LONDON: A British pilgrim who performed Umrah during Ramadan described the experience as ‘overwhelming’ and said it was ‘great’ to be back at Mecca’s Grand Mosque after the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.
Following the lifting of most coronavirus restrictions in Saudi Arabia, Muslims around the world have flocked to the holy city of Mecca to perform Umrah during Ramadan. The minor pilgrimage is believed to carry the same reward as the Hajj when performed during the holy month.
Dr Hussain Anwar, 27, performed Umrah on the 27th night of Ramadan, which could have been Laylatul Qadr, the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca more than 14 years ago centuries.
Its exact date is unknown and it is thought to fall on an odd-numbered night during the last third of Ramadan.
Many Muslims regard the 27th night of Ramadan as Laylatul Qadr, and thus, the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina witness an increase in worshipers on the night.
It took 4 hours 30 minutes in total for Dr Anwar to perform Umrah due to the number of worshippers, and “there were people praying in the streets far beyond the boundaries of the mosque” because she was “filled to the brim”.
Speaking to Arab News from the roof of the Grand Mosque on Thursday, he said hearing taraweeh and tahajjud prayers while performing his rituals was magnificent.
“Just being able to listen to the Quran while doing tawaf was an incredible feeling. When we started sa’ee, the tahajjud prayer was taking place, so we were able to listen to the recitation of the Quran again,” he said.
“That’s the main thing that I’ve missed all these years, being able to be here, doing prayers in the Grand Mosque and listening to the Quran recited beautifully – it’s great,” he added.
Anwar arrived in Mecca on Wednesday from Medina and was forced to break his fast in a taxi as roads were blocked to control crowds entering the Grand Mosque ahead of the 27th night of Ramadan.
He described the hospitality of locals as “incredible” and was given food by strangers to break his fast.
“There were people walking around offering those who were stuck in their cars dates and water – eventually someone came to the car and gave us six burgers so that was our iftar and our suhoor sorted,” he said.
He had previously spent a few days in Medina and said breaking his fast at the Prophet’s Mosque was a great experience.
“Even though Medina was busy, there is still a sense of tranquility and peace in the city and there is still an air of calm despite the number of people,” Anwar said.
“The people of Medina are so kind and generous and at the time of iftar people push you to come and eat on their sufra to break your fast with them.”
He added that there have been significant changes in the way people pay homage to the Prophet in Medina after the pandemic, which has made the process much easier for visitors.
“It’s much more organized and you have to queue. There is also another queue to visit the noble Rawdah,” he said.
Anwar used the Haramain high-speed railway to travel between the two holy cities, as well as from Jeddah to Medina when he first arrived in the Kingdom.
“The Haramain High Speed Railway is absolutely brilliant. He drove us from Medina to Makkah in 2 hours 30 minutes,” he said.
“We also used the train to get from Jeddah to Medina when we landed. It was an incredible experience, very fast — it took us from Jeddah to Medina in 1h40, it’s incredible.
Anwar has spent Ramadan in the two holy cities before and said the same trip has taken him between 4 and 5 hours in the past by road.
“It seems like a much safer and faster option. The Haramain High Speed Railway is very comfortable and it was a very nice experience. So we chose to use the train again to travel from Medina to Makkah,” he said.
“The economy class was completely full, so we traveled in business class. This is a very popular option among pilgrims and Umrah visitors as it is much easier, just sit on a train and it takes you straight there. There’s no stop and go, there’s no hassle of traffic, it takes you straight to the station, so that’s great,” he added.
Anwar also hailed the increase in the number of women working in shops, hotels, train stations and airports across the Kingdom.
“Before, the employees were mostly men, but there are many more women working in Saudi Arabia now. At Jeddah airport, many of the security personnel and border force personnel were women and c is a good example of inclusion,” he said.