Madīnah was a place of firsts for us and provided clues to the trip to come. We got off the plane like tourists, giddy and exhausted. The giddiness dissipated as we stood in line to be processed by a series of clerks who were the first in the long line of alternately aggressive and apathetic bureaucratic employees we would encounter during our hajj journey. The chaos of getting onto a bus and checking in to the hotel was the first of many moments of chaos we would encounter. We got settled in our hotel room and immediately set off with two friends from Houston for the masjid an Nabawi.
Being in the masjid an Nabawi and visiting nearby mosques of historical significance would give us the first taste of the terrible pushing crowds we would experience. In that way it was beneficial to go to Madīnah first – it prepared us as best we could be for the crowds to come in Mecca. My husband and friends made plans to get up after a few hours of sleep to pray tahajjud at the mosque, but I was tired and disoriented and opted for sleep instead.
December 31, 2005, ~3:15 a.m. Room 317, Hilton Madīnah. I've been up for about an hour or so, taking my time and having a nice hot shower. Husband left to see the Rawdah ~1:30 a.m. but I thought I wanted to sleep more – as it turned out I wasn't as tired as I thought, and got up shortly thereafter. The plan is for my friend and I to go to fajr together at the masjid an Nabawi and stay to see the Rawdah. After that we'll meet our husbands back at the hotel and go on the tour of historic sites and such. Unfortunately the plan isn't 100% clear to me, though, as far as what time my friend and I are meeting, and I will likely end up walking over to fajr alone. I'm kind of nervous about doing things alone.
So I'm looking out the window right now watching people steadily walking towards the Prophet's masjid. Madīnah is like a party town in total reverse – people are out at all hours of the night to pray, not to party.
I was totally jonesing for some coffee, even though I'm down to one cup in the morning and really do well without it. I was simply dreaming of sitting down with a hot cup of black bitter coffee when I started writing. I ordered a small Arabic coffee from room service and ended up with a carafe full of tea-colored cardamom-flavored hot beverage, which I'm hoping has caffeine in it…
I see so many people heading towards the masjid that I keep thinking it will run out of space – but then I remember it can hold a million people within the building and surrounding grounds. It's enormous! And gorgeous. SubḥānAllāh! Off I go.