and the Ugly virus H1N1
Mohammed Sadullah Khan email@example.com
16 August 2009
Riyadh: For over a year my family was pestering me for
taking them to Mecca for Umra. But due to various circumstances I was
unable to take them for Umra. Finally a decision was taken in late April
to visit Mecca and perform Umra (popularly known as lesser Pilgrimage) in
the last week of July.
Since early June the Swine flu hype was escalating and it actually started
spreading throughout the world with each and every case being reported and
monitored by the World Health Organization. This caused a flutter and
nightmare in me. The swine flu had already reached the jurisdiction of
Saudi Arabia. I was more concerned visualizing the impact it may have at
the holy places. With fear in heart and faith in God, I did not want to
disappoint my family members. I went to the local transporter for booking
the seats and hotel for Umra, the rates were comparatively cheap. On
enquiring about the swine flu and restrictions, I was informed that there
is no problem so far. Money was paid to the transporter and the seats were
On the day we were supposed to leave, it was reported in the Newspapers
that a women who had come to perform Umra, had died of swine flu. The news
made me jittery. Some of my colleagues feared for my visit and requested
me to carry masks. I explained to them that the virus can enter our body
from any source even by handling a knob at the door, touching the office
desk or trolley at a super market. Finally I told them that Allah Karim.
Later on I contacted my brother, who is a Medical doctor about my visit to
Mecca for Umra and the case of the Egyptian women. He encouraged me to
proceed without worry as we have come to an advanced stage of travel and
explained about the types of Flu and their precautions.
With initial confidence, I was hoping for the last minute rescue by
imagining that the government will cancel all the buses to Mecca or advise
the pilgrims not to travel to Mecca, but nothing of that sort happened.
When we saw the bus, it was bustling with pilgrims. Two Indian families,
two Sudani families, two Pakistani families and rest of them were
bachelors. Among bachelors almost eighty percent were Pakistanis, the rest
were Bangladeshis and Indians.
As the Bus started moving ahead my fear galloped and was mindful of any
kind of sneeze or cough. But fortunately in the entire journey no one
sneezed or coughed. Finally we reached Mecca. Still my mind was acting
like a surveillance camera, installed at the airports, scanning for
persons with red eyes, temperature, cough or sneezing. Fortunately this
time I did not see anyone coughing or sneezing nor suffering from fever.
The moment we stood in front of Kaaba, we were overjoyed, filled with
excitement, felt fully blessed and forgot about everything related to the
journey. It was a real breathtaking experience after a long time. The
feeling was liberating and pulsating. For two days we were engrossed in
prayers with attendance to minimum daily needs. During our visit to Kaaba,
it was being washed and the door was open, we had a rare opportunity to
have a glimpse inside the Kaaba.
Our successful mission was over. Unlike in the past, I used to get flu
after going to Umra, this time I did not have any symptoms of Flu. After
our return, we realized the havoc caused by the virus. Day after day the
virus was becoming more virulent. The spread of Swine flu really got out
of control. The WHO had decided not to count the number of affected
persons. Restrictions were being imposed by certain clerics and countries
in-respect of Haj and Umra. The Swine flu Pandemic was going ahead
unabated with more infections and deaths being reported on daily basis. A
new challenging question was lingering in our minds, whether to proceed on
our annual vacation?
Mohammed Sadullah Khan is a Faculty Member and a Freelance writer based
in Saudi Arabia.