Saturday, January 10, 2009

Off The Edge, November 2008

Anybody has this copy of magazine?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Al-Manṣūrah at a Glimpse

Al-Manṣūrah Town, with population around 420,000 is the capital of Dakahlya Governorate. The town lies in the eastern half of the Nile Delta on the right bank of the Damietta arm of the River Nile. It is located 125 km northeast of Cairo.


The town was established in 1219 by Abu-Bakr Malik Al-Adil I (also known as Saphadin, ‘Saif ed-Deen’), Salahuddin al-Ayyubi’s brother during Ayyubid dynasty. It was named al-Mansurah, which means ‘The Victorious’ after the Muslims defeated the Crusaders on its land during the Seventh Crusade. The town was then being made as capital by Abu-Bakr’s son, Sultan Malik al-Kamil in 1221 to replace Damietta, which had fallen to the Crusaders.

In 1249 a Crusading army led by King Louis IX of France (St Louis) succeeded in crossing the Ushmum Canal (now the Bahr el-Sughayyar; near the main bus terminal) to Al-Manṣūrah after ferocious fighting. Unfortunately, they were then surrounded and defeated by the young Sultan el-Moazzam Turanshah (other source indicate that Kamal al-Ayyubi, the nephew of Salahuddin al-Ayyubi was the one who defeated the crusaders). Their fleet was destroyed and their supplies were cut off.

Dar Ibn Lokman; now Mansoura National Museum.

Louis himself was taken prisoner in April 1250, and being confined in the house of Ibrahim ibn Lokman, secretary to the Sultan, and under the guard of the eunuch Sahil. The king’s brother was made prisoner at the same time, and carried to the same house. The king was then released on May 6th, 1250 in return for a heavy ransom and the surrender of Damietta. The house of Ibrahim ibn Lokman has now been turned into Al-Manṣūrah National Museum for his possessions and memorabilia.

The locals are light-skinned and fair-haired - supposedly because Al-Manṣūrah’s women are the most beautiful in Egypt! (according to locals) The town is regarded as the Bride of the Delta (Arabic = `Arous el-Delta) and Geziret el-Ward (the island of roses).

Sikkah or Souq al-Khawagat?

Abbasi Road: A place to shop electrical goods.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Journey to The Two Blessed Abodes

عن أبي هريرة رضي ٱلله عنه؛ عن رسول ٱلله صلى ٱلله عليه وسلم قال، "لا تشد ٱلرحال إلا إلى ثلاثة مساجد: ٱلمسجد ٱلحرام ومسجدي هذا وٱلمسجد الأقصى"

Narrated from Abu Hurairah; from The Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) saying, “do not prepare yourself for a journey except to three mosques: al-Masjid al-Ḥarām, this Mosque of mine and al-Aqsa Mosque.”
When I read other people’s blog about their Umrah (off-seasonal pilgrimage) trip, I wonder how lucky they are compared to myself. Even though my journey to reach the blessed valley of Makkah al-Mukarramah and The Illuminated City of al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah was full of obstacles; of course they tasted bitter… but I did not consider myself unlucky to be the guest of God, at last.

First Attempt

June 23rd, 2007: Today was when my trip began… I went to Local Health Office to get vaccination required by Saudi Immigration in order to obtain Umrah Visa. The office was suggested by my lecturer, Yaser el-Bastawisy, MB BCh, PhD - several days before.

June 30th, 2007: I submitted all documents required for Umrah participation to Brother Khairul Anwar – the organizer. I was expected to go to Tahrir to apply for Re-Entry Visa, but I had to call it off.

July 1st, 2007: I had my Re-Entry Visa done today at Mugamma, Tahrir. The clerk said my passport can be taken back at 2.30 pm. Since there were five hours to wait until 2.30 pm, I went to the next destination: Malaysian Embassy to get Support Letter for Performing Umrah. I moved to Nasser Metro Station to get microbus to go to Malaysian Embassy at Mohandessin. But instead of taking microbus, I took a 357 bus at Nasser Station; hopefully, it will go to Mohandessin, Giza. The air-conditioned bus did go to Mohandessin, but not to where embassy is located.

During my journey, I felt unfamiliar with the route the bus had taken. The bus took too much time to reach the ‘Embassy’. The journey ended at Great Pyramids of Giza station and I wasn’t intended to go there (until now, I still haven’t reached the Great Pyramids of Giza! Soon, maybe…). Feeling tired, grumpy and disappointed, I had to take the same bus to return to Tahrir. The temperature was 40°C - extremely hot. I stopped at Mouniera and visited my friends who lived there. After two hours, I went back to Mugamma’ to take my passport and then return to 7th District of Nasr City.

July 2nd, 2007: Finally, I managed to get Support Letter for Performing Umrah from Embassy.

To my dismay, the organizer had the date of departure postponed twice. And the second time they changed the date, it was several days before I had to re-seat for my exam. As a result, that was my first attempt to perform umrah before I cancelled it.

Second Attempt

January 20th, 2008: This time, I planned to go for Umrah on 25th of January. So, after getting prepared once again, together with my two companions, I went to Royal Saudi Arabian Consulate-General at Garden City, Cairo applying for visa. At the consulate, only me was allowed to enter while my friends have to stay outside. But when I got inside, the clerk refused to accept our applications because he said in an Arabic slang I didn’t recognize (perhaps Saudi slang), “you need an invitation letter.” We have to include the required letter, otherwise, no visa. On next day, we gonna have Histology exam. So, we need to return to Al-Manṣūrah first.

January 22nd, 2008: We returned again to Cairo and arrived at Turgomān, or, al-Qallily Station at 10.30 am after two-hour journey from Al-Manṣūrah. Again, problems occurred at the consulate. First, the guys at cyber-café said they didn’t know what kinda visa we’re applying, so, they just refused to register us. I was pretty upset (but I didn’t physically express my anger) and urged him to register us. So, he registered us. It was raining during that time and temperature dropped until 4°C (note that on my first attempt was during summer, but this time, it was during mid-winter period). After registration completed, we headed to consulate. To our surprise, our visa application was simply denied and the excuse given was, “your invitation letter need to be verified first by our Ministry of Exterior.” Simply put, we had to cancel our Umrah once again. Frustrated and almost frozen, we walked to Tahrir in vain to cancel our flight tickets. After praying Zuhr at ‘Ibad ur-Rahmān Mosque nearby, a local guy accused my fellas for making two separate jama’ah in the mosque. I had to interfere and explain to him that there was a misunderstanding and it wasn’t their fault. He understood and apologized for everything. Then, we headed home.

Third attempt

March 15th, 2008: It was a custom for Saudi Arabian Government to open for free Umrah visa application to all Muslims worldwide on Hijri month of Safar every year. This time, Faris and Syafiq bin Hamdani (Damak) agreed to go performing Umrah at Makkah with me. Today, I renewed my residence visa (iqāmah) in Egypt. It is one of the requirements for foreigner to apply Umrah visa within Egypt. I planned to take my iqāmah on 23rd of March, go to embassy to get Support Letter for Performing Umrah on 26th and settle everything with travel agency on 29th. Unfortunately, instead of having iqāmah, I was given Visa for Tourism Purpose that was valid until April 18th, 2008! (Iqāmah is valid for one year) So, I have to apply for my visa again and cancelled everything I planned beforehand.

April 19th, 2008: I resubmitted my iqāmah application. Without waiting any longer, I went to Cairo. We visit Kuwait-Arab Travel Agency. Nonetheless, the clerk at the travel agency said, “Saudi Arabian Government has made some amendment about Umrah regulation. Please come next 10 days after we confirm with the Consulate.” At that time, I needed to return to Al-Manṣūrah. So I left my documents with Faris and asked him to settle everything for me.

June 6th, 2008: At last, I got my iqāmah! Thank God. How delightful…

June 8th, 2008: Once again, I went to Kuwait-Arab Travel Agency alone after making appointment with Mr Mo’men. After getting my document from Faris, I got everything done so I could focus on my next examination: Anatomy.

My Umrah Visa

June 24th, 2008: We got our passport back, with Umrah Visa in it. We’re set for summer Umrah trip on 29th of June. And the participants were:

1. Me, myself and I
2. Abdul Rahman bin Nik Mazian
3. Ahmad Faiz bin Muhamad Sabri
4. Mohamad Faqih bin Mohamad Puzi
5. Mohd Faris bin Mohd Husin
6. Mohd Nasrullah bin Nik Ab. Kadir
7. Muhammad Adam bin Zainuddin
8. Muhammad Akram bin Abdul Kadir
9. Muhammad Hanif bin Khairudin
10. Muhammad Husaini bin Saleh
11. Muhammad Ikmal bin Mohamad Kamil
12. Muhammad Najib bin Hasan@Ahmad
13. Muhammad Salman
14. Muhammad Syafiq bin Mat Noor
15. Syafiq bin Hamdani

Part I: Makkah al-Mukarramah (مكة ٱلمكرمة)

June 30th, 2008: Our journey to perform Umrah (off-seasonal pilgrimage) and visiting holy places in Makkah al-Mukarramah and al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah began here. All Umrah participants were required to assemble in front of Kuwait-Arab Travel Agency (now the company is known as Cairo Travel. We were waiting for the bus at 11.00 pm but it only arrived at 12.25 am. We stopped at Cafeteria Aziziyah en route to Safaga at 4.45 am to pray Fajr. We arrived at Safaga at 8.00 am and waited for our turn to enter the port. Some of us left the bus and got their breakfast in Safaga town, while the rest tried to get some nap.

10.30 am - We checked-in inside the immigration hall. When my baggage went through the scanning machine, the officer just let it went through. But, Damak’s was stopped for further investigation. Each of our baggage contains sixty boxes of black lentils/black seeds/habbatussawda capsules. But the immigration officer suspected that those were illegal drugs. They heavily questioned Damak and asked him to retrieve my bag. So, I brought my bag to him and tried to explain that there was no problem in bringing habbatus sawda out of Egyptian main airports, and I think there would be no problem at the port too. Besides, they were not illegal drugs - they’re just capsules of natural plant-origin oil, mentioned in Prophetic Medicine Book. At first, they refuse to release our baggage. They then made a call to their high-ranked officials and after the call, they just let those capsules and our baggage passed.

Ready to cross the Red Sea

12.00 pm - We boarded Wadi Alneel ship. The ship left the port on 4.15 pm. During the voyage, we were greeted by friendly fellow Umrah pilgrims from Sohag and Qena. We also met another pilgrimage group from Malaysia led by Mr Ridzuan.

Egyptian women hymned out loud on the ship

July 1st, 2008: 7.45 am - As we were on the ship deck, we saw exocoetidaes (or flying pisces) and Spinner Dolphins. I saw two pods of Spinner Dolphins swimming near to our ship. On the ship, some Egyptian women congregated and then hymned - praising Allāh and Prophet Muhammad (blessing and peace be upon him). We arrived at Yanbu al-Bahr Commercial Port (ميناء ينبع ٱلتجاري) at 12.20 pm. We left the ship on 2.10 pm and had to pass through five Saudi immigration checkpoints. After the first checkpoint, I greeted Mr Ridzuan. He told his side of story of hardship. He was about visit Makkah and al-Madīnah by airplane but due to travel agency’s problem, he had no choice but to come to Saudi Arabia by ship.

2.30 pm - When I was at third checkpoint, my baggage containing habbatus sawda was stopped once again. Luckily, they didn’t confiscate them but it costs me a long lecture from the custom officer saying that as an Umrah pilgrim, I should behave like one. He told me that I shouldn’t bring any medicines into the country, saying that it was like ‘smuggling’. He also asked me why did I bring the medicine. I told him those habbatus sawda capsules are hard to be found in Saudi Arabia and they were requested by my colleague in Jeddah. Then, he asked his boss' either to release the capsules, confiscate it or charge them with taxes. His boss said, “Malaysia is good” (something like that, I couldn’t focus at that time because I was quite nervous) and he said habbatus sawda capsules are not in the list of prohibited goods. He permitted me to bring along with those capsules entering Saudi Arabia land. Phew!

After giving my passport to my mushrif - Sheikh Haji Muhammad Hussein, I headed to our bus. The bus left the port at 4.00 o’clock. To my amusement, Saudi Arabia is very much different from Egypt. From inside the bus, I could see a smooth traffic flow, drivers obeying traffic laws and no honking. Egypt? There’s never smooth traffic. Traffic lights in Egypt is non-existant except blinking yellow traffic lights. Even if there is, nobody in Egypt would follow it. Ask any Egyptian; they don’t even know the color of traffic lights. And Egyptian drivers are so annoying because they love to honk without any purpose. As a result, Egyptian cities suffer from sound pollution.

Our mīqāt makani at Juhfah

Back to the topic. Our mīqāt was at Juhfah, near Rabigh. We arrived at the mīqāt mosque in Juhfah at 6.15 pm to assume ihrām. After everything’s ready, we left the mīqāt site to go to Makkah al-Mukarramah and began to recite talbiyah inside the bus led by our mushrif. The interesting part during our journey from Jeddah to Makkah al-Mukarramah was its highway - free without any toll charge. Furthermore, it’s broad – four lanes on each side. Shame on Malaysia. Small highways but the toll fares are god damned expensive! And we could see along the way many huge commercial premises. Here, there is nothing small.

Approximately at 9 o’clock, we entered the Ḥaram area. As we descend from Shubaika area on the Jabal al-Kaabah Street, the glimpse of magnificent structure of al-Masjid al-Ḥarām appeared from behind the local buildings. We checked-in the Garden Narjis Hotel at Khaled bin al-Waleed Street, just next to Khaled bin al-Waleed Mosque at 11.00 pm. Then, Sheikh Muhammad told us that he’d bring us to perform Umrah at 12.00 am. So we had an hour before going to al-Masjid al-Ḥarām. We went out for dinner, since we hadn’t eaten anything after being in state of ihrām.

The Sacred House of Kaabah

July 2nd, 2008: 12.00 am - That midnight, we performed our Umrah ritual. It was my first Umrah. I couldn’t describe my feeling when I saw the Kaabah for the first time and it made me feel that how lucky I was to be there as a guest of God. Allāh still wanted me to be in the holiest place in spite of my sinful being. I felt ashamed with myself and I quickly asked for His forgiveness.

We performed the second rukun of umrah: the tawāf (circumambulation of the Kaabah). It was smooth as there weren’t many faithful performing the ritual. After tawāf, we drank zamzam water before praying. Nothing much happened; just helped an old man performing sai’e with Damak.

After Zuhr prayer, I with Damak, Faris and Faqih explored the Masjidil Ḥarām Street on the north of Marwah. Known as al-Ghazzah, the area is one of the famous spots for shopping in Makkah al-Mukarramah. We were only doing window shopping, did not buy anything yet. Then we returned to al-Masjid al-Ḥarām for ‘Asr prayer. After prayer, I performed tawāf sunnah and got a chance to pray inside the Hijr Ismāīl with Damak. Then, we prayed near Baitullah between Shāmī Corner and Yamanī Corner.

Suddenly, Damak disappeared. Anxiously, I searched for him in every part and every corner of the Mosque but it’s all in vain. My slippers were with him and I couldn’t step out of the mosque without’em. So, I waited for him until Maghreb at King Fahd Gate. Luckily, I met him at last.

Expansion Project of al-Masjid al-Ḥarām

July 3rd 2008: 8.00 am - I with Damak, Faris, Adam, Ikmal, Najib, Rahman and Faiz went for shopping spree at al-Ghazzah Area, Masjidil Ḥarām Street. To reach there, we walked through al-Shāmiah (ٱلشامية) and al-Qarārah (ٱلقرارة) hills; where these places are under The Expansion Project of the al-Masjid al-Ḥarām by The Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques. We stopped for a while to take some photos to commemorate our presence here before the expansion project is done. After photo taking, I suggested them to go down the hill and visit Maktabah Makkah al-Mukarramah.

8.15 am - We visited Maktabah Makkah al-Mukarramah, (مكتبة مكة ٱلمكرمة, which means: Library of Makkah al-Mukarramah) where Prophet Muhammad was born. Luckily, it was safe from demolition for the Sacred Mosque expansion project. However, it was closed. After picture taking, we had our breakfast at al-Sidana Restaurant nearby. We ate roti nan - SR 7 per set, but enough for two individuals.

8.45 am - Our shopping spree started. Most of us bought jalabiyyah/jubah - a traditional Arabian cloak. The most exclusive brand is al-Daffah (ٱلدفة) followed by al-Asīl (ٱلأصيل) and al-Haramain (ٱلحرمين). I also bought one CASIO Prayer Compass Watch for SR 190. After we got everything we wanted, I went to دارة ٱلقهوة - The Coffee House for hot cappuccino tasting with Damak. It was so good...

I, Faris and Faiz after ihrām in Ā’ishah Mosque, Taneem.

I performed Umrah once again after ‘Asr prayer with Faiz, Faris and Damak. This time, we took our mīqāt at Ā’ishah Mosque at Taneem. After we did our Umrah, al-Masjid al-Ḥarām suddenly flocked by masses of people. It was difficult to walk to inside the mosque and we needed to hurry to find a place to pray Maghreb. After azan (calling for prayer), I still couldn’t find any place to pray. Deep in my heart, I asked Allāh to provide me a space to pray inside the mosque and have mercy on me. Alhamdulillah, Allāh did grant my wish. It’s almost impossible to find a space fit for a person to pray at that time. But then, when I was on the ground floor of the mosque, there’s two Arab left their saf during iqāmah. So, without wasting any more time, I went there and pray comfortably. Alhamdulillah, thank God.

The azan of Isha’ prayer delivered by famous muezzin - Sheikh Ali Ahmed Mullah. After Isha’ prayer, I went to zamzam water station at al-Qarārah, near to al-Fath and Quraish Gates of the Sacred Mosque to collect zamzam water.

July 4th, 2008: Friday. I performed Umrah after Fajr prayer in the morning. And after Umrah, I got a chance to pray behind Maqām Ibrāhīm without any disturbance. As for Jumu’ah prayer, we planned to go to the Sacred Mosque on 11 o’clock to avoid mass of worshippers but due to human cause, we reached the mosque at noon. Somehow, I desired to perform non-obligatory tawāf. So, I did perform my tawāf on black Malay shirt under the ferocious heat of the sun at temperature 42°C! The mosque was overwhelmed with worshippers and luckily I managed to secure a space to pray on the second floor of the mosque during which weekly Jumu’ah sermon was delivered at the time. Phew! The sermon was delivered by Sheikh Osama Khayyat.

After ‘Asr prayer, I went near Kaabah and tried to kiss Hajarul Aswad but failed. But I manage to pray at Multazam. Alhamdulillah. Then, I went to shop at Makkah Hilton Shopping Mall.

The Ottoman interior of al-Masjid al-Ḥarām

July 5th, 2008: As usual, I performed Umrah after Fajr prayer. After finished my rituals, I headed to hotel. On my way exit from Umrah Gate, I could see a group of students (secondary school students, perhaps) was taking exam inside the al-Masjid al-Ḥarām by sitting on the floor.

Near Umrah Gate, usually mosque officers distribute free al-Quran everyday starting from 7.30 am until the reserved stock for the day is finished.

At night, I handed over my habbatus sawda to Mohd Lotfi bin Lokman, a Malaysian student from Umm al-Qura University, Makkah al-Mukarramah. He’s studying Arabic Language and Literature and blessed with a cute son named Waseem.

Plain of Arafāt: On the top of Jabal Rahmah (Mount of Mercy)

The Three Jamarāt. Still under construction.

July 6th, 2008: Ziyāratul Mazārāt (visiting holy places). 6.55 am - First, we went to visit the Plain of Arafāt. We climbed the Jabal Rahmah (Mount of Mercy) and prayed on the top of it. It is believed that the place is the meeting point of Adam and Hawā (Eve) after being separated for a hundred years after being sent down to the world from Heaven. There are also ATV and camel riding services. Of course you have to pay for those. Then, we moved tro visit Muzdalifah, Mash’aril Ḥarām, Mina, The Three Jamarāt and al-Khaif Mosque. After that, we went to Jabal Nūr but did not climb it as our group was also consisted of baby boomers and Hirā Cave is located very high on the mount.

The Exhibition of The Two Holy Mosques Architecture

10.30 am - We went out to visit The Exhibition of The Two Holy Mosques Architecture (معرض عمارة ٱلحرمين ٱلشريفين) and Kiswah Factory (مصنع كسوة ٱلكعبة ٱلمشرفة) at Umm al-Jude, located at the old Makkah-Jeddah Road. For this purpose, we hired a taxi for SR 25. Meet its driver: Turki - a friendly local Meccan. Unfortunately, The Two Holy Mosques Architecture Exhibition is only opened to public after Maghreb prayer and no individual visit is allowed to Kiswah Factory; only permitted group of visitors is allowed. It’s quite frustrating.

Next, we moved to the next destination: Museum of Makkah Antiquities and Heritage (متحف مكة للآثار و ٱلتراث) at al-Madinah al-Munawarah Street. On the way there, Turki stopped to fill his car’s gas tank. When I asked him the price of the petrol sold in Saudi Arabia per liter, he answered, “nusf riyal” (half a Riyal or 50 halalah or cents) – pretty much cheaper compared to a can of carbonated drink or a bottle of mineral water (SR 1)! Petrol in Malaysia at the time cost RM 2.70 per liter. No need to pay for the museum’s entrance. We went back to hotel by taking Saudi Arabian Public Transport Corporation (SAPTCO) Bus No. 2. The fare was SR 2. We arrived at al-Masjid al-Ḥarām during Zuhr azan.

And during our stay in Makkah al-Mukarramah, usually our prayers in al-Masjid al-Ḥarām were led by Sheikh Abdullah Awwad al-Juhni, Sheikh Salih Āli Talib and Sheikh Khalil al-Ghamidi. Both Sheikh Dr Abdul Rahman ibn Abdul Aziz as-Sudais an-Najdi and Sheikh Dr Abu Ibrahim Sa’ud ibn Ibrahim ibn Muhammad as-Shuraim were on their leave.

Part II: al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah (ٱلمدينة ٱلمنورة)

July 7th, 2008: It’s time to leave Makkah to visit al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah. We performed tawāf widā’ (valedictory circumambulation of the Sacred House of Kaabah) after Fajr prayer and grabbed this chance to take a few photos inside the al-Masjid al-Ḥarām.

3.10 pm - Left The Holy City of Makkah al-Mukarramah. We went to al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah through Road No. 15.

6.30 pm - We Stopped at a R&R to catch some rest. We looked for something to eat at a grocery nearby. That was my first time to see goods’ manufacturing and expiry date written in Hijri calendar. Plus, these products' prices are just same with other places. Compared to Egypt, the prices of goods depend on where they are sold. In other words, a pack of potato chips sold in a grocery usually LE 3. But if the same product is to be sold at a tourist’s attraction spots, it can be as high as LE 10, sometimes even LE50!

We arrived at Gawharet al-Abrar Hotel at 9.15 pm. After check-in process, we visited al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the Prophet’s Mosque) and performed our prayer on the Mosque’s compound because the Mosque is closed one hour after Isha’ prayer except for Raudhah (it means The Garden of Paradise - area between Prophet’s pulpit and his house) and al-Maqsūrah (the Mosque’s gallery). After prayer, we met with a group of newly-arrived Malaysians asking about place to pray. Then, we went to greet Prophet Muhammad and both of his companions at Raudhah. After that, we returned to hotel to have some rest.

al-Masjid an-Nabawi ash-Sharīf

July 8th, 2008: I prayed Zuhr near the Raudhah. Before the prayer, I met with a Sudanese named Badawi. I chatted with him in standard Arabic (though my knowledge in this language is limited) and we discussed about the current situation in Darfur. After Zuhr prayer, I headed to Jannah al-Baqī’ (جنة ٱلبقيع) with Faqih but the graveyard is usually opened only after Fajr and ‘Asr prayers. Then, we decided to go to Dates Market (ٱلسوق ٱلمركزي للتمور) located on the southwest of al-Masjid an-Nabawi and searched for shop no. 95. At the market, we met with an Indonesian worker and asked about the shop no. 95 location. He told us the shop’s whereabout and without being asked, he told us the tips for buying ‘Ajwah - the prophet’s dates. And the tips given by him was:
  1. When you are buying ‘Ajwah, do not mention “Tamar ‘Ajwah.” If you did the shopkeeper will know that you are maybe just an inexperienced customer in buying dates, or maybe an outsider. Enough with just saying that you want ‘Ajwah,
  2. Avoid going out shopping for dates in group. Better you go shopping alone or split from your group members. If you go in a group, the shopkeeper will know that you are not local residents. So, it’s easy for them to ‘choke’ you with high price.
  3. There a many types of ‘Ajwah: egg-shaped, the hard-type and the long-type. Egg-shaped Ajwah's texture is soft and believed to be the real ‘Ajwah as mentioned in Hadith. The long-type ‘Ajwah is believed to be a type of dates that have been cloned.
  4. You can haggle for price ranging from SR 50 to SR 60 (during which this post is written) depend on the dates' type. Egg-shaped ‘Ajwah is the expensive one whilst the long-type is much cheaper.
Dates Market of al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah

This time, we didn’t buy any dates. Just window shopping.

There is also free al-Quran distribution made in al-Masjid an-Nabawi but it is not for individual. The al-Quran copies are endowed by The Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques King of Saudi Arabia for the uses of mosques around the world. Any mosque needs al-Quran copies can request for them by handing over an official request letter to the office near Gate Umar al-Khattab (Gate No. 18 of al-Masjid an-Nabawi) beginning 9.00 am until 11.00 pm. Pick the al-Quran by thyself. Usually, the al-Quran copies are packed in boxes. (P/S: I forget whether the distribution is made everyday or only on certain days. Please check...)

Qubā’ Mosque

July 9th, 2008: Ziyāratul Mazārāt. First, visiting Masjid Qubā’. Prophet Muhammad (blessing and peace be upon him) was quoted saying,
عن سهل بن حنيف رضي ٱلله عنه قال، قال رسول ٱلله عليه ٱلصلاة وٱلسلام، "من تطهر في بيته ثم أتى مسجد قباء فصلى فيه كان له كأجر عمرة."
Means: He who makes ablution at home and comes to Masjid Qubā’ to pray, he will have the reward of an Umrah.

Next, we visited Uhud Battlefield. We climbed Jabal ar-Rumāh (جبل ٱلرماة) or Jabal ‘Aynaīn, where Prophet Muhammad (blessing and peace be upon him) had ordered the archers to remain on the hill during Uhud Battle. Then, we visited Shuhadā’ Uhud which hosts the Hamzah bin Abdul Mutalib, Anas bin Jabir, Mus’ab bin ‘Umair and other Uhud martyrs (may Allāh be pleased with them) mausoleums. Coincidently, I saw a glimpse of Ust Nasruddin Haji Hassan, the Deputy Chief of PAS Youth Assembly. However, he soon disappeared.

We (Malaysian students) were spending too much time at Uhud. Luckily, the Egyptians of our group didn't turn cranky. After everybody got on the bus, we headed to East to visit King Fahd Complex for the Printing of The Holy Qur’ān (مجمع ٱلملك فهد لطباعة ٱلمصحف ٱلشريف). Along the journey to the complex, I felt just like being in some elite area in California or Florida as I could see many modern residences and commercial complexes during the journey. At King Fahd Complex, we had a chance to greet Ust Nasruddin Haji Hassan and Ustazah Nuridah, Chief of PAS Women Assembly, with her husband. Unfortunately, King Fahd Complex was had to be closed for two weeks for maintenance purpose. Thus, we couldn’t have any al-Qurān gifts, but I managed to buy a pocket-size al-Quran for SR 12.

Tomb of Saiyidina Uthman (may Allāh be pleased with him)

After ‘Asr prayer, I went to Jannah al-Baqī’ again to visit Prophet’s family members, his companions and the residents of al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah city's cemeteries.

July 10th, 2008: After ‘Asr prayer, I went again to Dates Market together with Damak, Ikmal, Faiz and Copuk to buy some dates. Since I didn’t have much money, I opted to buy al-Barni dates and a packet of pistachios while others preferred to buy ‘Ajwah. Al-Barni dates was much, much cheaper - SR 5 per kilo. Prophet Muhammad (blessing and peace be upon him) was quoted saying,
"خيرُ تمراتِكمُ ٱلبَرني، يُذهبُ ٱلداءَ ولا داء فيه."
Means: Your best dates is al-Barni. It eliminates disease and do not cause disease. (Fathul Bari 4: 572, al-Jami’ as-Soghīr: 3303)

On the way to hotel, I bought a souvenir book: al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah - History and Monuments published by al-Madīnah Research & Studies Centre and a copy of Translation Meaning of al-Quran in Indonesian Language.

Jannah al-Baqī’

July 11th, 2008: Friday. Learnt from personal experience during Jumu’ah congregation in Makkah al-Mukarramah, I went to the Prophet’s Mosque early. After ‘Asr prayer, I went to visit Jannah al-Baqī’ once again. Then, together with Damak and Copuk, we went shopping at BinDawood Super Stores.

July 12th, 2008: At 5.30 am, the sliding domes of the Prophet’s Mosque were opened and the electronic giant umbrellas were closed for an hour. Fantastic!

With Damak in front of the Prophet's Mosque

When I headed to the mosque for Maghreb prayer with Damak and Faris, we stopped for a while and took a picture of al-Masjid an-Nabawi (above). Simultaneously, a sheikh passed by and tell us to go praying instead of photographing. “Solah, solah (pray, pray)!,” he said. But, the picture was worth it - our photo with the spectacular scenery of dusk was very amazing.

After the prayer, we took pictures outside al-Maqsūrah area and we could see a ‘professional and well-clothed’ beggar in action trying to get some money out of passers-by at the Mosque’s compound by giving ‘I come to Saudi Arabia to work and then I lost my passport and money’ type of excuse. Beware. I was ‘confronted’ by a Pakistani-looked beggar also then, after Isha’ prayer but refused to give any money. When you encounter these people, you can either help them out or spit these words out: “contact your embassy.” Or, maybe Allāh sent one of His angels down in human disguise just to test me... There's no way I could have known.

I returned to al-Masjid an-Nabawi and managed to secure a place for praying in Raudhah. Alhamdulillah, thank God.

Yanbu (ينبع)

July 13th, 2008: It was our last in al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah. We leave the ‘Dome of Islam’ at 10.30 am and headed to Yanbu al-Bahr by through Road No. 50. An hour later, our bus driver stopped the bus because its air-condition was out-of-duty. The driver tried to repair it but it was just can’t be fixed. We have no choice but to continued our journey half an hour later without air-conditioning while the temperature at the time was as high as 40°C! Fortunately, the window at the rear seats can be opened, but for those sitting in the front part of the bus have to deal with the heat and sweat like hell. 

1.00 pm - Our arrival at Yanbu al-Bahr. We could see Saudi Aramco Oil Refinery and foul smell of petroleum struck our noses. We took a rest before entering the ship and prepared for immigration requirements.

2.00 pm - The drama began. After passing all immigration processes, we headed to Wadi Alneel Ship. For unknown reason, we were denied from boarding the ship. The ship’s officers ordered us to step aside to allow Egyptians to board the ship. After waiting too long and all Egyptians had managed to board the ship, the ship officials just simply said that we couldn’t board the ship because the ship was overbooked. What? Our Umrah visa was stamped ‘EXIT’ and our baggage has been put inside the cargo. Then, who’s gonna pick them once they arrive at Egypt? We demanded an explanation but they just ignored us. Egyptians and their discrimination… Being treated like jerks, who wouldn't become furious and angry?

We were denied to board the ship. Frustration can be clearly seen on Najib's face.

4.00 pm - After being helped out by a Saudi immigration officer, only six of us (Eckm, Damak, Najib, Faiz, Copuk and Salman) could board the ship and the rest had to be left stranded for five days in Yanbu. Time to split. Those six survivors left Yanbu and the rest entered the immigration hall and all their passports were taken (including mine) to lift the cancelled visas status.

7.00 pm - We were sent to an apartment (ٱلسلام بلازا للأجنحة و ٱلشقق ٱلمفروشة) at Omar bin al-Khattab Street, al-Saaydah, Yanbu by Samir, Sultan Badr and one of their friend. One of them gave us SR 150, just in case anything should happen. Luckily, 300-channel TV was ready to get rid of our boredom.

Yanbu may not be a legendary town, but where else in the world you’d find a town like it? It’s just like a desolated town - lived only by workers. People leave to work in the morning and only come back at night. There are not many shops open during daylight. Buildings were built far from each other. So, if you wanna go from one place to another, it’s best if you have a vehicle. No life. The town is facilitated with 3-lanes wide of each side of the road but not many vehicles found on its traffic. Here, traffic jam is non-existant. Taxis are barely seen.

July 16th, 2008: - On our way to restaurant for lunch, a group of Malaysian engineers whom are working at Yanbu National Petrochemical Company saw us. They stopped their car and asked us to go for lunch with them at Al-Rihab Restaurant. Special thanks to Mr Ghazali Abd Aziz for his treat. He told us that these engineers run for 3M: Makkah, Madīnah and Money. Their salary is three times more compared to what the get in Malaysia and it’s tax free. And many more…
July 17th, 2008: Downpour had wetted Yanbu this morning and to our surprise, the satellite TV was confiscated. But it’s okay since it’s our time to leave Saudi Arabia today for good. We left our apartment at 2.30 pm and headed to the port earlier other Egyptians who were on their way to Yanbu from either Makkah or al-Madīnah. It was very easy this time and we made it on the ship without much trouble.

July 18th, 2008: Our first Jumu’ah on ship. The muezzin called for azan at 12.45 pm, followed by sermon and prayer. It was so quick that our prayer finished by 1.00 pm! It’s once in a blue moon experience.

3.00 pm - Arrive at Safaga, Egypt. We left the ship on 5.00 pm and looked for transport to Cairo. After dealt with a coaster driver, we agreed for LE 70 fare each to Cairo. Unfortunately, it was an unpleasant journey with a group of not-really-good Egyptians riding the same coaster. There are a lot of smokers including an old woman who smoked as well. We only left Safaga on 9.00 pm after too much hassles caused by driver himself. We made it to Cairo only at 6.00 am on the next day. At least, we arrived without very serious problem, thank God.

2008 Winter Break

25th Jan (Friday) - Winter holiday begins. Today, I am supposed to go to Makkah with Zaim and Izzat Hadi performing Umra but I have to call it off due to several reasons.

28th Jan (Monday) - Go to Cairo.

30th Jan (Wednesday) - Go to some association carnival with Haikal and Faeid. Haziq asks me if I could be one of the judges. I accept it for table-tennis contest, helping Haikal up. It’s the day Faizal, Hafiz and Halim arrived from Moscow. But I couldn’t meet them because they go straight away to Sinai after arriving at 2.00 am. At afternoon, Abdullah Tahir asks me to join Mansoura team for Win, Lose or Draw game. I accept it. We lose at semi-quarter round.

Cairo International Book Fair 2008

31st Jan (Thursday) - Go to 40th Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) with Azrul Azly at 11.00 am. We arrive there at the General Office for International Exhibitions and Fairs’ ground, Nasr City approximately on 12 pm and visit Saudi’s booth before praying because there is too much crowd at the mosque. After praying, we go to every booth there. I buy A History of Modern Middle East by William L Cleveland and The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking by Dale Carnegie. We meet Faisal ‘Arif and Izzul at Hall No. 5 and continue our roam at the exhibition. Then, we go to District 7 after Maghreb prayer and have our dinner at Restoran Nil. I and Azrul returned to Sayeda Zeinab and both Faisal and Izzul returned to ARMA, Abbasia.

1st Feb (Friday) - After Jumu’ah prayer, I go to some association’s carnival closing ceremony with Haikal and Yusri. At last, I manage to meet Faizal before he and his friends go to Asfour, Shoubra el-Khaima. I was so lucky today because three friends of mine treated me! First, by Yusri. Second, by Ust Jamal. Third by Haikal. Thank God and thanks to them. Then, I go to Sayeda Zeinab to stay at Faeid’s house with he himself, Haikal, Hanifah and Yusri.

2nd Feb (Saturday) - I, Damak and Faeid go to Cairo International Book Fair. Entrance is free with Student ID, otherwise we have to pay LE 1. Wandering around booths selling international books, just for window shopping. Damak plans to buy Coloured Atlas of Human Anatomy and I manage to buy مصحف دارالصحابة في القراءات العشر المتواترة من طريق طيبة النشر . But, I have no idea what Faeid buy.

3rd Feb (Sunday) - I planned to return home tonight but I had to cancel it. I go to District 7to attend editorial meeting for SKEK Issue No. 40 and No. 41. I am proud to be here and to work with great people of the top Malay magazine in Egypt. Muhammad Firdaus Mat Daud was replaced by Wan Mohd Hafiz as Editor-in-Chief. During this meeting, I manage to change ‘Perubatan’ column into ‘Kesihatan’ column. And I propose general election issue and it was accepted as mini focus of SKEK No. 40. After the meeting, I visit Lah Hussen’s house. We go to Rumah Perlis and have our dinner and some hard-talk there. The meal is Nasi Paprik. It is extremely hot, so as our discussion. Later, I go back to Sayeda Zeinab.

4th (Monday) - CIBF is extended until Thursday, 7th of February.

Mosque of Sultan Hassan

Mohammed Ali's Mosque

6th Feb (Wednesday) - Approximately at 11.30 am, I go to Citadel of Salah al-Din (best known as Qal’ah Salahuddin) with Damak, Safwan and Baihaqi. We take taxi ride for LE 6 fare. We visit National Military Museum before praying Zuhr at an-Nasir Muhammad Qalāwūn Mosque. Next, we visit Mohammed Ali’s Mosque. It was built on the hilltop. Then, we enter a museum that was once al-Gawhara Palace. After that, we take a scenic view of ‘The Triumphant City’ (Cairo) before visiting National Police Museum. We return to Mounira at 3 pm and have our lunch (you can call it tea time ‘coz it’s too late in the afternoon) at Baghal Restaurant. The meal is ‘ish bread, shakshukah and shawerma. I pray ‘Asr and went to Akmal Huzaifah’s house to attend I-MAN’s editorial meeting. I am suffering of headache and ask Akmal for some painkiller. Then, I returned to Sayeda Zeinab - again.

7th Feb (Thursday) - 8.30 pm: Bring Faizal and his gang to Mansoura from District 7. We try to take a van at Ramses Square. 30 minutes has passed and since we cannot afford to wait any longer as there’s no transport to go to Mansoura, we opt to move to Abboud Station to take transport from there. We arrive at Mansoura on 11.30 pm – too late for visiting people. Unfortunately for Ikram, we hit his house first and have kabbsah meal, thanks for his kind treat.

8th Feb (Friday) - 3.30 am: Crazy thing I’ve ever done in my life. Staying for only four hours at home before returning to Cairo with Faizal and his fellas. Luckily, there’s a Peugeot awaiting for us at Utubis Gadid. The road to Cairo is covered by fog but thank God, nothing bad happens. We arrived at Abboud at Fajr prayer calling. We go to District 7 via Ramses and pray Fajr at ‘Ibad ur-Rahman Mosque (a mosque converted from a church). Faizal and his gang go to Souq Shafi’e (Cairo’s Sotheby’s) - somewhere around Mausoleum of Imam Shafi’e and Sayeda Nafisa Mosque, well, I donno exactly, while I go to Ust Din’s house. They return to Moscow tonight. Farewell and have a good journey.

What about 2009? Coming soon...


لله أكبر فوق كيد ﭐلمعتدي

God is Greater than the enemy's folly


In Egypt, you can talk very loud in examination hall and play with your handphones before examination - only if you are an examiner.

If you are an examinee, I don't think so. You can do it but beware of the risk of being scolded.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Dusk on Friday

This is the first friday in both 2008 Gregorian & 1430 Hijrah calendars this year.

Wait, what? Friday?

Tell you what, even though Friday is the best day, the chief of all days; Friday is just like a dead day in Egypt. The town is as quiet as a cave. Everybody’s waking up late and the shops usually open after Jumu’ah prayer. Not many cars wandering on the road, let alone to hear noisy honks as usual.

Not as busy as usual

The day only started when men go to mosque to attend Friday prayer. Just after prayer, just after the imam gave his salām, the businessmen start to shout offering some good price for their goods. They said, it’s a good time to have business after congregational Friday prayer because God has said in Quran verse 10 chapter 62, “Then when the (Jumu’ah) Salāt (prayer) is ended, you may disperse through the land, and seek the Bounty of Allāh (by working, etc.), and remember Allāh much: that you may be successful.”

Evening explosion

Now, it's winter and the elderly start going to the mosque by wearing mishlah. Usually, temperature can drop below 10°C in the morning; and range between 10-18°C on afternoon.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My Second Trip Port Said

The Beginning of The Journey

Last Saturday, on 17th November 2007 I was traveling 210 km far from Cairo to Port Said (Arabic: بورسعيد - Būr Sa’īd) for a shopping spree together with Faris (the mastermind), Shakir, Faeid, Haji Asyraf Zuki, Ikmal, Kamal, Hafiz, Afifi, Hazwan and Safwan. I was personally asked by Faris to be the guide for his group. We began our journey at Sayeda Zeinab Metro Station taking commuter to New El-Marg Station. From New El-Marg (el-Marg el-Gedida as pronounced by locals) we took a ‘Peugeot‘ (taxis of Peugeot 504 model - an intercity cab service) to Port Said. The trip cost LE14 and the journey took about 2½ hours. Approximately at 10.30 am, we arrived at Mauqaf Masr, the southern part of Port Said.

Cairo-Ismailia Desert Road (only desert, factories and military camps can be seen along the road)

Ismailia-Port Said Road (green scenery. And there are a lot of mango farms too!)

MISC’s (Malaysia International Shipping Corporation)‘Bunga Melati 3‘ Cargo Ship is sailing through the Suez Canal. Amazingly, you can see as if the ship is sailing on the land! But the truth is the ship sail on the narrow Canal connecting the West and the Far East.

Another ship…

At Port Said

From Mauqaf Masr, we rode four taxis (4 person for each cabs) to go to M. Ali Street, where the shopping bazaar is located. The taxi fare costs only LE2.50 around the town. Many of the shops are still closed and we roamed the bazaar (Souq Gadid) for a while and waited for Zuhr prayer.

Local taxis at Mauqaf Masr, Port Said

Alongside the M. Ali St.

At-Tawfīqy Mosque, located at the northern part of Souq Gadid

Port Said Trivia

Port Said is a free-trade zone and is a hotspot for shopping clothes (Mdm Zalilah, read this!). Malaysians usually come here to shop for winter jackets. You can also get secondhand clothes from Europe (Europe mali punya!) here and most of them are still in good condition.

Faris was making his choice

After the prayer, we were searching for seafood and I brought these guys to a diner whose its owner can speak broken Malay. We chose 11 sets of fried seafood plate consist of 3 different fishes and 2 cuttlefishes (tempura Egyptian style) with rice for LE10 per person. After the meal, we went to Old Bazaar (Souq Adim) near the fish market (Souq el-Samakk) to shop for secondhand winter jackets. I grabbed a leather jacket for LE50. Only four of us bought jackets. Others end up buying some souvenir or nothing.

The participants after the shopping spree at Souq Adim
From left: Hazwan, Faeid, Safwan, Kamal, Faris, Shakir, me and Ikmal
Sitting: Asyraf Zuki and Hafiz

Visiting Port Fouad

Then, after ‘Asr prayer, we moved to the jetty to go to Port Fouad (Arabic: بور فؤاد - Būr Fu’ād). Since there is no bridge nor tunnel connecting Port Said and Port Fouad banks, we board a ferry crossing the Suez Canal and the cruise took about 10 minutes. The ferry service - chargeless (Penang Ferry Services is still charging fees for their service though. What a shame…). I, Ikmal and Hafiz visited the Mugamma’ Islami Mosque while the others were enjoying taking photographs near the jetty.

Port Fouad as seen from Port Said jetty

Mugamma’ Islami Mosque, Port Fouad

Boarding ‘Bur Fouad 3‘ ferry crossing the Canal back from Port Fouad to Port Said From right: Shakir, me, Hafiz and Faeid

The Suez Canal was opened in 1869, dividing the African mainland and Sinai Peninsular. The Northern Area - the canal’s firth was where 40 ships were dunked during Suez Crisis (أزمة السويس) on October 29th, 1956.

Finally, The Trip Ended...

After that, we crossed the Canal again and moved straight to Mauqaf Masr by hiring a van to return to Cairo. I, Faeid, Asyraf Zuki, Ikmal, Kamal, and Afifi took the ‘Peugeot‘ service and the others took express bus service. We arrived at 7.30 pm at el-Marg el-Gedida and took Metro commuter service to return to Sayeda Zeinab, Cairo. A beautiful journey indeed…

So, if there’s any Malaysian medical students from Cairo University who are looking for a guide (mushrif), find these guys as I already showed them around Port Said.

Eid al-Fitr 1428 H

The blessed month of Ramadan year 1428 Hijrah had ended and the blissful month of Shawwal gave its rise.

Celebration Day

I was arrived at Kelantan Student Hostel at District 7 of Nasr City, Cairo on a day before Eid to attend the Eid Well-Wishing Ceremony and Tasbīh prayer representing Kelantan medical students of Mansoura University. At the ceremony, I was honored for being given a chance to deliver a speech and to wish all Kelantanese students in Egypt a happy and blessed Eid. After the ceremony, we were served Eid cookies and some breads as well as a glass of coffee for each of us. As a consequence, I was unable to sleep on that night due to caffeine intake.

Father called me at 1.50 am after receiving my SMS asking him to call me. It’s because I weren’t able to buy telephone credit to call my family in Malaysia in conjunction with the Eid and I had no other resort. So, I sent him SMS and asked him to call me. I spoke to my family for 6 minutes before returned to bed. Since I couldn’t sleep, I could hear many strange ‘hymns’ and see a person experiencing strange nightmare.

I woke up at 4.30 am, took bath and had my morning prayer. Then, I took my breakfast and went to Musa ibn Nusair mosque to have Eid prayer and listened to Eid sermon. After that, I went to Kelantan Student Hostel to attend MAAF '07 (Majlis Aidilfitri 2007) - an official open-house organized by KPKM. The ceremony begins with speeches, followed by nasheed performance and ended by feast. It was a joyous occasion.

Well-wishers. From left: Shakir, Faisal, Faris, Ilham, Haikal and Ashraf

Haikal, Ashraf and Shakir

Kelantan Student Hostel during MAAF 2007

After delivering his official Eid speech. Never wished to have a Chief like him...

After Zuhr prayer, together with Haikal, Faris, Faeid and Shakir, led by brother Malik, we went to visit open-house around District 7 and the roam ended just before ‘Asr prayer. These freeloaders continued roaming after Maghreb prayer and this time their destination is 10th District. Two houses were under attack.

Abg Din’s home-made Eid ‘kahks‘ (English: cookies). Who said that Malaysians in Egypt are desperate for Eid cookies?

The Eid celebration was continued on next day as these freeloaders’ energy were drained out...

Shawwal the 2nd, 1428 Hijrah

The celebration started after ‘Asr prayer. First, YDP KPKM’s open-house. Next, Ust Rosdi Senik’s open-house. Then, Ust Najid’s open-house. And after that, Ahmad Muhaimin Mustapha’s open-house.

Bunch of freeloaders at KPKM Chief’s open-house

Making hilarious Eid parody

But this time, a large group consist of fourteen freeloaders namely me, Faris, Farid, Faeid, Shakir, Haikal, Azlee, Najib, Albaihaqi, Muaz, Mat, Taufik and KPKM Chief went to these open-houses. This time KPKM's Deputy Chief led our journey to these open-houses. Same as the day before, though. Nothing special. But, it didn’t matter. As long as we’re full, it’s okay. (Grin)

Shawwal the 3rd, 1428 Hijrah

I was staying at Sayeda Zeinab, Cairo to help Faris, Faeid, Damak, Haikal and Shakir for their open-house. The open-house was at Haikal’s house. They imported a special chef from Abbasiah to cook curry noodles and the man was Adli. I just helped them to prepare drinks. I made rose syrup and it was too sweet. Many guests complained. Nonetheless, Adli’s curry noodle was very special and it was worth for the guests to come and tasted it.

Menu of the day: curry noodles. Prepared by Adli and the crew

After that, I went to Yusri Arif’s house just a storey above Haikal’s house together with Ust Hafiz, TYDP, Deq Mad, Taufik and Shakir. There, we tasted delicious Eid cookies from the landlord. It felt like having Eid in Malaysia and maybe even better than that, so as to say! Thanks to all. The next day, our lectures start but this year’s Eid is really meaningful for me.

At Yusri’s house with KPKM's Deputy Chief (now an ex-)

Shawwal the 4th, 1428 Hijrah

Non-heavy downpour in Cairo, and elsewhere...