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!!!!