I performed hajj in 2000 while I was temporarily squatting in Riyadh. It costed me about Rm1,200. I followed the Indonesian pilgrims consisting of drivers and maids in Riyadh in a convoy of more than 10 buses.
It was an eventful trip. I never attended any hajj courses. Fortunately, our trip leader was an Indonesian lecturer in Madinah University who gave me a crash course along the way.
Among those Indonesian brothers, Abdulrahman (his name after hajj, could not remember his Javanese name) was very close to me. I only found out that he was a bomoh while in Arafah as one of the bakal hajahs fainted and 'meracau.'
I was actually an 'illegal' pilgrim as no hajj visa was stamped on the (red) passport, except on a piece of paper to be attached to the passport. The official at hajj department in Riyadh could not turn me down as 'tetamu Allah' even though the application date was close two weeks earlier.
He said with encouraging tone, "Brother, you are a guest of Allah, go and may Allah take care of your trip!"
Alhamdulillah, it was another rezeki. I made my way to Makkah peacefully and in every road block, the Saudi Police just let this Indonesian convoy pass without any inspection.
If they made a thorough check and inquired about my visa status, I would have been detained and jailed.
On a rocky hillside in the middle of the Arabian peninsula nearly a year ago, the Abu Dhabi freelance writer Aliyyah Rizvi-Bokhari joined several million of the Muslim faithful taking part in the haj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
At the same time, half a world away on the Japanese island of Shikoku, henro (pilgrims) clad in simple white cloaks were walking a circuit of the 88 temples associated with the eighthth-century monk who introduced esoteric Buddhism to Japan.
In the Pyrenees, late season peregrines, or pilgrims, were making their way out of the snowcapped mountains on their way to the northern Spain resting place of one of Jesus’s apostles. Meanwhile, in India, Hindus were bathing in the Ganges River at Benares to expunge their worldly sins.