We left JFK Airport, NY at 6:30 pm on Monday, December 10 (Dhul Hijjah 1), aboard Egypt Air. Several of us looked like hajj pilgrims ,while there were a few non muslims apparently going to Cairo. Good enough, before takeoff, the dua of the traveler was displayed on the screens and also read over the speakers.
The flight took about 9 hours and by Tuesday morning, we were at the Cairo Int. Airport. Here we met thousands of other pilgrims from different countries awaiting their flights to Jeddah. Several pilgrims started growing impatient at this point, until we were addressed by one of the Egypt Air reps, who reminded us that we were proceeding on Hajj, where there would be a lot of waiting , so we should just assume we were already in Hajj, and be remembering Allah until our flights, instead of complaining .etc. Very sound advice.
We prayed Dhur, Asr, Maghrib and Isha , and at about 6 pm, it was time to depart Cairo for Jeddah.
We were advised to adopt our Ihraam at this point as we would be passing over the Meeqat very soon after taking off from Cairo, and would not have enough time or facilities on board.Imagine getting stuck in the aircraft's toilet with your ihraam.!
We proceeded to the bathroom facilities attached to the masjid in the airport, took our baths, and then it was Ihraam donning time.
Several of us were not used to tying the ihram, or walking with it, and it took a lot of help from more experienced folks to get the ihraams to stay, and to be able to walk with them. I wonder how some sisters dress like this almost daily!
There were various styles and forms of the ihraam; from cotton to bath towels; from studded ihraams to sown ihraams (we later learnt these were not right), it came in different shapes and sizes, but all white.
Some people even observed two rakahs of sunnah prayer after adopting the ihraam ( there is no proof in the sunnah for this, so I did not do it!)
We boarded and started bonding as almost everyone on the flight was going for Hajj. I noticed there were several teenagers on board too. By the way, the food on board was lovely!
At the Meeqat
Less that 30 minutes into the 90 minutes flight across the Red Sea, there was an announcement that we were about to pass over Juhfah; the Meeqat for the people coming from the direction of Egypt.
At this point we made our intentions; Labayka Allahumma Umrahtan (Here I come O Allah for Umrah) as we were doing the Tamattu' form of Hajj. From this point, we were now Muhrim-no arguments, no marital relations, no disobedience to Allah.
We all began reciting the Talbiyya- "Labbaikallaahumma labbaika - labbaika laa shareeka laka labbaika - innal hamda wan na'mata laka wal mulka - Ia shareeka laka"
"I am present, O' Allah, I am present. I am present, no partners do you have, I am present. Verily the Praise and Bounties and the Kingdom is for you, no partners do you have.
Finally we got to the Hajj Terminal in Jeddah at about 10pm, and it all looked like a large expanse of white tents. We all descended from the plane , tired but joyful, and thankful to Allah for being among the few given this unique opportunity.
We underwent the processing -which took some time, but by this time I already had my patience balloons in tow, and was not too worried about any delays. One important point here is that you don't want to lose the cashiers check attached to your passport by the hajj agency, or you might encounter some problems at Jeddah.
We were met by some representatives of AlManasik waving their banners at this point. They took over our luggage ,and then we had to go and wait for the buses to Makkah. I wandered around the Hajj terminal during this time (getting very lost at one time) and accidentally met an AlMaghrib student from Houston, who was pleasantly surprised when I told him Shaykh Muhammad alShareef was going to be our group leader.
There were some free knapsacks being given away by Mobily-a Saudi phone company, and trust me, I got one!
Late in the night about 2 am, we finally departed Jeddah in air-conditioned buses, and were finally on the way to Makkah al_Mukarramah; a city that throws its doors open only to the believers, the city that houses the first House built for the worship of our Lord.
We tried to keep our eyes open, but tired and weary, almost all of us dropped to sleep for the duration of the 3 hour trip to Makkah.