Thursday, February 23

Umrah 2012, Day Eleven: Romancing The Stone

I guess the underlying theme of this trip is an aspect of the ongoing wider debate regarding bad religion versus bad religiousness. Why does the ultimately correct religion of Islam prompt such bad behaviour in its adherents? The Black Stone in one of the corners of the Kaba is a perfect example of this, and you don't have to spend too much time looking for a crowd of faces full of single-minded determination, tears and pain. So naturally my cousins and I got up at 2:15am, thinking that it was going to be as quiet as it would get at that time.

I've have the opportunity to kiss the black stone more than a few times before, so in hindsight I should have known better really, but I guess there's not a lot of protection from hype and groupthink. I certainly don't believe that I'm in a better position now that I managed to during this trip - it's quite possible that I'm in a worse one. So yes, perhaps it's the bragging or blogging rights that spurred me to even try, since I didn't really savour it (and certainly wasn't that God conscious) at the time and don't really remember much of it now. And most of all - it was hardly the most hygienic thing for me to do during my time here.

They do really need to do something about it though, since self-regulation is never going to work. Have them enforce a queue - or hand out time-limited vouchers even. The current approach of re-education doesn't seem too effective; or since it's possibly only the religiously weak who attempt it perhaps it is? As it stands I don't think I will ever attempt it again under these conditions. In fact I was in two minds even writing about it.

I've been resisting bring up this topic lest it adds to my reputation of women bashing (I love you all really), but I have noticed (ahem) a marked increase in women visiting during Umrah season now. Women only tours are pretty common now, but even in the private groups on average there were a number of women to each man. In our own familial group the ratio was nine women to four men.

The number of ladies sections in the Makkan mosque seem to have increased too - I'd say there's at least twice as many now than there was a decade or so ago. Of course there's nothing wrong with that per se, the more the merrier, but it does cause massive logistical issues, particularly when some women invoke their female privilege to behave antisocially.

It would actually be interesting to see the numbers, especially seeing as how it's a sign of Qiyamat. And while we're at it perhaps we should look at the number of Turks and Indonesians visiting too? That last bit was a joke.

They finally opened access to the roof for regular prayer - there is nothing like offering jamaat under the night sky. Of course the reason why they opened it up at all was due to the constantly increasing numbers pouring in each day. Jummah will be very interesting.