I hate you for ruining my first visit to Mecca!

October 18, 2009 at 5:10 pm (Diary, gender discrimination, Mecca, religious police, saudi, women)

I was so excited to go to Mecca. It was going to be my very first time to see the Ka’ba. Well, I went once when I was six years old, but that does not count. My family was going to do Omra and we all started preparing weeks before departing Doha. My mother, sisters and I all made custom made Abayas for the trip. They were EXTRA wide, and we even bought that sticky band that is worn underneath the Sheila to ensure that our hair does not show even if the Sheila accidently falls. So I guess what I am trying to say is that we all looked super decent and properly covered. My mother memorizes the whole Quran and she knows a lot about Islam, so she was mentoring us during the whole trip and giving us advice on how to seek every second of this spiritual experience. My dad was very excited and was asking me to take pictures so that we remember this trip as our first family trip to Mecca.

We arrived safely to Jeddah airport and took a taxi to our hotel in Mecca. I still remember the taxi’s driver’s name, it was written on this huge white board behind the seat. I thought that was weird and so I took a picture of it. I also took pictures of many weird signs I saw during the trip which I might add later.

I couldn’t see the Ka’ba from the hotel window. We all hurried up to catch the afternoon prayer. As I was entering the Haram, my heart was pounding and my eyes were looking straight ahead waiting for its first encounter with the Ka’ba. I felt a rush of blood in my body the moment I saw it. How great, how peaceful. Finally, I am here. As my eyes were fixed on the Ka’ba, I kept praying in my heart and asking god to accept this Omra.

Anyways, the story I want to tell you actually begins with the first prayer inside the Haram. It was the afternoon prayer and while we were trying to find a nice spot to pray a man, who apparently was one of the religious police, shouted at us “THIS KIND OF CLOTHING IS FORBIDDON, ITS HARAAAM, HARAAAM, THIS WILL TAKE YOU TO HELL SISTERS”. Of course, everyone within teen feet of our radius heard that and stared at us. I was very confused, why this man was shouting at My mother said “Just ignore him”, I asked her “what is wrong with our cloths?”, she said “oh they just mean that we should wear the abaya on our head and not shoulders”, I asked again “Why?”. She said “Because they believe that this defines the body’s shape, and this is forbidden”. I did not know if I should laugh or be mad, but I was really bothered by the way he spoke to us. Plus, I decided to get rid of all negative feelings and concentrate on this spiritual experience. But that was impossible!

What happened was that in each prayer, one of those bearded men would shout at us. If not them, the religious police women would do. I did not understand why they were doing that. Is really my cloths so !!!! I do not even know which word to use. How can an extra large black abaya is not covering, or proper enough for them. How do they look at it? Do they think that my shoulder line will actually seduce someone? Or that it seems sexy and appealing? The thing is, I was wearing Sheila that falls over my shoulders, so what was their problem. Or is that they just like to shout at women? At one point, a very scary looking man, his beard was so long that it reaches his navel, and his clothes were too short that the almost reached his knees was speed walking after me shouting “THE PROPHET HAS PROHIBITED THIS UNPROPER CLOTHING”. I was walking really fast that I almost started running trying to get away from him. These kinds of things happened with each prayer, five time a day for three days. How can I concentrate on this spiritual experience while those scary looking men are pointing fingers and shouting that we will go to hell! Who are they to say that! On top of that, while we were doing 6awaf, circling around the Ka’ba, one of those men was hitting his stick on the flour and shouting “cover your face, cover your face”. I thought, that is it! Everyone knows that covering the face while doing tawaf is forbidden! Seriously, those people has gone too far forbidding things that are allowed in Islam. One of the ladies was already wearing niqab, a face veil, and the man shouted, cover your niqab! The woman just snapped at him and started shouting! Maybe we, women just ought to kill ourselves!

Do they really think they are doing good when they are embarrassing people and ruining their spiritual experience like that? I tried so hard to shut them out, but once I control my anger one of them start shouting again and the femenatzi monster in me just struggles to come out.

What we have noticed is that these shouting are only for khaliji women, Arabian gulf women, who are dressed in black. If I was wearing a colofull abaya, they would assume that I am Egyptian or Lebanese and leave me alone. When I asked my mother, she said that they know about this issue since they were young. I was really surprised. I also remember mentioning this story to one of my friends in Doha and she agreed with my mom : “my older sister knows about this, so every time she goes there she wears a green abaya and no one bothers her at all. I went once with her and saw the difference in treatment myself because I was wearing a black abaya and she was wearing a green one”. This made me conclude that this shouting is about their own backward traditions and has nothing to do with religion.

What hypocrisy! They pretend to by holy and religious and know everything about god. And then you find them all standing in front of the women entrances; the religious police and the regular ones, all gathering there. Staring so bad at women. They think we cannot notice that from our sunglasses, but I can see you scanning me. Damn it I can see you scanning me, I can almost see what goes on in your head! Damn it, respect that long beard, and respect this holy place! And then, if I try to escape their looks and go through the public entrance they start shouting again.

Even my dad and brother were not left a lone. My dad is a heavy smoker, so he was looking for some cigarettes. When he asked in one of the shops, the shop keeper shouted “KAFER (ATHIEST) , GET OUT OF HERE”. My dad was shocked and did not understand what happened, he went to another shop and the same thing happened. He then saw a man smoking down the street and asked him about what was going on. The man said that cigarettes are not allowed near the Haram and he must go to the suburbs to buy one. Couldn’t the shop keepers simply explain that to my dad instead of shouting at him and accusing him of being an atheist? Why this exaggeration?

My brother on the other hand found one of his friends there. They decided to go shopping for souvenirs together. In the market they were both talking on the phone which apparently was a very suspicious behaviour to the religious police. One of the bearded men approached them and said “Brother, I will have to ask you to leave the market right away because it is a family place”. My brother said “but I am here with my family, plus this is a public place you cant ask me to leave, I am doing some shopping”. The man replied “ I don’t see any shopping bags with you, and you are talking on the phone and flirting with women, fear god brother”. My brother just snapped, he said “listen, if I want to flirt I wont do it in this place. Do you think I have no manners that I would do such thing only few steps away from the house of god. And I am not leaving”. The man became nervous and said “I will have to call the police”. My brother said “ok call them”. A police man was already waiting behind the bearded man, he approached my brother and said that he must obey and leave. My brother just ignored them and went to another shop.

And to give the perfect ending to this story, I must tell you about the last incident. My little brother and I wanted to get some souvenirs before departure. So we went to the market which was only few meters away from the Haram. The moment we entered my brother and I felt very uncomfortable. Shopkeepers were staring in a way that made me feel naked. We both decided to go back to the hotel and not buy anything. On the way back (the hotel, the haram and the market are all few steps away from each other) an old man stopped his car next to us, rolled down his window and sticked his head out, he had white hair and white beard, so I thought he was 70 years old or something. He said “hey little boy, shall I give you a ride”. I looked at him and saw him licking his lips and biting them, then rolling his eyes between me and my little brother. My mouth and eyes were wide open form the shock! He repeated his words and said “Hey, let me give you a ride, come on, get in the care”. My brother, not realizing what was going on said “no thank you, we live right here”. I grabbed my brother’s hands and started walking really fast to the hotel. The man was still licking and biting his lips. I don’t know if he was perverting over me or my brother.

I was really put off by people there. I almost cried for not being able to pray in front of Ka’ba because of those extremists who prevented that. I hated that I was struggling inside me to keep my anger instead of focusing on prayers. They distracted me and ruined my first Omra. Other than that, Mecca was so beautiful. I enjoyed visiting the historical places that were mentioned in the Quran. But I felt so bad for those who were living in poverty. I could not believe that there are people living in such conditions in an Oil Producing state. They were living in small houses on the mountains that were in real bad condition. The roads were a disaster and even kinds clothes were torn and worn out. I guess, the most important thing I learnt was to wear a green abaya to be left alone. I hope to go there again soon.

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