Touchdown -- a true sense of equality
As arrivals go – and I’ve been through some lengthy ones here – this one wasn’t so bad. In fact, it could’ve been worse. Much worse.
You know the saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” It applies here too. There’s no such thing as a free Hajj.
Doesn’t matter where you come from, why you’re here, or which group you’re with… your patience will be tested. It’s not just adjusting to the different way things work here. It’s about realizing that even before the pilgrimage begins, as people arrive from around the world, you start losing your importance.
Or, to put it more clearly: When you’re standing in line – lots between massive groups of Indonesians, Nigerians, Indians, French, and [insert whatever nationality you want here] … you’re no more important than anyone else. They say that’s what the pilgrimage is about. Abandoning whatever social constructs you come from, and diving into a true sense of equality.
For pilgrims with a sense of self-entitlement or pride, it can be a shock. Some people even lose their cool. The trick, I’m told, is to rough it out. This is a world where saying “Move out of my way, I’m a politician” doesn’t quite cut it. I sat next to a deputy of the General Assembly of Mali today. His diplomat passport meant nothing. He had to jump through the same hoops as everyone else.
Including me. I landed in Jeddah, hoping my fixer would be on the ground ready to pick me up. Instead, after being shuttled around from one handler to another, I finally got out of the airport – three hours later. Am now in Jeddah, hoping to make it to Madinah tomorrow. So many stories to be told there, and so many photos to be taken.
Will try to blog more once I get there. After getting sleep. Precious, precious sleep.
In the meantime, you can track the journey on Twitter @MuhammadLila for live updates.