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?