مرحبا بكم في مدينة مكة المكرمة – Welcome to the Holy City of Makkah

A three-hour car journey took us to Makkah, the holy city where only Muslims are permitted to enter. The landscape before the main city is astonishing! The red mountains, dry desert, scattered palm trees and grazing cattle mesmerised me. The jagged rocks and unusually coloured mountains stood like giant sentinels bearing witness to the crafty handwork of God. The landscape awed me beyond words and thoughts.

Makkah city has a shabby skyline and therefore we expected the Holy Ka’aba to dominate the horizon. But what met our eyes was a host of hotel towers surrounding the biggest mosque of the world. It was not until we were quite close to it that we saw its minarets emerging from behind the hotels. The hotels have definitely facilitated pilgrims’ stay at Makkah but their extending profiles do not seem very pleasing against the white-marbled courtyard of the Ka’aba and the holy black Ka’aba itself.

The Holy Ka’aba and its surroundings are constantly monitored and catered to by a multitude of maintenance works who make sure that the ground is always sparkling, the water coolers (containing Zamzam) are always filled with cold Zamzam for the pilgrims, the air conditioning facilities are running… in fact every bulb in every socket is burning bright. It is a huge task maintaining a mosque which is the largest in the world and it really makes one believe that God is truly watching over the Holy City and guarding it.

While we stayed, it was awe-inspiring to witness people from such varying classes, creeds and nations amalgamating into one procession that was headed in one direction towards the Holy Mosque when the Azaan (call to prayer) sounded. All shops were either closed or abandoned, all trade halted and a crowd, thousand-strong, walked together towards the towering minarets to access one of the 99 doors of the Holy Mosque.

There are a lot of practices in Makkah that make this city peaceful. One, the skyline is not marred by ugly billboards flashing products and campaigns. Products and companies don’t advertise much through ambient media. Outside the TV, web and radio, they rely on word-of-mouth. Two, all local TV channels broadcast live footage of the prayer proceedings during prayer times. Three, all local TV hosts use a mellow, simple language to convey the message. No sensationalism, no dramatisation, no exaggeration or blowing facts out of proportions. And they all say “Insha Allah” (if God wills) after announcing an event that is yet to take place or a guest who’ll appear in the next episode.

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