Masjid-un-Nabawi, Madinah, Arabia.
I scanned these photos from postcards that I bought in Madinah on my first trip for Umrah in 1999. It was a spiritually grounding experience. But it was also on this same trip that a taxi driver, whilst parked directly in front of the Haram, robbed me of almost all the cash I had on me by way of extortion. He withheld my camera after returning from a trip to Badr, and refused to hand it back to me until I paid him at least 3 or more times the agreed amount for the trip. He didn’t flinch, and I was overwhelmed to the point of tears as I walked back to my hotel room trying to make sense of what had just happened.
This was my first trip abroad, which was always my dream; to travel to Makkah and Madinah on my first trip out of my country. Unfortunately, in Madinah, the experience was horribly tainted by this incident, and another incident in Raudul Jannah. I was performing salaatul-tasbeeh according to the Hanafi madhab at the time. After performing the second rakaah, I stood up to continue with the third when I was grabbed by my arms in the middle of my salaah and forced out of the masjid by the guards because they wanted to start cleaning that area, as was scheduled for 22h00 every evening. Such arrogance and crudeness eventually became the hallmark by which I recognised the authorities in Arabia for the duration of my stay, and my subsequent residence for a year a few years later.
While I was working on contract in 2002/3 in the Eastern Province of Arabia, I recall being pulled over on my way into Jubail city one day. At first I was greeted politely with a smile, which changed very quickly when the police officer realised that I wasn’t Arab. I was subjected to a full search inside and outside the vehicle, and was reprimanded for wearing the traditional Arab dress for men. It was after Jumu’ah, and I was on my way to get lunch like I did every Friday. I was harassed for a while at the check point into the city simply because I was a non-Arab and I was dressed in a manner that the police officer felt was reserved for Arabs. I enjoyed annoying him with my dismissive responses because of his ignorance and arrogance. Always a dangerous combination in someone with authority.