Emirati pilgrims mark Arafat Day

UAE pilgrims on Sunday spent their first Haj day on Mount Arafat, reflecting on the spirituality of the day and new friendships made.
Haj pilgrims on Mount Arafat, near Mecca, early on Sunday before day-long prayers and Quran recitals. Ahmad Gharabli / AFP
Haj pilgrims on Mount Arafat, near Mecca, early on Sunday before day-long prayers and Quran recitals. Ahmad Gharabli / AFP

ABU DHABI // UAE pilgrims on Sunday spent the high point of their Haj journey on Mount Arafat, reflecting on the spirituality of the day and friendships made.

Emirati Ali Al Medfaei was looking forward to leaving the comfort of his tent. He wanted to be on the mountain to feel an emotional connection to the pilgrimage and to experience a little hardship.

“We are not allowed out often for security reasons,” said Mr Al Medfaei, 29, a police officer. “You scan the pass coming in and coming out, by staff from the security forces of the UAE.

“We came and expected something a little bit more spiritual and back to the roots on the mountain in the baking sun, but I feel we are too pampered.

“The strategy is to worship from dawn until sunset but we are sitting here in the tents.

“It is true that Allah answers worship from wherever we are but the sensory experience will be different.

“I’m not a civilian, so I embrace hardship and when I come here and see everything is pampered, I get detached from the whole experience. I was looking forward to the emotional, mental and physical strain.”

Mr Al Medfaei said the Saudi government had also tightened security, with army personnel carrying out police work in Mecca and Medina.

The extra security follows three coordinated suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia in July by ISIL, one of which was within metres of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, Islam’s second holiest site.

“There is a heightened sense of security to the extent where military personnel are policing, and the police are just there for minor traffic control and things like that,” Mr Al Medfaei said.

“Even crowd control, the military is taking care of it.”

Among the most enjoyable parts of his trip so far, apart from spirituality, are the friends he has made.

“I met a group of guys and I think we are going to be friends for life,” Mr Al Medfaei said.

“We are sleeping together, sharing food and praying together, so it is one of life’s pleasures of being here.”

But his mother Amna Mohamed, 55, was grateful for the increased security and the efficiency she has seen.

“I am blessed and thankful to be from a country that ensures the wellbeing of its people everywhere we go,” she said.

“The UAE Government institutions provided everything we require and are working to ensure our comfort, requirements and safety are met.

“I cannot thank them enough for all the arrangements, which I am sure took endless hours to complete.”

Few pilgrims were concerned with Mers on this year’s trip, said a pharmacist with the UAE’s official Haj mission. “We had more [inquiries from] patients in Mina, I think because in Arafat they are more eager to engage in worship than anything else.”

Marzooq Al Bulooshi, 24, an Emirati handball player, was performing Haj for the first time.

“We arrived in Arafat before dawn, at 3am, and the guys were sleepy, so we rested,” he said. “Then we started reading the Quran and reciting prayers. The atmosphere is great.”

The Haj procedures have been “very smooth and everyone is very cooperative”, Al Bulooshi said.

“I have travelled to many places and participated in training camps across countries, but this has been the best trip of my life.”

After arriving in Medina and visiting the Prophet’s Mosque, they travelled to Mecca.

“There we visited the Kaaba cover museum where you find out what materials they use for the stairs of the Kaaba,” said Al Bulooshi. “I thank God that I am fit, as it has helped me endure and enjoy the pillars so far.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, has been closely following the pilgrims.

He called on Dr Mohammed Al Kaabi, head of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, to ensure their safety.

Dr Al Kaabi later briefed him on the procedures taken.


Published: September 11, 2016 04:00 AM


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