The Trip… (part 2)

jeddahsea93.jpg as salam ‘alaykum wa rahmatullaah,

Talk about a huge airport! We located the sign that would tell us where our next departure gate was and we were off to find the bathrooms. After that was out of the way we needed a few Euros to get some sustenance, I mean the meals on the flight were not terrible but they were only slightly better than hospital food.

I used my bank card at an ATM and WIPED OUT what remained of my savings to get a whopping 10 Euros from the bank machine. Talk about getting killed in service rates and exchange fees! I had at least fifty Canadian Dollars left in there and all I got to show for it was ten Euros! If they aren’t ripping you off one way, don’t worry! Your bank is sure to come up with a new way of ripping you off.

Back to the airport, ten Euros got us exactly two Tuna Fish sandwiches, two coffees, and an orange juice for my daughter. WOW! Talk about expensive. We relaxed for a bit, prayed and waited for the jumbo-tron sized screen to tell us where our gate was. After we found out where the gate was it was a long haul there. We were flying with BMI and I was expecting that this part of the trip would be easier.

We submitted all of our papers and passports to the check-in desk kiosk attendant and they took a while making sure everything was in order. After about ten minutes of checking they told us we were o’kay to go and gave us some cool gifts for my daughter – a neat plane that vibrates when you pull the string, a plastic slinky, stuff like that. We boarded the absolutely huge aircraft and waited while they played the most God-awful music really, really loudly. I guess BMI figured it would be a really good way to annoy people travelling to Saudi Arabia or something like that. The really annoying part was that they only had about ten songs that they ran in a constant loop. My daughter was trying to sleep and I explained to the attendant that the loud annoying music was about to be compounded by a very fatigued and annoyed eighteen month old baby who hadn’t had a good sleep in over twenty hours. Thankfully, they obliged.

The flight was nice because they turned the music off and we got to look at miles of desert as we approached Saudi Arabia. A lot of those on the plane were preparing for their minor pilgrimage and were changing into their Ihraams. I met some nice brothers from England who were so happy I was making Hijrah and asked me to make du’a for them that they would get to do the same.

They played another movie, “X-men 3”, like I cared. I was too excited to even look at the TV screens (even though I always liked comics and cartoons growing up) as I knew we were getting closer and closer to our new home.  

They announced our descent and I could feel a knot in my stomache tighten. I hate the landing sequences, I always feel like I’m falling and get butterflies, but al-hamdulillaah, we landed safely.

The first thing that struck me when we stpped out of the plane was the intense heat. It was like a wall when we stepped out and compared to the air conditioned cabin felt like a furnace blast. We got on this shuttle bus with everyone else and we were scooted off to the airport.

While we were lining up, a young man who worked at the airport asked if we filled out some cards, when we mentioned that we hadn’t he took us aside and worked on them for us.  He was so nice and asking if it was our first time to Saudi and maing du’a for us and in the end he hurried us over to the admittance desk who stamped our passports and let us in.

On the other side someone immediately took our bags and was rushing us through the airport. I had heard horror stories about airport security detaining people and asking for bribes so I was happy to follow this hurried concierge as we – in a half run – zipped through the airport to be stopped by a stern looking airport security agent who ordered us to stop as if we were inmates attempting a prison break. A second guard saw our dilemna and because there was a large crowd arround the first man, he came over and looked at our passports and waved us on.  The first guard yelled at us to stop again but the second guard gestured for us to continue on while explaining something to the first guard in incoherent arabic. We continued and made it outside where people were began breaking their fast.

I had no Saudi currency for our baggage handler so I promptly paid him five Canadian Dollars (worth about 13 Saudi Riyaals) and explained that it was good money. Whilst shooing away every taxi driver who approached us, honking, shouting and tripping over each other to get a suspected “western” cab fare, I pushed the buggy to an island and asked my wife to sit on a nice rock bench while I went back into the airport to make wudhoo (ablution for prayer) and think about how I was going to contact the brother who was meeting us.

I know very little Arabic, I had no Saudi currency, the contact number I had for the brother had the dialing area codes that one would need to dial from Canada and I didn’t know how to call a Saudi phone number from Saudi. I went to the washroom, opened the door to the cubicle and saw a hole in the floor surrounded by porcelain. I’ve seen one before in the Pakistaani Masaajid (Mosques) in Canada but never really used one. Somehow I managed, made my wudhoo and while I was walking out to locate a phone I heard a bang to my left to see the brother who was meeting us pressed up to the glass as if he were a fly that squashed himself trying to fly through a clear, glass window.

I laughed, we went outside, found my family. Then we got into a car with the two brothers who came to pick us up and we were on our way to our new home. Masha’Allaah (Allaah willed it), everything worked out after all. The trip was long but soon we would be able to rest…

(End of The Trip)

We will continue with our first impressions in the next post, Allaah-willing.

CM

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Published in: on January 30, 2007 at 2:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

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