me: (smacks head repeatedly)

lady: 'is it hot in Libya?'

me: 'we have flying polar bears, only joking, it can get really hot, its situated in the north of Africa'

lady: 'oh nice'

me: so have you ever been to north africa?'

lady: 'no love, never been to africa, doubt i ever will'

me: well have you ever travelled outside of Britain?'

lady: ' oh yes love, 10 years ago i went for a lovely holiday in Tunisia'


me: 'Tunisia is in the north of Africa'

lady: 'no luv, I'm sure i would have noticed if i was in Africa, i would have been surrounded by black people' (no comment, just shoot me in the foot or i will bang my head in frustration)

me: 'but it is in Africa, really, if i had a map i would show you'(not that it would make a difference)

lady:'no love, it's in Europe I'm quite sure of that'

me: ' well if your sure then that's a different matter, i should visit Tunisia of Europe, sounds like a fun place'

lady: 'oh it was lovely what with all those palm trees'

and that was what i remembered the other day, i swear i laughed so hard that day that tears where running down my cheek by the time i left the shop, unbelievable....

Thursday, March 29, 2007

the other day my mother came home from work looking really annoyed, she came into the kitchen muttering something and sighing now and then.

i was observing her for a few minutes thinking to myself 'she must have had a really bad time at work'.

so i went up to her and asked 'mama, you ok? whats wrong' in a really ''i care about you'' type of voice.

she replies: ' (sighs) I'm annoyed'

me: 'why? whats happened?'

mama: 'well, one of the teachers at lunch, sat down and came out with toast'

at this point i started thinking i wonder where this is going, i had the urge to laugh but chose not to.

me: 'toast?'

mama: 'yep toast, which is fine, but what really got to me was that she takes out this container full of couscous and piles the couscous on top of the toast then takes another toast and puts it on top of the couscous, she made a couscous sandwich!!!'

me: 'loooooooooooooool, that's why your annoyed?'

mama: white african, have you ever heard of a couscous sandwich?'

me: to be honest no'

mama: 'exactly, why do people take a perfectly good dish and abuse it by making it into a sandwich?????'

me: 'did you say anything?'

mama: 'yes, of course, i told her how offensive it was to my national dish'

me: 'mama!!! you said that?'

mama: 'yes, and even one of the teachers turned around and said i had a point it was like putting potatoes with pasta'

me: 'potatoes with pasta? whats wrong with that? we always have potatoes with pasta'

mama: 'well according to this teacher its a forbidden rule, so she totally understood me, couscous with toast???? what next couscous with milk, like cereal?'

me: 'well she likes it'

mama: 'its not about whether she likes it, couscous with busla (onions) with vegetables not toast, ruining a perfectly amazing dish like that, whats the world come to'

and that was the mystery behind her annoyance, to which she made us a beautiful couscous dish that weekend to illustrate her point of how perfect this dish is lol.

i guess she has a point, it depends what your used to, but people like to experiment with dishes all the time, all you need to do is walk to your local supermarket and you will find all sorts of wonderful mixtures that the older generation would frown upon.

i remember one time my grandmother came to visit us when i was around 12-13 years of age for the first time, and she was constantly asking me to cook and learn how to cook and to be honest at that age all i could do was cornflakes and toast, these 2 culinary dishes where my proudest creations, i eventually taught myself how to boil and fry an egg thank you to food technology, but at that time i was not interested and i would argue with my grand mother all the time regarding this issue, and i remember one time she asked me what i would do if my husband asked me to cook him a certain dish like bazeen (Libyan national dish) to which i replied i would go to the supermarket and get him a ready made meal or a DIY meal.

she really laughed allot that night i think because she never took my answer seriously and also because she was kinda hoping i would forget about it also the fact that she never would have thought that most dishes can be obtained from your local supermarket (baseen is yet to be manufactured but people i am working on it, asda, tesco here i come).

some dishes should not be experimented with in my opinion, the classics should not be touched, but saying that there seriously isn't anything wrong with mixing potatoes with pasta is there?????

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

can somebody please explain to me the concept of 'not taking photos', i really don't understand why people feel the need of rushing up to you and telling you 'no pictures'

ok i understand when you go to a museum somewhere and they tell you 'please ensure that your flash is switched of on your camera' the excuse is that the flash can affect the quality of whatever it is your viewing be it a painting, carpet etc..

fine that's an excuse of some sort but please tell me the wisdom behind preventing people from taking pictures of building from the from outside (no terrorism wise cracks please)

whats the harm?

its not like the flash is going to make the building crumble into a zillion pieces?

in Saudi there was a problem taking photos from inside the mosque, i don't understand why but fine it's a rule that i will abide by (no one mentioned phone cameras)

what i really don't get is when your stopped from taking a photo from outside the mosque? now whats that about? its not like i will develop the photo, blow it up into a massive size and start praying towards it? are they afraid that people might worship the pictures they take ????

any way i kinda got arrested whilst in madina, over what? over taking a picture of the prophets mosque from outside!!!!!!!!!!

basically i was standing with a friend and her mother, i looked towards the mosque and thought how beautiful it looked in the sunset, i hadn't brought my camera with me so i asked my friend if she could give me hers, to which she replied:

'white african you sure about this?'

me: yeh man, whats the problem, I'm not inside the mosque, I'm outside, they cant do anything to me' (last words, last words).

so i take my time with the camera, looking through the lens, trying to get the right angle, i took 2 shots, waited a bit, no one appeared and dragged me away, my friend felt more comfortable with the situation so she asked me to take a picture of her and her mum to which i gladly agreed.

so the 2 of them are posing with the mosque in the background, i took one picture when out of now where and as fast as lightening came 2 full niqabi woman who jumped us, no lie, i kid you not!!!!

i had a heart attack as well as a stroke 3 times over, cause it was so unexpected and i though some jinns had popped out of somewhere, they basically grabbed hold of my friends hand trying to whisk the camera of her, her mother was standing in their way pushing them away and i was being pulled from my scarf to the extent that i was being choked wallahi.

i kept saying in a squeaky voice 'hijabiiiiiiiiiii hijabiiiiiiiiii' looooool.

one of them must have realised that i was being strangled so she told her colleague to hold me by the hand.

all this time i was trying to explain what we where doing but no one would listen, they kept saying 'mamnoo3 al tasweer' (no photos)and they would say 'yalla lil idara' come one to the office, so we where dragged to the mosque to be taken to the office to be dealt with, wallahi my hands where shaking so much that the niqabi slodier took hold of my arm instead and said 'habeebti ma toorjifeen' darling, don't shake, like i could help it.

any ways where walking along the mosque just about to turn into the office when out of the blue looking for her shoes was my mother, she heard some commotion looks up right into my eyes and says in the most perplexed voice ever ' white african, what have you done?'

me: oh my god mama, these anti-camera ladies wont let us go, there taking us to the 'office', they are going to chop my hand off (ok crude joke but i had to put it in somehow)

mum: you silly girl you know your not allowed to take pictures in the mosque'

me: well the crazy thing is it wasn't in the mosque, it was outside'

to which my mum follows me in to the office telling the soldiers of cameras that she was my attorney lawyer (my mum).

we walk into this office where instantly the eniqabi ladies take off there niqab and some even there scarfs, sitting at a huge desk was a big lady, who looks me right in the eye, then notices my mother, stands up and says 'um white african?' (mother of white african) gets out of her desk and hugs my mother!!!!

me, my friend and her mother are standing there with utter bewilderment on our faces, we cant make head or tails of whats happening.

it turns out that the lady in-charge who makes all decision, knows my mother and gets on with her really well, you see my mum has done hajj 3 times as well as take a group of school girls each year to umrah, so she had made friends with allot of people working in Saudi, one of them being the anti camera crew.

i thought i had got away with punishment, which i did to a certain extent but i still had to have a lecture as well as sign my name in the criminal records book, seriously!!!

she took out one heavy book, opened it to a particular page, wrote down the date as well as the crime committed, then wrote my name and made me sign at the dotted line.

they took my friends camera and made her erase all pictures i took of the mosque and on top of all that i was given 1001 leaflets on Islamic stuff, mainly consisting of 'etiquette when visiting the mosque' and 'how to wear the right hijab'

i think there was a hint in there somewhere...

Friday, March 23, 2007

where would we be without our friend, you know the one, good old 'wasta'وَسطة

how would society function without it? how can people possibly live without the use of wasta?

how cool would it be if you can have instant wasta, just like the adverts 'add water and watch the effect of wasta grow on you', a man would appear with a mobile phone supplied with all the telephone numbers and he would access anyone for you, believe me this will soon be advertised in an Arab country near you.

what is the definition of wasta?, to put it quite simply wasta is an Arabic term that can best be translated into English as "clout, connections, influence, or 'pull'." The use of wasta is a form of corruption that involves using of one's connections and influence in places of power to get things done outside of the normal procedures

Wasta is basically who you know?, what your background (family)is, how connected you are. Wasta is about having someone in a power position do something (legal or illegal) for you (a favor) that couldn't be done without a wasta.

What is different from other kind of corruption is that people don’t usually hide their acts when they use Wasta, they even brag about it, and offer providing the same wasta to people around us to help them out (to get a better social standing). With enough wasta, anything can be done: any lawful punishment can be escaped, any employment can be attained, any problem can be brushed aside.

Wasta in it’s most simple forms is considered a help-out, giving a hand, but basically it is about who has it, and who don’t.

the reason i mention wasta is because when we where in mecca we where left in quite a predicament as to our accommodation in madina, the swiss lot had already been in Madina for a week and they where supposed to have booked their rooms for us, so that when they leave we take their place, but they forgot or it slipped their mind to book the rooms for us so we where left room less, we found this out whilst we where in Mecca, so our leader was panicking bless him, until some dude we got to know mentioned that he new someone who new some one who could help i.e wasta.

so it was sorted out for us, or so we thought. we get to Madina and our driver is driving past the haram almadani, and we are squashed against the windows praying that our hotel will be the one closest to the haram, instead he continues to drive further and further away until he reaches a desolate place somewhere with no sign of anything familiar. we look to our right and there's a sign on a building 'palace' something or other, we get of the coach and enter a squashed corridor, we are given rooms, 4 to a room, and then we are left to go to our rooms.

i swear as soon as i walked into our room i thought to myself people are so going to complain, basically our so called 'wasta' had dumped is in a cess pit as we would fondly call this fake palace.

4 beds to a room which was fine except that the beds where taking up every single available space so people where tripping over everything, that's fine no problem except that the sheets and bedding had stains, some fresh, one room had blood on the sheets!!! human hair was all over the pillows and blankets.

i swear i am not exaggerating this at all, in some of the rooms on the wall there where things growing, fungus, creatures yuk.

some of the toilets did not have a flush, the list could go on and on, i walked out of the room to find that most people had left their rooms and where just standing around with complete shock on their face. every one was looking for our leader who was on the phone not looking very happy himself.

most people decided that they would rather sit outside on the curb than be in the cess pit, my brother sits on the pavement comfortably and starts playing chess with a fellow hajji.

every one else was sat next to each other on the edge of the curb waiting to see what would happen, eventually some of the men went and got chicken for everyone which every one ate outside. one of the men began to shout, he had lost his cool and was saying ' wallahi I'm not sleeping one night in this hell hole, if we sleep here for even one night then we will never leave', every one was trying to calm him down which they did do eventually.

every one really didn't want to stay a single night at this place, and i didn't really blame them, i wanted to go back to mina, that was 10 times better than this place.

eventually our leader got back to us and told us that he manage dto get hold of a 5 star hotel right opposite the haram but for tomorrow and not tonight, that was good news but still no one wanted to step foot in that place especially when one of the Bengali workers told my friend that they wash the sheets and bedding once a year!!!

so in the end we stayed at another hotel that night and then the next day we moved to 'dar al-taqwah' hotel, mashallah what a difference, it was 2 to a room and it was like having a mini apartment, pretty cool

the coolest thing was when you step out of the hotel you are literally at the haram, well worth the wait in my opinion.

wasta is not always what you expect to get like in our case, it can sometimes make life easier but its effects on Arab society are often extremely disastrous.

so many incompetent people are appointed to critical positions where such incompetence can cause serious problems, giving a position to some one who is not qualified just because he's your contact is not fair and we gotta stop this mujamalah buisness.

Also, with so many jobs being given to those with connections, there are often very few left for the genuinely qualified applicants. Since there is little guarantee that hard work and dedicated studying will pay off with a good job, wasta can and often does have a devastating effect on people's motivation especially if you dont have the means for a 'good wasta'.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

a couple of days ago my youngest brother went to school with an orange face.

you may wonder why, you may think to yourself it was a dressing up day or something of that sort, you may think it was an experiment gone wrong, a hundred thousand reasons may pop in your head, but i guarantee that you wouldn't think it was some practical joke from his oldest sister!!!

ok so we where kind of doing a spring cleaning thing the other day, and my youngest brother came across an Ester Lauder tanning lotion, to which he presumed was mine, it was sealed and still in its original packaging, i couldn't remember where i had obtained such a thing, I'm not the sort of person to buy fake tanning lotions, i then remembered that it had come with some hand cream i had bought like a zillion years ago.

anyway i was going to throw it away in the bin when i thought 'hmmmmmm i wonder if this stuff works?' no way was i going to try it out on myself, so i needed a volunteer, who could possibly be my sacrificial volunteer for the tanning experiment?

well i don't have pets, an albino rabbit would have been perfect, but sadly no albino rabbits are available in my household so it had to be the youngest.

'taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaabet, where are you?'

tabet: 'I'm here' (why do they say I'm here, i say that as well, I'm here is not answering the question of where are you)

me: 'can you come to me please'

tabet: 'ok, coming'

runs like a maniac, the concept of walking is non existent in my youngest brother.

me: 'would you like to have soft skin' (who asks such questions, clearly i do)

tabet: 'what?' (i don't blame his confusion bless him)

me: 'soft skin, plus a glowing look, a handsome look, it will be good for your west side play (he's starring in his school production)

tabet: hmmmmmmm, ok, oh are you going to put that cream on me that i found?'

me: yeh, its expensive stuff so your privileged (!!!! cruel i know)

so i squirt this cream onto my hand, i expected a brown substance but was surprised to find it clear, and smothered it all over his face.

nothing happened, no change in colour, i was expecting instant touches but no such thing, so i told him when he wakes up he will notice a difference and boy did he notice a difference the next day looooooooooooool

the kid was an orange, he looked like he had eaten carrots all his life, swam in a pool of orange paint as well as injected himself in orange hormones loool.

i didn't get to see him until after he came back from school and he marched up to me and said 'every one said i look orange, do i look orange?

me: uuuuum, not orange, tanned.

tabet: yeh well I'm not having that thing on me ever again.

me: fair enough.

i haven't done something like this in ages, years even, oh how i laughed hee hee hee

Sunday, March 18, 2007

amazingly the drive from Mecca to Madina took us just under 4 hours, we had to hand in our passports at a base on the outskirts of Madina, we where there for 2 hours exactly which was an achievement in itself as we heard that people could be there for a whole day before being 'released', so to be there for 2 hours was an accomplishment to be proud of for sure.

why is it that trying to get paper stamped or some sort of form to be looked at or anything of that sort can be such a hassle in the Arab world? they will tell you to come 'tomorrow' and then tomorrow comes and then then they say 'well the person who deals with this sort of thing is not here right now, come back tomorrow', again tomorrow comes and again another excuse.

if a competition was to be held on who can make their people wait the longest to get an official stamp, us Arabs would win it, hands down.

ok so maybe I'm not being fair but has any one heard of the phrase IBM? to put it quite simply IBM stands for Inshallah Bukrah Maybe ( translation -god willing, tomorrow, maybe), IBM.....

i remember as a child the word inshallah (god willing) used to annoy me, i know know astaghfurallah and all that, but i was a child, and i felt that when adults used to say to me 'inshallah' then that was a guarantee that they wouldn't do as they promised, to me inshallah was a way of shutting me up, a way of getting me out of their face, for example 'can we got to the park tomorrow?' adult: 'inshallah'

tomorrow comes, me: 'when are we going to the park?' adult: 'bukrah inshallah (tomorrow good willing), me: 'but you said we would go today' adult: 'torrow inshallah'

tomorrow comes, me: 'so what time we going to the park?', adult: inshallah on Saturday', me:' what? you said today', adult:'the weather will be better on Saturday, inshallah Saturday'

and the circle continues to go round, that's why i have learnt to never abuse inshallah, to me inshallah is a promise that is guaranteed unless Allah wills it not.

recently i found that some of my non-muslim friends have picked up on the types of inshallah, so i found it really hilarious as well as upsetting at the same time when i heard one of them say to a person in the Islamic society at university 'so when you just said inshallah right now, was that an inshallah of the type to mean i will be there unless i am struck down by lightning, or was it the type of inshallah to mean yeh yeh stop talking and shut up?'

see when i heard this i couldn't believe that even the non-Muslims had picked up on this and even though it was funny, it still was sad to think that inshallah is being abused and not used in the correct sense.

it's like the word 'wallahi' (i swear by Allah) that word was only used in serious cases such as in court, now every one uses it for the most simplest of things inculuding myself, i have this habit of asking people 'say wallah' whenever they tell me anything, i dont even realsie that its come out my mouth.

you hear the shabab (youth) saying 'walah man' this and 'walah man' that in amongst there conversations, and non-arabs will always vouch that there arab friends will always put the word wallah into conversation.

i have kinda diverted from what i was saying initially but i find it interesting.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

well all this talk of banning woman from travelling alone and then scrapping that ban reminded me of the drive from mecca to madina, our time at mecca was over we did the tawaf al wada3 (the good bye tawaf) and began our journey to madina.

you hear all sorts of stories of people travelling for over 20 hours so i was expecting a long and hard drive, the coach wasn't very comfortable, seriously whoever designed the coach we where on must have been a dwarf or a member of the Pygmies because no way is a full grown adult able to sit comfortably on those chairs.

one guy who was sat in front of me kept cursing the Saudi government through out the duration of the trip, and then he would stand up and say 'people say ameen, say ameen' loool.

anyway we got to the service after like an hours drive and every one came down to stretch their legs and eat something as well as pray duhur.

later when we had all boarded the coach, i ran to the front of the coach and noticed that the driver hadn't arrived yet so i sat in his seat and pretended to drive the coach, exageratingly turning the steering wheel and announcing to the rest of the passengers that 'i am your driver for the rest of the way, the first female driver in Saudi' to which some of the group started taking pictures of me as proof lol, actually i need to get those pictures.

so i was enjoying the moment, beeping the Horn and making driving noises with my mouth, my dad was behind me saying 'ridee bilak, rak ishufook, wee deeroolik mushkilah' translation - careful, they might see you and cause some problems' to which i replied' nah it's all good, it's fake driving, they cant arrest me for fake driving can they?

just as i said that the driver boards the coach and stands there looking at me and for a split second i though oh no i am so going to get into trouble, then he started to laugh, shake his head and saying 'la la, mish ma3oola, izay kida?' translation no no, not possible, how is this?, he was Egyptian, and he told me off in a jokey way, i guess he couldn't believe that i had the audacity to even dream of sitting in the driver seat.

see the whole issue of banning woman from driving in Saudi is something that we cant comprehend, its unbelievable in the eyes of many, especially the west, but what we don't realise is that the vast majority of Saudi woman don't actually have a problem with this, many are chauffeur driven every where and they prefer it that way, to live in that sort of luxury is preferred in their eyes, and lets face it who doesn't like being chauffeur driven every where in style, the only time that happens to us is when we hire a nice car for a special evening out (not had that experience myself)and the whole point of that is to feel special and to be driven somewhere in a nice car (i like the rolls Royce myself).

i remember one time i watched an interview with a Saudi woman where she was being asked what she felt about the ban on driving and she simply replied, i don't really care as i have no need to drive.

as shocking as that may sound to us, its simple fact to them, the ban was placed in 1990 and i totally disagree with it, to me it makes more sense that a woman drives herself where ever she wants rather than having a total stranger driver her to places, whats better herself or non mahrem? see that where the contradiction is.

what really gets to me is when you hear comments such as 'strict sharia law bans females drivers' ummmmm exactly where in Islam does is say this? people should do there research before coming out with such comments and for Muslims to claim that islamiclly woman should not drive is ridiculous on their part and to make something haram when it isn't is a serious matter.

the ban is not based on religion but more social/cultural acceptance.

it was a discussion i got myself into recently, interestingly enough some woman have requested the ban to be lifted, but there request was refused by the court.

at least ladies can enter the mosque in Saudi, i wonder if they can wear roller skates?

on the way to madina, we saw a herd of baboons, how random is that!!! wild baboons with there red bums, so unexpected to see.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

going back to see mount arafat was interesting, not only did i manage to get a camel ride with my brother clinging on to me for dear life, but i got to see the mountain without the millions of peoples surrounding it.

so i stood at the bottom of this mountain, looking up at it thinking 'how am i going to climb this' it was possible as you could clearly see people at the top. i began by jumping onto the smaller rocks, then climbing, struggling, hanging on for dear life at one point, slamming myself against a jagged rock and shouting out my frustration, eventually i got to the top only to find that there where camels, old people as well beggars without limbs, how on earth did they manage to get to the top????????

simple, the answer is, they walked up the stairs on the other side, and those stairs where big, spacious and just easy, a 2 year old could do it, white african had to go about it the long and hard way duhhhhh, i seriously felt stupid lol.

the view from the mountain was splendid, and i kept thinking how amazing it was that just a couple of days ago this view would have been full of people dressed in white praying to Allah, now it was emptiness not to be filled with people until next year.

Arafat is overlooked by a huge mountain referred to as Jabal Al-Rahma or Mountain of Mercy. Muslims believe that Adam and his wife Eve were reunited on this mountain and forgiven by God, it is also where eth prophet Muhammad gave his last sermon, when you look at the mountain you will notice a white pillar at the top of it, it's just to symbolise the mountain as well as where the khutbah is held, it wasn't there at the time of the prophet and it has no connection to worship or any thing like that what so ever, but to see the people reacting towards it you would thing that this pillar held some sort of power, touching it and what not, when you come closer to the pillar you cant help but notice the amount of graffiti on it, and even when i was standing there some one took out a permanent marker and began to scribble something on the pillar.

i have to say i did get a little tempted to write 'white african was here 2007' but then i scolded myself for having such thoughts, tut tut tut.

i have never understood the concept of wiping your hands on an object, wanting to attain blessings or some sort of cure for a disease, or even forgiveness, its an object for crying out loud, if you have travelled all this way to perform hajj with the intention of pleasing god, gaining forgiveness and his mercy, then why on earth would you commit shirk (associating partners with god) by seeking something from an object that was probably made in Italy???????

it's mind boggling, and it's a very common sight to see, an you just want to shake people and say 'what is this object possibly going to do for you', in my opinion it's the same as idol worship, how else did people get into the stage of worshipping idols, through the same means. i remember once reading the life story of the companion umar al khatab (ra) and he said that there was one thing that he remembers from his ignorant time that makes him laugh out loud and that is he once moulded an idol out of dates and then began to worahip this ideal, then one day he was extremely hungry and couldn't find anything to eat other than his idol, so he ate the idol.

what is stroking a piece of glass, marble, metal possibly going to do for you? when i was in madina, i was standing next to a metal gate that looks into the grave yard where many of the companions are buried, i was just looking standing directly in front of the gate, when a woman started to shout at me telling me to move and give her a chance to stand where i was standing, i asked her exactly why she wanted my spot, to which she replied 'i want the barakah (blessing)', i asked her where the 'blessing; is exactly? to which she replied the metal gate your protecting, to which i told her that in that case I'm staying where i am and not budging as this metal you so want to touch and feel and pray to does not want you.

Allah swt is to whim they pray to but yet they feel that they need to find solace in metal, and other objects that have no meaning what so ever, I'm confused....

as well as the evident shirk that was happening all around me, there where people who where just admiring the view, and praying generally this guy was Turkish, you can tell from the little flag on his bag as well as the fact that they all wore the same clothes, it was a uniform to differentiate them from other groups, i wasn't sure what he was doing here, maybe adthan?

also on top of the mountain there was a man selling things, i swear any opportunity and people will be there trying to sell you something, soon you wont be able to enter the toilet unless a person sells you toilet paper and water, i can see that happening.

there are camels if you want a ride with a picture, and they really hassle you into getting on the camel, he got 10 riyal of me, no more.

also you will most certainly come across a beggar with some form of disability like this man:

he was wailing and crying, saying 'sabil illah' (for the sake of Allah) and people where putting money on to his jilabeeyah, he was acting like he couldn't move, lying on the stairs preventing people from passing. after i had taken pictures of everything and looked at the view, i decided to make my way back down to the valley (going down the stairs this time) when something passed me by in a fast manner nearly knocking me over, i looked to see who it was and low and behold it was the beggar man who couldn't even breath properly before never mind running down stairs at the speed of a marathon runner, hmmmmm when i saw that i thanked Allah i hadn't fallen for his tricks and given him money.

the beggars are really every where and its sad because you cant differentiate between who is genuine and who is a fake. we where told that the best people to give money to are the workers who work at the haram, cleaners and what not as they are in need due to their rubbish pay, they usually where orange suites, i called them the Guantanamo bay people because of their uniforms. the beggars became a nuisance and you can no longer feel any sympathy for them although saying that you cant but help feel sorry of r the children, as a child should keep its innocence and play like every other child and have the rights that each child should enjoy rather than be abused by working and begging all hours of the day and teaching the child to pick pocket and trick others, its a sad thing to see. sometimes a child will run up to you selling tissue or packest of chewing gum and your heart just goes out to them.

i remember once in egypt a little boy around 5 or 6 was selling chewing gum or something, we gave him money but we didnt take what he was selling, for like over an hour he was following us, each time we would go into the shop he would be waiting outside for us, and we thought we would never get rid of him, we mistakenly thought he wanted more money, and just as we where getting annoyed by him, i went up to him to tell him to go home that we had already given him money, to which he replies in cute Arabic, 'i don't want more money, i want you to take what you payed for'

how adorable is that? even a child has dignity and a sense of what is right and wrong, and for some one to take that away from them is an ultimate betrayal.

the most thing that affects me is seeing a child not given its basic rights.

on the note of children and charity for those who are based in Britain:
Islamic Relief Proudly Presents...

outlandish are going to be there and i have to say they are really good, so as well as entertaigmnet and a good night, its an oppertunity to help the children.

anglo and brave as well as manchester, there coming to london and birmingham as well :)

Friday, March 09, 2007

we still had around a week left in Mecca before we hit the road to madina, one whole week.

we spent that time doing more umrah's, visiting different mosques and sights like mount nur and mount thawr as well as going back to araft to see the mount of mercy.

some of us had fallin ill with some sort of flu, i had lost my voice and was coughing my internal organs out but aside from that i was fine, most people came down with temperature, shivers, cough, dizziness, the girls in my room where not very well, but alhamdullilah they soon recovered.

my mum managed to see her cousin (her aunts daughter) whom she hadn't seen in 25 years and who was one of her best friends, coincidentally she was to do hajj this year and they planned to meet in Mecca. we where waiting opposite the haram on some steps, my mum was so anxious and nervous, excited all different emotions and she wouldn't stay still, and she wasn't sure whether she would recognise her cousin as it;s been 25 years, it was a very emotional time for my mum because her mother had passed away 2 years ago and this was to be the first relative she will see since then, so memories where being played back.

even before my mums cousin turned up, my mum started crying bless and people around us where curious as to what was happening, some even asked my father to which he told them that we where waiting for some one we haven't seen in many a year, so by the time my mums cousin had come, there was a big audience, and when they noticed each other, they ran up to one another and hugged each other like there was no tomorrow, crying and what not, it really was emotional, some of the ladies watching where crying and i have to say that i did shed some tears.

that day we spent the whole time with her, i love seeing my family from Libya, for those who are constantly among their extended family, you are extremely lucky to have grown up with that, i know family can be annoying especially when they get involved in personal stuff and how every member has an opinion on your life, but still to grow up amongst cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents even the neighbours is something i never had the chance to experience, that's why when i went to visit Libya for the first time in 22 years it was amazing but extremely difficult as i didn't know my own family, isn't that sad?

so when ever i see family members visiting my heart is full of happiness and all i want is to catch up on those years missed out. getting to know your own family from scratch is definitely a disadvantage of being in the 'ghurba'(away from home), although i don't really consider Britain as ghurba as to me its home. i guess its a home away from home :)

we also met my mums niece who lives in Dubai and who often visits the UK, so we where lucky in having 2 members of our large family to spend time with.

now i am going to go into a rant, going to hajj opened my eyes up to more than one thing, some good some bad, what i came to realise is that allot of people get taken advantage of in a big way, in a sickening way, and some of these people are the Libyan hijjaj, some save up all their life to be able to one day perform hajj, its around nearly 4,000 Libyan dinar and on top of all that they must wait until there name is pulled out announcing that they can perform this year, that's fine, its a system that many countries adopt as quotas have been placed on the number of pilgrims from each country, and in some cases on the number of times any one individual can perform the pilgrimage within a certain number of years.

now there was a time when Libya was famous for its treatment of the hijjaj, putting them in good hotels, very good treatment, seriously, the murshideen (those who guide the hajjis) where good, i.e it was value for money or even more.

what i saw and was told this year is horrendous and down right shameful and those responsible should be made accountable for, in my opinion and many others it was day light robbery.

All potential pilgrims must apply for a Hajj visa through a qualified travel agent in their home country. The Saudi embassies will not issue Hajj visas to individuals travelling alone, fair enough, but do these so called travel agents fulfil their obligations, i can honestly say a big no when it comes to those who cater for Libyan hajjis as well as some other countries.

All foreign travel agents must be pre-approved by the Ministry of Hajj and have a partnership contract with a local (Saudi) Hajj provider, but the problem is that the ministry of hajj are either not doing their jobs correctly or are un aware of what is happening in some hajj travel agents.

All qualified travel agents and their Saudi partners are responsible for providing their Hajj group with travel documents, transportation and housing throughout the Hajj experience, but in the case of our Libyan hijjaj they get provided with miserable accommodation, in Mecca they where placed in a hotel of some sort that had cockroaches and bubrais (lizards), unhygienic and cramped, although it was near the haram. each hajji had payed enough money to be given decent accommodation, where there money goes on Allah knows, unless you have contact with 'the powers that be', then if your a Libyan hajji coming with Libyan 'approved' hajj travel, then don't expect much, actually expect nothing. many Libyans who are able to afford it choose to perform hajj with other travel groups from a different country, my grandmother and uncle attached themselves to an Egyptian group, my cousin traveled with a khaliji group.

for those who cant afford it, have no options, and for them it really is a test of their patience, in madina the accommodation was far worse than in mecca, the woman where in one room (similar to the tents in mina) and the same for the men, the rooms where opposite each other so the ladies never had the chance to relax properly with the fear of the men looking into the room as the door would constantly be open, my mums cousin had to tell a particular man off as he had a habit of walking into their room without so much as a knock on the door to announce his presence, claiming to be looking for his wife, there would be a rush of putting on their scarfs.

the kitchen and toilet situation was a disgrace, food was a do it yourself, nothing comes with the 'hajj package', in mina they where not given any blankets, sleeping bags etc.. so many went expecting such things to be provided, but in fact that was not the case.

we had such luxury in mina compared to other such groups, my friends mother in law, nearly froze to death, majority of the Libyan hijjaj are of a certain age, i.e over 40, many couldn't bare the cold and became ill, the tents in mina that we stayed in had extra cover on the floor, that is besides the pillow and sleeping bag, my fellow Libyan hijjaj did not have even a floor covering that they could feel the sand and many had an un comfortable nights sleep due to the rocks that where sticking into there sides and backs.

it makes me so angry to the verge of tears to think that they can be taken advantage of like that, and when i think of the so called murisheeden (guides) that are sent with them then my blood boils even more, so called guides who don't know the first thing about hajj, who have never performed umrah never mind hajj and who spent most of their time playing carta (cards) than guide the Libyan hijjaj, guiding was definitely something that they did not do, many of the hajjis, particularly the older, got lost not just for hours but for days as no one guided them or explained to them anything.

7,000 Libyan hijjaj performed hajj this year, of the 7,000, 1,000 of them where mukhabarat (spy's), how interesting is that?

it saddens me that for such a rich country to treat its citizens in this manner is down right shameful, recently i read that the kernel himself asked for a loan, a loan!!!! according to him that is, what does he take his people for, utter buffoons!!!

one of the most saddest thing is to watch this and to see the pain and despair in their eyes yet know that not a single one of them utters a word of complaint, by the time hajj ends, they truly are hajjis and for that i salute them...

i really do want to research this and delve deeper into this topic, and find out exactly what's going on, i swear if i am ever given the chance to perform hajj again then i am so taking my camera with me and taking pictures of the conditions over there.

its not just a Libyan problem, many other countries are experiencing bogus travel operators, even here in England, recently i found out that a company in Leicester ran off with the money that was meant for hajj!!!!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

to continue with my hajj diary....

The last night at Mina was the night i slept the least, the wind was so powerful it was shaking the tent and the metal frame was shaking like mad that i thought it was all going to collapse on top of us.

also there was this lady who had a sever cold so she was breathing very well and because of that she had the severest case of snoring i have ever come across, wow, at one point I was contemplating stuffing a pillow in each of my ears to block any noise.

eventually fajer peeked its little head, we prayed and i jumped back into the sleeping back to catch up on some dearly missed sleep, the whole tent had the same idea as me, so when my little brother barged into the tent announcing that the coach was here to take us back to our apartments, we where all completely asleep and knocked out, at first we thought he was playing a cruel joke on us but the kid was being serious, the next few minutes was a mad rush of woman packing up there belongings and generally falling over one another lol.

By the time i was ready to get onto the coach i was literally dragging myself as well as my own luggage and my mothers, it was a case of falling into the coach rather than a dignified, lady like climbing onto the coach.

It was hard to believe that our time at Mina had come to an end, even though we had stayed 5 days at mina it had felt like longer and already I was missing the thought of being there any more, even now as I am typing this I miss the fact of not waking up at mina.

My thought where disturbed by a loud bang and one of the ladies screaming, where crossing a bridge when a lorry that was in a rush, tried squeezing past our coach and hitting the side of the coach making us swerve, alhamdullilah our driver managed to control the situation but we could have easily fallen of the bridge.

Did the lorry driver bother to park and check if the passengers where ok? Nope the buffoon carried on speeding ahead.

The side of the coach was dented but other than that everything was ok.

We soon arrived at our apartment, it felt so weird seeing it again, it was nice to be able to use the shower facilities and toilets like a normal human, and sleeping on the bed without having to fight for our space but still it was a sign that hajj was over, we ha done more ritual to do, the tawaf al ifadah.

Tawaf Al-Ifadha is a fundamental rite of Hajj. Its very similar to performing umrah, we perform Tawaf Al-Ifadhah by visiting Al-Masjid Al-Haraam and circling the Ka’bah seven times and praying two Rak’ah behind Maqam brahim if possible and without causing any harm to Muslims. Then we should make Sa’i between the Safa and the Marwa. After Tawaf Al-Ifadhah the state of Ihram is completely ended and all restrictions are lifted and you have become a hajj in all the sense, hajj is over sadly.

we decided to do our tawaf al ifadah after isha, caught a taxi into the haram, now i never take my camera with me when i go to the haram because they do search you at the entrance and they wont let you in with a camera, you don't always get searched but i couldn't risk it, so instead the pictures i have up loaded are from my phone camera, this picture is of the haram when walking towards it. its always an exciting feeling when you get out of the taxi and walk towards the house of god.

the courtyard is one big place that always manages to be full of people, this is what it looks like when you cant pray inside at the congregational prayer and end up having to pray outside, subhannallah.

and here they are doing sujud, it seriously gets full, here's what the courtyard looks like when people are not praying, less packed, always lit up and bright.

you could get there for 3 am and it will still look like the day time, that's how bright it is, and you look up to the sky and its a cloth of the darkest black velvet with the odd sparkle of a star, magnificent.

the minaret of the mosque really does Pierce the sky and looking up at it you cant help but feel in awe of the size of the haram, each time i visit the haram my heart beats in anticipation of seeing the kaabah again.

walking towards the kaabah is such a heart warming feeling and just before you know it there it is, and no matter how many times your eyes look upon it you can never get enough of it subhannallah, i love this picture of the kabbah,look at how packed it is.

its always a hassle trying to take a photo as there are eyes every where watching your every movement, i don't even know why they don't like people taking pictures, although i have to say some people don't care and will stand even in front of the police man while taking a snap shot of the kaabah. i once got chased out the haram by a niqabi lady who noticed my phone, that was close, it was all because of my loud mouth of a brother who shouted 'sawreenee sawreenee' 'take my picture take my picture' she obviously heard him and like an eagle her eyes skimmed me and then she pounced but i was faster and i ran out of the mosque disappearing into the crowds, i escaped for now.

i told my brother of and he sulked for like a whole 2 hours, serves him right.

we chose not to do the tawaf whilst at mina, some do it right after the first jamarah, but it's sheer murder then cause every one has the same idea, so thats why we did our tawaf after coming back from mina as the crowds would have died down, or so we hoped.

the crowds where still crowds but if you stood to the side you can eventually see an oppertunity to join the tawaf (circumbulation), my brother was holding onto my father for dear life, it was actually more packed than when we did umrah, and the pace was slow but we managed to do all 7 around the kabbah rather than going to the first floor or even the roof.

you see all sorts of things when doing the tawaf, people saying all sorts of duas, doing all sorts of actions, one man was just standing in themiddle of the tawaf and not moving what so ever, people kept walking into him and he just refused to move wanting to be a hazard for himself and others, when we got to him my mum asked him to either walk with the people or leave the circumbulation and stand where ever he wants to which he raises his hand at my mum about to slap her!!!!!! can you belive that?

my mum was shocked and my father started shouting at him saying 'tudrib marah, itgeem eedak 3ala marah' - 'you dare hit a woman, you dare raise your hand at a woman'and my dad would have probably jumped him if he didnt decide to run away, coward...

other than that epsiode nothing else happend, we finished the tawaf, prayed 2 rakas, drank zam zam and made our way towards the safa and marwa, i managed to get 2 pictures of the safa and marwa from the 2nd floor after we had finished, it really was packed and i saw one woman lying on the floor kissing the rock and rubbing herself over it thinking that it was going to do her some benefit !!!! people where walking all over her, trampling her but she didnt care, weirdo, i swear some people should just be banned until they are taught the true islam and true form of worship, you really do see so much ignorence and you would think that the obvious would be to read up and research about hajj before committing yourself to it, i know there those who cant read but they should be allocated a hajj guide who teaches them excatly what to do, unfortunatly some people are taken advantage of and completly ignored and left to do their own thing.

after the saeei between safa and marwa we had become official hajjis, hajj was now over and completed, even then i still was in a dream world and couldn’t believe that i had just completed my hajj, i thought i would wake up and it would have been a dream i dreamt, but it was real and for a long time we where on a high, but i knew the responsibility that comes with being a hajji, its a new contract with Allah that you will better yourself in all means possible.

to come back as though born again free from any sin is an amazing feeling, but you are constantly aware of it and don’t want to accumulate any sins so as to tarnish the clean record, its difficult and its so much more easier as soon as you have finished hajj as you have that spiritual high and motivation, but 2 months down the line it's a test to be able to continue having that same feeling, but its still there you have to cling onto it and keep that candle burning inside of you.

i decided i would go to the roof and see the view of the kaabah from there, and what a sight:

i could have stayed on the roof all my life, complete and utter serenity subhannallah.

Monday, March 05, 2007

on Saturday i attended a respect woman's conference in London, my train was at 6am, how do people do that on a day to day basis, waking up so early that you wake up even before the birds do?

i managed to get myself to the train station for 5:30am, i hadn't even prayed fajer yet (ended up praying on the train), i grabbed a coffee and a muffin and got my sleepy self on to the train, there where 5 of us altogether, the time to London went pretty fast, chatting away kind of makes time go alot faster, i can safely say it was not idle chat but rather constructive, interesting chat.

the conference place was just a walk away from Euston station which was great although we did manage to get lost slightly but it's all good, a refreshing walk in London.

the conference was due to start at 10:30 which it did, good timing :)the agenda looked good, and there where workshops being held, 3 at the same time and you had to choose the one you wanted to attend, i chose 'the right to choose' now i wasn't sure whether it was going to be about abortion or the veil lol, either way i was interested.

the workshop was about the right to choose an abortion, now i have to say i am not a supporter of abortion, as one scholar once said 'While Islam permits preventing pregnancy for valid reasons, it does not allow doing violence to it once it occurs.'
but also i respect the other sides opinion and i also acknowledge the fact that even within Islam, if a woman's life is in danger then she can abort, so there are exceptions which i accept.

Under normal health conditions, and particularly when the foetus is developed enough (that specialists consider it a live body), abortion amounts to deliberate killing and therefore, not allowed in Islam.

but saying all that its her choice, now listening to the speakers arguments was really interesting, apparently here in Britain its still a problem getting an abortion and her argument was that the richer folk can have easy access to abortions where as the working class have to wait on a waiting list and there are certain policies and regulations.

she also mentioned that the government want to reduce the abortion limit to 20 weeks instead of the existing 24 weeks, and she was against this, she mentioned that the government keep throwing examples of babies living at 22 weeks like the baby in Holland, but her argument was that its extremely rare for survival and that more than likely the baby will die by 18months of age as well as having sever mental disability. she said that if the government reduces the number of weeks then what's to say they will reduce it further in the future.

also she mentioned that the government should invest in offering better contraception to prevent the risk of falling pregnant and having to have an abortion, as all contraception's are not fool proof.

after her speech, it was time for comments and questions from the floor, i would say that 98% of the ladies in the room where for abortion and each had something to say, one of the ladies did say that she's a doctor and worked in the gynaecological department, and she had seen cases of woman who use abortion as a form of contraception, coming into the hospital and having an abortion each time they fall pregnant.

people didn't react very well to this comment, some went as far as to say that it was a lie, and that the government keeps coming out indicting the abuse of the nhs with such stories blaming it all on working class single girls who are promiscuous and careless.

the last lady to comment was a killer for me, she basically said:

'i am not usually one for conspiracy theories, but i do believe in the conspiracy theory regarding abortion, as we all know the rate of births in this country is considerably low compared to the third world, where those people are breeding like rabbits (!!!! i know i couldn't believe it when she said that, and not only that she looked at me when she said that particular sentence lol), so obviously they will over run us, and so the government wants to reduce the rate of abortion to prevent such things'.

i swear every one was shocked, and all i could do was laugh out loud, i couldn't believe she said that sentence about breeding like rabbits.

the speaker made a point on either answering or commenting on peoples questions and comments apart from the last ladies lol.

Friday, March 02, 2007

i need to have a break from hajj diary so that i can let this out of my system.

i am so not impressed with 3 phone company at this moment in time, they are liars i tell you, liars.....

basically i fell for one of their traps, my friend who works for 3 was making fun of me after i told her.

they called me and told me that I'm due for my up grade which i was surprised about because i still have 2 months to go, so i mentioned it to the man on the phone to which he replied 'that's correct, but we have a new policy where up-grades have been brought forward 2 months before the contract ends rather than the original one month'.

so i was like that sounds good, so i asked whether i would receive the same deal which was 750 minutes any time any network with 250 text message for a price of £20 a month for a whole year, unfortunately that deal was not available, but there was a similar one for 600 minutes and 450 text messages with one of the latest phones, i asked for the latest nokia n range but he told me they don't have any in stock and kept telling me that the new LG chocolate was the hottest thing to hit the market.

I'm, more of a nokia person as I'm more familiar with the settings and just used to it i suppose, so i chose a nokia phone, but before confirming i checked with the man 3 times, i asked him this is an upgrade to my existing contract, and he would reply yes of course.

3 times i tell you, not once, twice but threeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee times, well they took my card details which i thought was strange because usually with upgrades they don't ask for credit details.

he then said that when receiving the phone i must call them to activate the number and if i want to keep my existing number then i must quote blah blah blah which again i thought was weird as upgrades mean having the same details including number, so when i raised this with him, he threw the whole 'new policy' thing at me, so i accepted his word.

couple of days later i get the new phone in the post, i was really looking forward to having a good functioning phone because my existing phone is mentally dysfunctional and has a mentality of its own.

so i open the box and low and behold there is a new sim with the phone, strange hmmmm

so i call the company and a man answers the phone, asked him to double check with me whether the phone i have just received is an upgrade of my existing contract or a totally new contract, to which he tells me ' ms blah blah its actually a new contract along side your existing contract, so you have 2 contracts with us' to which i screamed, walahi no lie i screamed...

i was so annoyed and angry with them for tricking me, the guy on the other line kept saying 'its not my fault, its not my fault' but i didn't want to hear that i wanted results, what was he going to do about it?

he told me that i would have to return the whole thing back to the address on the package at the back and that will automatically cancel the contract.

well that's what i did and it cost me £5.70 to return it, annoying, my friend told me that its 3rd party callers who know that a persons upgrade is due soon so they use language that makes you think that your getting an upgrade when in fact your getting a whole new contract, these people should be soaked in lemon for 10 years.

i feel so small at this moment in time.......