A journey of a lifetime

26th Jun 2014
Photo of A journey of a lifetime 1/6 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala
AlBaik Burger
Photo of A journey of a lifetime 2/6 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala
The Kaaba
Photo of A journey of a lifetime 3/6 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala
Photo of A journey of a lifetime 4/6 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala
Columns at Al Masjid-e-Nabawi
Photo of A journey of a lifetime 5/6 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala
Mina tents
Photo of A journey of a lifetime 6/6 by Tasneem Bhavnagarwala
Al Masjid-e-Nabawi

Sometimes some journeys are more than extraordinary, they shake the foundation of your existence and compel you to think beyond our chaotic world.

One such journey was my trip to Mecca & Medina in 2012. I was undertaking a pilgrimage and I never imagined that it would turn out to be a journey of a lifetime.

My first destination was Mecca and after a long journey as soon as I reached I was taken to perform the rites at the Kaaba. My heart was pounding and a mixture of nerves and adrenaline rendered me almost paralysed. I stepped through the main gate after quickly being searched by one of the guards and now the Kaabaa was just a few metres away from me. 

I walked with my gaze lowered through the magnificently designed mosque with gorgeous carvings. I sporadically raised my gaze to marvel at my surroundings with thousands of pilgrims reciting prayers or reading the Holy Quran all around me.

And finally there it was. The Kaaba. It was bigger than I had ever anticipated. It was huge and just WOW! I could not believe I was standing there in front of it. Stationary. Motionless. Silently murmuring a few prayers I felt as though I had been spiritually touched. My so-called busy life seemed transient and non-existent. The aura of the place had touched my soul and given me a sense of peace I was always longing for. I felt as if all my internal struggles had been resolved and a sense of calm prevailed within me.

After finishing the formalities I rested for the day and next day visited the city of Mecca to see the life it offers the locals. A city with no frills this place has just one draw, the Kaaba and the locals have given themselves to it. However food is something the people here enjoy immensely. I visited their version of McDonalds called AlBaik. It served some yummy crispy chicken, a juicy burger and French fries. It was a wholesome meal and a complete joy for the taste buds.

After Mecca we moved onto Medina. There I visited Al Masjid Al Nabawi the second most sacred mosque and one of the biggest in the world. This mosque is beyond imagination and just magnificent. Wonderful decoration, stone columns and latest conveniences like escalators and air conditioning have taken over the place of the initial mud and palm trees. The most iconic part of this mosque is the giant foldable umbrellas, each being almost 20 meters tall to provide comfort to the pilgrims from the harsh sun. These stunning umbrellas are something I have never seen before, truly a piece of art.

The trip for me was a process of understanding the human needs, the importance of being human, the feeling of being ordinary and seeing people come together for a common purpose. It’s a much higher level of spiritual journeys I will ever see and experience.

Notes from the trip taken in 2012