23 Apr 2009

Just thoughts

Life seems a bit flat after the Umrah. I know its only me but I cant seem to lift myself out of the doldrums. I do miss seeing my grand daughter and wish I could fly out to Singapore to see her but a lingering dry cough has hit me and though not really bad is quite irritating, especially at night when I'm up at all hours, coughing. Yesterday I thought of going into Ikea just to look around at some furniture but changed my mind and hit for Seng Heng instead. After all I hadn't used up the coupons I was given by UOB last time. So Shasha and I went off to Seng Heng and came back with a new DVD player as well as a juicer. Hmm... now must make sure I make the fruit juice myself!

I've finished reading most of my books and am now reading the Alexander McCall Smith's series on Precious Ramotswe, the lady detective of Gaborone, Botswana.

I think Alexander Mc Call Smith has a rare insight into Botswana. Reading the books one almost thinks its written by a Botswana native - they present a precious view of life in Gaborone in particular, and in Botswana in general.

19 Apr 2009

Malacca - home sweet home

I've been back in Malacca for two days now. My plants are thriving! So are the fish and so is Toitoi, our resident tortoise. We came down late at night on Friday and went to bed straight away, being too tired to do much of anything. However I still took time to look at the pond, clear away some dead leaves and switch off the waterfall.

Life is simpler here. The next day was gardening day - clearing weeds, putting fertiliser, trimming dead leaves and flowers. But I still took time for my regular Quran reading class. After all the hustle and bustle of traveling, sleeping at airport lounges (Saudi Air was really hopeless - we had a 6 hour delay at Madinah airport!), life can't be sweeter once I'm back on homeground. But before this - on Friday we had tea with the Ex PM - Tun Abdullah Badawi and his wife Jeanne to wish them all the best for the future. Like ordinary people they said they were quite tired - packing up to leave the PM's house in Putrajaya! The tea was held at the Marriott Putrajaya. It was a lovely place, with beautifully landscaped gardens. But the food? I'll give it a 5 out of 10. That is being generous. Let's just say it didn't live up to its name. BUt we had a great time anyway and I'm sure Pak Lah had a lot of fun too.

15 Apr 2009

Masjidil Haram

View of Masjidil Haram after afternoon prayers - human traffic jam.

Me - while waiting for Asar prayers with the Kaabah in the background. This picture was taken from the first floor.

6 Apr 2009

Visiting friends

Today is like any other day here except its a working day. As usual we woke up around 5,50am so we couldn't go to to the masjid to pray fajar. We praye din our rooms instead.
After that we went down for breakfast but the fried rice looked so unappetising and the dining room was over crowded. We went to the Bangla place opposite the hotel instead and had parratta there. The parratta was so huge and delicious - I think my diet is going kaput here. Everything is so nice I keep on eating!
That night after Ishaq prayers we were invited for dinner at a friend's house. He was actually a friend of a friend - Ton's that is. His name was Mat and he was  a Patani born in Arabia. He grew up in Saudi, Mekah to be exact and went to Kind Abdul Aziz University, and is now working at the Haj Ministry.

We went to his house where we met his lovely young wife and three small children - 2 girls and a boy who was only about 8 months old. Nasriyah his wife had prepared a lovely Arab rice dish and the recipe is here:
Arab Rice (to serve 6 people)

6 cups rice and 6 cups water
1 cup Arab mushroom (specially dried mushrooms mixed with herbs)

2 sticks cinnamon
1tablespn cumin powder
3 tablespns ketumbar (Dried curry powder)
1 tablespn peppercorns (do not crush)
2 large onions sliced thickly
3 pieces of garlic (crushed)
a handful of buah pelaga ( cardomoms)

The beef
Mix the beef with salt, maggie chicken cubes, the cumin powder, cardomons, and rest of herbs in a pot of water. Boil the beef in it using the above ingredients. Take the beef out after its  half cooked.

Using the same water, add the rice and boil again. This time let the rice boil until almost cooked, then add the beef.  Drain the water and set aside.

In a large pot, fry the large onions, buah pelaga, cumin etc. Add the half cooked rice and beef. Cook together until well mixed and cooked. Add the mushrooms and leave for about 10 minutes until mushrooms are cooked.

Serve with cucumber salad, leafy slads with grated carrots mixed with onions and diced tomatoes.

5 Apr 2009


VIew of the Kaabah taken at 2 am after our tawaf for the 2nd umrah.

Mekah has changed and yet has not. Physically there are many changes - the whole area where we once stayed for more than a month during our Haj days have been demolished. In its place there are huge, very impressive looking new hotels - Like the Massa, Meredien, Al Marwah and so on. The bazzaars, souks and small shops that crowded agianst each other are all gone. Construction is on going so there are huge cranes and piling work being done. Dust covers everything.
The hotel that we're staying in is almost like the Fuad Marwah. Its called Al Beer (pronounced as Bir, not beer !) and is about 300 metres from the Masjid, behind some small shops and in a very narrow lane - so narrow that even a small car cannot pass through. Opposite are a row of small shops - all looking very tumble down and unkempt. But there's a restaurant (if you can call it that) that sells roti canai or paratta and dhall and the most sumptious suji custard that I've eaten in years. We are there almost every day. After one trial of our hotel food, we decided that it would be kinder on our stomach to eat at the restaurant.
Days in Mekah go like this - 4.00 am - wake up, bathe, get ready for prayers, walk to the masjid.
6.30 am - breakfast at the Bengali restaurant opposite. Then up to the room where we rest for a while.
10.30 am - Back to the masjid where I read the Quran, pray some Sunat prayers and wait for the afternoon prayers (Al Zuhr).
1.00 pm - lunch. WE either eat at the food court on the 3rd floor of HIlton Tower or buy a takeaway. Rest after lunch.
3.20pm - Back to the masjid and wait for Asar prayers. If you don't go early you will not have any places to sit!
4.00pm - Walk around the shops, window shop or rest in room until Maghrib.
6.00 pm - get ready for Maghrib and at 6.20 pm go to the masjid. WE all normally stay on after Maghrib and just read the Quran while waiting to do the Isyaq prayers.
8.06 pm - Ishaq prayers. After prayers we meet at one place and go for dinner - normally at the food court. WE hardly eat at the hotel. The food is plain and tasteless and the place so crowded you can't find a seat!
So that's it - for 10 days in Mekah our days are spent just in that way. However there are visits too. On the second day we did our second UMrah but instead of going in the morning Repin and I decided to pay ourselves and hired a taxi to go to Tana'im. We managed to get 2 other couples to join us and hired a van so we did our second Umrah at night after Ishaq, which was cooler and maybe less crowded. But you really can't escape the crowd. Even at 2 or 3 am the Masjid is always crowded.
Looking at the crowd I wondered - what economic crisis? Muslims from everywhere can come for Umrah now, and its not cheap! So who says the global economy is declining?

4 Apr 2009

Visiting historical sites in Mekah Al Mukarammah

The mountain where the Prophet (pbuh) first got his revelation - Jabal Thur

On Saturday, 5th April, our group was taken for a tour of the historical places of Islam. The first areas were the usual ones - Arafah, Mina, Jabal Rahmah, Jabal Thurr, Gua Hira or the Hira Caves and so on. Arafat (the"t" is silent) is the place where we would all gather together on the day of Resurrection. It is here that we would have to spend the night if we are doing our haj. Now, without the normal huge crowds of people, the place looks eerie and silent. It is actually a desert area surrounded by tall mountains on 3 sides. Nowadays there are trees, planted there by the Saudi govt to give shade to pilgrims during the Haj season. Beneath each tree there is a small fawcet, with water flowing at intermittent times to water the trees.

Gua Hira or the Hira Cave was where the Prophet (Peace be upon him) hid when the Quraish, his enemies, were hunting for him. It was said that as soon as the Prophet (Pbuh) had hidden in the cave with his friend Abu Bakar, spiders wove a web at the entrance of the cave and a dove built a nest near its mouth to let the Quraish think that the Prophet Mohammad (Pbuh) or in fact no one had entered the cave. How could anybody enter the cave without disturbing the spider's web or stepping on the bird's nest? So after searching for him in vain the Quraish left. Mohammad had to stay inside the cave for at least 3 days before the Quraish gave up. The Prophet (pbuh) returned to Makkah quietly and was told in a revelation that they (the Muslims) had to move to Madinah or what at that time was called Yathrib where the prophet had relatives on his mother's side. By this time the Quraish knew that Mohammad was back and they planned to kill him as soon as he left the house. They surrounded his house so that he could not even creep out. Ali his young cousin told him he would sleep on the prophet's bed, and cover himself with the prophet's blanket. It was an old trick but it paid off. The Quraish, peeping in saw what they thought to be the Prophet, sleeping quietly in his bed so they waited outside. Allah had made the Prophet and Abu Bakar invisible as they walked out steathily. They managed to escape the guards posted around the house and were more than 20 miles away when they realised that they had been tricked yet again. By this time the prophet and his people were already on the way to Yathrib and a new life. The people in Madinah welcomed the Prophet (pbuh) and joyously took him as one of their own and be their leader.

2 Apr 2009

A Season in Mekah - a short pilgrimage

Repin and me at the airport before we took off for Jeddah - 1st April 2009

On the 1st of April the hubby and I went for a short pilgrimage to Mekah and Madinah, 2 of Islam's most holy sights. We've been for our haj but that was in 2006, so we decided after 2 and a half years away it's time we went back to refresh our memories and cleanse our souls.
The journey started at KLIA. By 5pm we were already gathered there - Nan and Ton and Repin and myself together with about 40 other pilgrims. We were travelling by Saudi Air. After about 9 hours we arrived at Jeddah International Airport. There we had to wait for another 2 hours before the mutawiff finally found us and herded us all to a waiting bus. That was already 12.15 am. It was a silent jouney to Mekah, the holy capital of Islam. Probably because we were all tired and sleepy. By the time we arrived it was close to 3.15 am and we were given only 20 minutes to cleanse ourselves (wuduk) and straight away went to the Masjidil Haram to perform our umrah. First the tawaf - circumbulating around the Kaabah 7 times. Then our sunat prayers and finally the Saie - walking from Safa to Marwah (a distance of about 5-600 metres) 7 times.
While doing the tawaf, Repin and I got separated then just as we were about to go  to the Saie place, Ton and I got separated! Anyway after searching for her ( which is like searching for a needle in a haystack) I finally decided to go and do my Saie on my own. Met both Nan and Repin as well as Ton towards the end of the Saie so we went and prayed together. BY this time it was already time for the Fajar prayers. After that we went back to the hotel, had a refreshing bath and slept, and slept and slept!