Here is a memo for the few days I spent in Medina this summer. There is a lot of photos at Flickr, too.
Medina: Day One
We left Hassa at 1600, and after a long, exhausting road trip, we arrived to Medina at 0500 the next day. Right after our arrival, we went to visit the Prophet’s Mosque. Not much has been changed since I came here for the last time few years ago.
Next, we went to visit al-Baqie’ Cemetery, where some of the Prophet’s companions and other Imams are buried. The morning went well except for the part where the religious police harassed and prevented Shiites from getting closer to some tombs. They treated them with all kinds of rudeness and impoliteness.
For example, one of the policemen there held the hand of an Iraqi man, who was standing in front of the tomb of the Prophet’s aunt, and told him to go away. “Take your hand off me,” the Iraqi man, trying his best to keep his voice down while it was clear he was furious because he felt he was insulted, told the policeman. The member of the religious police standing next to him started shouting at the Iraqi man, “You hit a policeman? They will put you in jail for six months! Take him to jail, officer!” The Iraqi man has not even touched the policeman. “I don’t care. You can take me to jail, but first take your hand off me,” he said.
I can totally understand the Wahabi philosophy toward graves and tombs, but what I really cannot understand is why they are trying to imply their strict interpretation of Islam on all Muslims. God have honored this country by giving them the chance to serve Muslims who come to visit the holy places in Mecca and Medina, and no one can deny the great achievements of the government such as the expansions and other services they offer to visitors.
However, such behaviors by members of the religious police, and other people, give the wrong picture of this country and its citizens. These holy places belong to all Muslims of all sects all over the world, and being located in Saudi Arabia does not mean Saudis have the right to ban other Muslims of practicing their believes when they come here. It was a beautiful morning, but apparently, they knew how to make me sick and ruin my day.
Later, I was taking some photos at the open spaces surrounding the Prophet’s Mosque, when one of the religious police cars stopped and the Muttawa inside it told me that taking photos is not allowed. Because I know how Wahabis look to photography, and how they think it is Haram, I just told him “OK,” and right after he left, I got back to take more pictures. I have decided that I won’t allow another one of these extremists to ruin my whole trip.
In the evening, we attended a celebration for the birthday of Imam Mohammed al-Jawad. It was a small simple traditional celebration, and not like the fancy ones we have in Hassa. It reminded my with my first visit to Medina, when we attended a celebration for the birthday of the Prophet (pbuh). On the same visit, I had my first and only Umrah. I could not do Umrah this time because this visit was short and unexpected, but I plan to do that sometime soon inshallah.
After that, we went back to the open spaces surrounding the Prophet’s Mosque, to enjoy the fresh air and take some more photos. The weather was very nice. Many families were sitting on the marble ground, and their children were running and playing around them. It was very nice place, with very nice people.
Actually, one nice Iranian couple stopped us to ask my friend about his mobile. Now, try to imagine what kind of conversation we had. They were asking us in Farsi, and we were trying to answer with a mixture of Arabic and English. I think the wife understood some English, while her husband looked totally lost!
Around midnight, we decided to walk back home. But on the way back home I felt hungry so I thought I should get a Falafel sandwich from the I-don’t-know-if-it’s-famous-or-not Rotana Restaurant. It was not good as it used to be, so I only ate half of it.
It is 0230 Medina time now. I think I’m gonna watch an episode of The O.C. and then have some sleep. Good night.
Medina: Day Two
As you may expect, I was too tired to get up early for Fajr prayer. I slept over, and got up around 0800. We had our breakfast, and then went to the Prophet’s Mosque. This time, I wanted to pray at al-Roudha. It was very crowded there. I stayed there for about 15 minutes, and could not stay any longer because of this South Asian fat guy who came and occupied the 15 cm area between me and an Omani man who was praying next to me.
I left the al-Roudha, and walked to an empty spot in the mosque where Shiites usually sit. There, I met my geology teacher from high school (I don’t know why I can’t remember his last name!). We chatted for a few minutes, and then I asked him to excuse me because I wanted to pray.
In the afternoon, we went to say goodbye to my cousin and her husband who where going back to Hassa after their 12-days Kingdom tour, which included visiting Abha, Jeddah, Mecca, and Medina. After their departure, I went to this place nearby where I used to buy Arabic ice cream (aka boozah) the last time I was here. Unlike the falafel place, the ice cream place is still making it so good. It was the best boozah I had in years. There is this little boozah place at the restaurants corner at the intersection of Takhasusi St. with Thalatheen St. in Riyadh, but the truth is, it does not make it as good as this place in Medina. It was really delicious and refreshing, yummy!
The night was quiet. We spent the time at our room; talking, reading, and me doing different things with my laptop. It is around midnight. I think I’ll watch
one three episodes of the The O.C. and then go to sleep. Good night.
Medina: Day Three
Today, we will leave Medina. But there was one last thing left to do; visiting the location of Uhud Invasion, one of the very first battles in the history of Islam, and to be more specific, to visit the tomb of Hamza bin Abdul-Muttalib, the Prophet’s uncle, and one of the important men in the early days of Islam. Because of his bravery and heroism, he has been called Asadu-Allah (the Lion of God), and Asadu-al-Islam (the Lion of Islam).
The Uhud Invasion took place near Uhud Mountain in the outskirts of Medina. The location was great, but we did not have enough time to enjoy the place.
After we got back from Uhud, we went to the Prophet’s Mosque to say goodbye. We said our goodbyes, and then took a quick tour at the new expansions in the mosque. The architecture was great. Too bad taking pictures was prohibited. I would have taken some great photos. However, I have managed to take this one picture of a golden dome. This dome can slide during the day to allow the entrance of natural lighting. Also, during our tour, we passed by several circles of young boys with their teachers studying the Holy Quran.
On the way to the mosque, an old Turkmen Iraqi man asked us to take a photo of him using his big black old Lyca camera. We took the picture he wanted, and chatted with him for a few minutes before he left. Coincidentally, he was leaving Medina today, too, just like us. On the way back, I have insisted to have my last boozah. I’m gonna miss that delicious taste.
It is 1700, and we are leaving Medina now. We are expected to arrive to Hassa the next day in the early hours of morning.