It's that time of year again! The school breaks are upon us, the changing season is in the air, and old men are sitting around the airports in towels.
I was talking about the Hajj season. What were you talking about? Witchcraft no doubt.
Yes, the Hajj is upon us. For those of you who are uninformed, the Hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. These are the five things that one must do to be a good Muslim. They are as follows:
The Islamic Creed, which is to proclaim that there is no other God than Allah.
- Almsgiving, or giving money to the poor. In many islamic countries, this is part of the taxes, so it automatically comes out of paychecks.
- Daily prayers, five times a day. This is strictly enforced here.
- Fasting during Ramadan.Also strictly enforced in the Kingdom.
- And finally, the Hajj.
There are actually many acts you have to preform during the Hajj, of which I do not know the extent. But on the 9th day of the Hajj month, which started Wednesday, October 17th this year, everyone – EVERYONE – who is performing the Hajj must be in the small town of Arafat (near Mecca) in order to do something. Something about throwing stones.
Arafat is supposedly where Adam received forgiveness from Allah, and where the Prophet Mohammad made his last sermon. It is known as a place of forgiveness.
But imagine it. Last year, there was 20 million people doing the Hajj. 20 million people in the small town of Arafat. Then, the next night, they all must sleep in another village, which is made solely of tents. They have all the modern amenities, it is said, just in tents.
There are other acts that must be performed, like the Umrah, which is what you see on television where they are walking around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque in Mecca. The two times I have flown to City 2, there were announcements for all those going to perform the Umrah (which can be done any time of year). The announcements were concerning a distance from Mecca where you are supposed to gather your intentions to fulfill your holy duties. Since, in days of yore, one would be traveling on foot or on a camel, there was plenty of time to do this. Now, it's kind of a quick thought process you engage in before you land in City 2.
I was actually quite surprised to find that non-Muslims were not allowed, not only in the Grand Mosque, but in the entire city region of Mecca and Medina. In the past I have found the Islamic faith - and more or less every other faith excepting Mormonism - very willing to share their cultures with other faiths and peoples. Not so here. Infidels are strictly prohibited in the Holy Land. There is an invisible line after which non-Muslims are not permitted.
Obviously, I'm no expert on this, and I plan to learn more. But I'm very glad I'm getting the heck out of Dodge for the time being. If 20 million people in towels ( to approach Mecca on the Hajj or the Umrah, you must wear un-sewn cloth instead of clothes) are going to descend on this country, I'm glad I won't be here.