A Spiritual Journey: Egypt, Jordan & Jerusalem
They say sometimes you have to get lost, to find yourself.
Well I lost myself in the epicness of Egypt, Jordan and Jerusalem. I know Jerusalem is not the name of a country but I’m still confused between the two countries its associated with. So many activities filled up my time during these 15 days. Between different time zones, check points, airports, prayer times, mosques, maqams and meals, I lost track of my world back home.
While I would tell you what day it is in a second back here in Singapore, when I was there every day felt like a Saturday. Except for when we crossed the border, because that felt like a horrible Monday. Something about seeing guards strolling around the area with massive loaded guns by their side made me think singing “Shoot me down but I won’t fall, I am titaaaniummm” was a bad idea.
Of mosques, shrines and historical landmarks
(Picture of Masjidil Aqsa entrance. The purple tint on the top left hand corner was from my glove. Sorry about that!)
To put it simply, this trip brought us to places of historical significance in the Islamic world. As we were denied entry visa into Saudi to do our umrah, Masjidil Aqsa became the place I was looking forward the most to. It was freezing the day we started our visiting in Baitulmaqdis but once I stepped into Al- Aqsa, the cold seemed to add to the serenity and calmness of the mosque.
Having heard about this mosque endlessly since I was a child, praying in it seemed like homecoming of some sort. It was as if I was confirming the stories I had heard about. To touch, feel, smell and absorb the atmosphere in the mosque just felt so amazing that as much as I liked to talk, I was speechless throughout the whole experience.
While people might ask about the pyramids straightaway after hearing about me coming home from Egypt, I actually remember that as being a “by the way” thing. What I did remember the most about Egypt was visiting the maqam of Imam Syafi’e.
I remember setting foot into the mosque where his maqam was and forgetting to recite the prayer I always do when I enter a mosque. So I walked ahead into the maqam area while uttering it under my breath. It started with “Allahummaftah lii abwaba rahmatik…” which translates to “Oh Allah please open for me the doors of your mercy..” when I stopped short because at that very moment I rose my head just to set my eyes on the very place where the highly esteemed man’s resting place was.
For a moment it seemed like the Almighty had just granted me the very prayer that just left my lips. Smelling strongly of flowery ‘attar, it glowed green within the transparent panels on the gate surrounding it from the fluorescent lights above it. As someone who constantly complains about my lack of sleep, this man puts me to shame. If he was standing right in front of me then, my face would be the colour of my mother’s organza curtains which are a deep maroon. He sleeps only a third of the night! A THIRD! The remaining parts he dedicates it to prayers and to writing his books! Books that would later be preserved and passed on to us filled with detailed solutions to problems that we face in practicing our faith. All my achievements pale in comparison to what Imam Syafi’e has accomplished during his lifetime. May Allah reward him for all that he has done for us. Ameen.
The night before we left Baitulmaqdis, we went to a place called Hebron. This was to visit Prophet Ibrahim’s mosque which contained the maqams of a few prophets and their wives. When we arrived, it was dusk. The sun was setting and it was raining lightly. The street lights, road markings, neatly planted bushes and the light drizzle conjured up images of cosying up in front of the heater with a cup of hot chocolate. It vaguely reminded me of Singapore.
Upon entering the heart of the city though, we were greeted by half destroyed houses with portions of it blown away. It was a ghost town. Windows were grilled tightly to avoid the gazes of the guards patrolling outside flanked with rifles while doors were locked shut. No vehicles were around save for tourist buses. There were hardly any adults present. Children with mucus streaming down their noses, dirt streaked faces with toothy grins came to greet us. They touched us, pleaded with us for food or money to bring back to their families.
I tried my best to keep my emotions in check but seeing the children following us around just made my tears free fall into the fabric of my coat that was shamefully so thick I could cut it and make several shirts for the little palestinians.
This experience just made me realize how real their sufferings are. While we are blessed with more than our basic human needs like food and health, they have to work extra hard for it. It really put things in perspective. Here we are with everything handed to us on a silver platter complaining about the smallest flaws and mistakes while there are so many other people in the world who would kill to have the life we do. So before you start saying that your life is horrible just because the lift door opens 3 seconds later than it usually does, just remember that there are people in the world who have to fight for their right to walk down the street.
(The river Nile)
The people in Cairo too were amazing. Such happy people. Always smiling and waving at us from the streets. They were so warm and welcoming. We Singaporeans could probably take a leaf out of their books on showing more positive facial expressions. Not to mention, you Egyptians are a good looking bunch. Its so amazing that whenever they get into arguments or misunderstanding the anger evaporates within 5 minutes. After that, they’re hugging each other and going away as if they parted as the best of friends.
Ah, Cairo, you massive sandcastle. Despite the sand, dust and insane traffic everywhere, you stole my heart.
Tip of the iceberg
I have just barely scratched the surface of my trip in this article but it is impossible to write down every single thing that happened here. You’d probably have to stop several times, get a cup of tea, watch a drama or two in between and then continue because it would be so long. I couldn’t possibly upload all my photos here but I’ll leave two in here. I’ve left these places with so many new lessons learnt. But one thing I know the best is that, regardless of birthplace, status or wealth, we are all equals.
Because no matter where we are, we will always be below Allah’s skies.[divider]
Radhiatul Mardhiyah Mustaffa
Mardhiyah graduated from Temasek Polytechnic with a Diploma in Applied Food Science and Nutrition. She’s an aspiring writer who blogs her mind at http://marmardee.wordpress.com/