Tell Me a Secret: 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Peace & Luxury

I have been away for a while, and that's only because I wasn't in Jordan, I was in Saudi Arabia.

And typically you would again guess that I was in a terrorist's training camp but I am deeply sorry to disappoint you again, as I explained before my visit to Syria last year was for fun, while this visit to KSA was for an entirely different mission: Omrah.

Omrah is, for those who don't know, a small form of Hajj (pilgrimage) and it can be done at any given time of the year, while hajj should be done in specific time of the year, and also omrah is kind of a brief of hajj, the rituals are less and it takes about couple of hours to finish it, while hajj takes days. Omrah and hajj must take place in Mecca, nevertheless, a lot of people that go to KSA for omrah or hajj go first to Almadeena, another city which has another very holy mosque that we call the prophet's mosque, where prophet Mohammed peace be upon him is buried now along with two of the most important (if not THE two most important) people in Islam after the prophet pbuh and those are Abu bakr and Omar.

And just for a little history lesson Islam started in Mecca but people of Mecca didn't support it and hurt the prophet pbuh and all those that followed him, so he had to move to Almadeena where he was received very warmly and his call for the new religion was widely accepted, and he lived in it for a long time and a lot of the major events in Islam happened in it. Later as Islam spread and people knew what it is about and started to convert to it secretly and got stronger and more people joined it, he went back to Mecca and was this time received in a better way, and people of Mecca joined him and embraced Islam. And till this very day you find that people of Almadeena are very kind and friendly, while People of Mecca are more tough.

The two mosques, both the prophet mosque in Almadeena and the Ka'ba in Mecca are considered the most holy, the third very holy mosque in Islam is Alaqsa mosque in Alquds (Juralism) in Palestine.

My trip was planned to be 11 days, three to be spent in Almadeena, 5 to be spent in Mecca and two days will be lost on the way to them, between them and back home. Since the trip was organized by my university and the only program they had was to go by bus, I had no other options and had to take it. It's about 24 hours in bus to reach Almadeena and then other 6 hours to reach Mecca after that (after spending three days in Madeena as I said), which makes your way back to Jordan a long thirty something hours in bus (straight from Mecca to Amman), which wasn't really that tiring being with students of my age and friends that one enjoys their company.


The first city we went through when we entered KSA was Tabuk, and one of the people of Tabuk knows one of the people in our bus, so he invited us, all the 47 people of us + the driver to dinner at his house, that was such an Iraqi kind of behavior. The lovely way they welcomed us in their house and the taste of the food I have to say, in our first stop and experience in that country attempted us all to raise our hopes about spending a pleasant time there, and how right were we about that!

I loved the mosque in Almadeena more than the one in Mecca although it's where you make the omrah, Almadeena mosque gives you, as huge as it is, the feeling of peace and serenity and a lot of spirituality, and you can relate to it very quickly and love it, truly every moment in it is a quality time. Mecca mosque creates the feeling of the mightiness and glory of God; it's a feeling of holiness and greatness of God. You can't not think how great it is to see people of all kinds, all ages, all races, black, white, yellow, Chinese, American, Indians, Arabs...You name it, all kind of people, speaking all kind of languages, all of them gathering in one place, wearing the same simple peaces of cloth, traveled from all around the world and left their countries, spent a lot of money to go to that place and worship God and seek his forgiveness, clean their souls and get closer to him. It's such a beautiful feeling, a beautiful feeling of brotherhood.

It was a great spiritual training course, where one refreshes his faith and remembers that we once were dust and will be again, to remember to do the good deeds in his life that will be the only things that matter after he dies.


One can't help noticing the luxury in everything in that country, the fancy cars that you might not find in any other place including the countries that make these cars, the dazzling beauty of the insanely expensive Swiss watches, the blinding brightness of gold and diamonds that cover the walls and every inch other than the ground and ceiling in the jewel shops... And the list goes on, and due to the changes in international prices of oil the prices of gas also changed recently in KSA, they were reduced to the half!!!

It's a rich country that is also rich with its spirituality, that's the impression a visitor leaves with. And in spite of all the huge critics I have for the royal family, and their terrible, terrible politics that follow the white house, and that they allowed the American army to build military bases in it, and the corruption that you hear about all the time in that family, in spite of all that, you can't not be thankful for them for what they made of that desert their country sits on, a beautifully built country, the best of the technology of the world can be found in it, they have the money to get it so why not!

They already have mobile phone networks with 3G capability which I am sure most of Americans for example haven't even heard of yet, a fast internet connection on your mobile phone enables you not only to browse the net and access your email, but also to make video calls and watch your favorite show live if you can't make it to your house in the right time to watch it, upload and download to the net in high speed, GPS, etc. The sector of communications in the middle east generally is very advanced (a bit old compared to Japan, very very advanced compared to USA) but what I saw in KSA was better than the one we have in Jordan this far.

People are nice and friendly generally, aloooooooooooooooooooooot of foreigners and specially Indians and Pakistanis, so after a short visit you end up speaking Arabic and English
h with an Indian accent cause you have to learn to communicate with all Pakistanis and Indians that sell all kind of things around the mosques in Mecca and Almadeena.

It's brutally hot, it must have been over 50 Celsius degrees in Mecca, and it as over 38 (about 100 Fahrenheit) during the night in Almadeena. But the whole country is air conditioned; cars, shops, malls, mosques and even public schools have air conditioning units, not that it's not expected in such a rich country but still you have to see how surprised was the Saudi guy
that told me the part about schools, for seeing me surprised about it!! haha:) I mean that is a lot of air conditioning units! Every room in every public school! How “cool” is that? ;)

I did a small research about the Madeena mosque, and was sick in the last days of Mecca so I couldn't make one about it, and here are the results of my brief research about the mosque in Madeena:

*Area of the Mosque itself: 165 000 square meter.

*Area of the land surrounding it: 235 00squarete meters, the 45 000 square meters surrouding the mosque directly are covered with white marble that reflects heat so people can walk on it with barefoot, and when needed stand on it to pray, while the rest is covered witcoloreded marble. And these lands are lighted by 151 small lighting towers.

*Number of wooden gates of the mosque: 142 big wooden gates, distributed on all sides.

*The mosque has 27 sliding domes. The

y slide Automatically under control of computers when the weather is suitable to provide betteaerationon and sun lightEachch of 18m diameter that covers about 324 square meters of the mosque's ground and each of the domes weighs about 80 tons.

*In the peak time, part of the roof, which is about 67000 square meters can be opened for about 90 000 people to pray in it.

*The mosque, all of it, has the capacity to contain about 1 000 000 person praying at the same time in the peak times.

*There are two areas inside the mosques that don't have a ceiling, and that are covered with huge automatic umbrellas, 6 of them in each of the two areas, they also are connected to computers to fold them when weatheallowses, using motors that are so silent that you can't possibly hear them even if you are right under the umbrella. These areas are important also to give you sensece of time, because the mosque is so huge and lighted all the time day and night from the inside, and people spend long times inside it, so it's very easy to lose sense of time. Although there are a lot of giant watches hanging from the ceiling everywhere to tell the time and the exact time of the five prayers for that day, still nothing can replace the delightful light of sun, although you wouldn't exactly call it delightful at noon times haha:)

*The mosque store houses have 7669 rugs, each of 3*5 meters. About 7200 of them can be on the ground of the mosque at the same time in addition to 2560 smaller ones, and when they are they get cleaned twice a day, all of them, and they are carried and relocated usinvehicleses that work on batteries and not gas so they don't pollute the environment of the mosque.

*The mosque have a basement. Part of it is used as parking lots that can have up to 4500 cars in them. And the rest of the basement includes other facilities that I will mention some of them later.

*The mosque iequippeded witnumerousus security cameras, but for the purpose of TV transmission (since the sunset prayer ibroadcasteded live everyday on Saudi TV everyday from this mosque) there are 20 full size TV cameras (like the big Beta cameras you see in shooting sets), fixed on the walls around the mosque, that can cover enough angles to do the transmission, all of the cameras are connected to motors to move them to different directions from the control room.

*Inside the mosque, there are 7000 water containers spread everywhere, all filled with zamzam water, which is a holy water comes from a spring that is in Mecca. Water is brought from Mecca (about 400 kms away) and cooled using a special cooling unit, and then pumped into the 7000 mobile containers using 560 water intakes by the mosque staff.

*On each of the containers there are two holders, one for clean disposable cups and the other for the used ones. The mosque consumes 300 000 of these cups everyday. All distributed by hand and then all removed when used by hand too by the mosque staff. In Fridays that number is doubled to be 600 000 cups. In each of the Hajj days, that number becomes 900 000 cups everyday, and it increases even more during the month of Ramadan (which will start in about a week btw) to be about 1 200 000 cups every single day.

*The mosque includes all kind of facilities that you would expect, including a proper library that I couldn't even count the sections of it. But drew my attention that one of the section ispecializeded in disinfecting books and inscriptions. How cool is that? haha! To make sure that all books and specially the old most valuable ones are clean and healthy all the time:P

*You know that when Muslims want to pray they have to wash their face, arms and feet in a certain way, that's called " Wodoo' " in Arabic. So the facilities of the mosque include 5600 wodoo'2 units that consist of a place to sit on and a place to rest your foot on and faucet it, that are under ground in the area surrounding the mosque and are followed with 1890 WC units. Each one of these WC units also includes a shower. Everything so clean to the point that makes you wonder how can they do it.

*The mosque building have been improved many times since it was built during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) and the last extension was made during the time of late king Fahd. Now the mosque has 9 high minarets each of 104 meters in height and a tenths shorter one.

*Now you might wonder about the climate control system, and I have just the answer for that!

*The mosque has a UPS unit, that is slightly bigger than the one connected to your computer :P it consists of 8 big generators. And it lies seven kilometers to the west of the mosque, in a compound of 70 000 square meters that has in addition to the uninterruptible power supply, the air conditioning center.
The air conditioning system consists of 5 cooling machines, the compressors of each is of 3400 tons/hour (that is a lot, seriously a lot). And a sixth machine is standing by for emergencies.
These machines gives you cold water, that is pumped using 7 pumps each of good 450 hp towards the basement of the mosque in well isolated pipes, where natural air is put in contact with them to cool its temperature before it's sent to inside the mosque through the base of almost every column inside the mosque. The last extension alone has about 2104 of these huge columns, which serve not only as weight holders but also as holders for the incredible voice system (don’t even get me to start talking about the voice system!), the lights, each one has a shelf that goes around it and carries Qurans in different languages, it flows the cold air inside the mosque, and the base of each column is a square of about 1.5*1.5 meters and a height of about 0.5 meters, so you can lean your back on them when you sit on the ground.

That extension also includes 68 very big chandeliers, 110 smaller ones in addition to 20450 lighting units.

Only God knows how many people are working around the day, to make the mosque so clean all the time in spite of the unbelievabble numbers of people that enter it everyday.

That is about it! :)

I hope you liked it! :))

coming soon a post of picture! :)))

The holy mosque in Mecca, all the white and black dots covering the ground inside and outside it are people!! I believe the usual number is about 3 million people, and you can see the Ka'ba at the upper right quarter of the picture.

The holy mosque in Al-Madina, you can't see inside it from here but all the dots outside it are also people, which means that the inside is completely full too.

* Both pictures are posters that I bought, but are too large to be scanned using an A4 scanner So i took a picture of the posters using my phone camera, that you will be hearing from soon;), The World's Blog Aggregator