Sayyida Zainab s.a.
14.07.2013 3 °C
An 8 year return to this country. Our last trip in 2002 was somewhat different in that: it was the first time, the group we were with was much larger, the weather was different, everything looked alien and I was in a different state of mind.
This time we knew mainly what to expect by way of accomodation, the transport, the people and the places.
This time the group was much smaller: 14 compared to nearly 60 last time.
This time the weather was much different: last time it was in summer time and very hot, this time it was freezing (no different to the weather we left behind in the UK!!)
This time we were familiar with the area.
And this time my mind was all over the place: I was suffering from the fatigue of having two jobs and voluntary work, worrying whether I would be able to cope with all the travelling, the itinerary of excursions, whether I would be able to do justice to the personalities we were going to visit, whether I would be able to concentrate and meditate or be distracted by worldly issues.
Ok onto the travel bit: we set off from Bradford at 5.45am, parked car in long stay carpark and were dropped off at Manchester Airport by the shuttle minibus (very nice people, would recommend them any time!!). Arrived at airport to find our co-travellers waiting for the group leader who phoned and said he was stuck on M60 due to an accident. Our co-travellers turned out to be very pleasant so at least the worry of being stuck with some pain in the rears was quickly removed. Finally group leader arrived and we boarded flight to Paris, which was a very short trip lasting about an hour. In Paris we got onto the connecting flight. My mobile phone went automatically onto roaming so I sent some text to my brother back in UK to let him know everything was ok. The flight to Damascus was 5 hours so took the opportunity to get some shut eye.
We landed in Damascus Airport at 7pm. It was dark. Group leader had arranged for a small coach to take us to the hotel in Syeda Zainab area. On the way he asked whether we wanted to go to the hotel and settle in or drop our luggage and go to pay our salutations before the Shrine was closed for the night: it was a no brainer, everyone shouted "ziarat!!!".
The hotel was the usual 2 star that everyone uses. It works out at approx 10 pounds per night. We threw our stuff into the rooms, had a quick wash, changed clothes and everyone was ready within half and hour.As we walked through the narrow alleyways Uk felt far away and it then hit home: we had arrived!! As we turned into the hustle and bustle of the main bazaar (at nearly 9pm it was still busy and showed no signs quietening down for the night), the first sight of the shrine was one of the minarets of the Shrine of Lady Zainab binte Ali (peace and blessing of Allah be upon her).
The floodlights lit up the minaret in the dark sky. We reached the shrine just in time to get inside, everyone looking towards the main area. We walked slowly, continously sending blessings and salutations. The whole experience was so overwhelming that I stopped filming as it was distracting me from the purpose of being there.
- *I wrote the above bit shortly fater returning from the trip to Syria in 2010. Hindsight is a wonderful thing: I should have completed the blog really and here is a lesson learned. I will add photos and videos from that trip. As the country is torn apart by the on-going violence, I wonder if and when we will be able to return.***