by Ummu Saajid Ruqayah,; Philadelphia, Pa, USA
My journey to The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia specifically Makkah. Makkah is a place that I have always dreamed of going to whether to visit or live, it finally came true Alhumdulilah!
Before I embarked upon my journey to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, I had several questions: what does it look like, how long is the flight, how big is the Kaaba, what kind of housing will I be staying in with my husband and two young children, how far will It be from the Haram, how will I get around in the city if the women cannot drive and my husband is busy, what would it be like to learn Arabic and Quran there? Lastly how will Umm Al-Qura University look and what classes will I be taking. These were just my thoughts. I was so excited to leave and embark upon this tremendous journey that I was not nervous or scared. I knew that I would miss my family but that didn’t stop me from moving away.
After I arrived to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I was overwhelmingly excited and astonished to be in a place that people wish that they could visit. Going to the Haram for the first time I felt like I was in a deep dream and I couldn’t believe that I was actually looking at the Kaba with my own two eyes. It was breathtaking subhanallah. It was a very emotional time of amazement for me, so unbelievable. In addition to that, I was amazed to see how different the houses and city looked compared to how our homes are built in America. I was so used to seeing houses that have a triangle roof top. Yet, In Saudi Arabia majority of the homes are built with a flat roof top, I thought that was very interesting. Some other things that I found interesting was that the stores were flooded with male employees only! That was pretty awkward because they were even working in the lingerie and women fragrance shops. The hospitals also had more men doctors than women Doctors this is something that I had to get used to while living there. None of those things bothered me I was just so happy to be in the land of the Muslims and living a different life style than I was living at home in America.
As far as learning Arabic and studying in Umm Al Qura University in the Arabic Language program, it was a beautiful experience to study Quran, Arabic and other Islamic subjects with Muslim women from other countries. To meet women from all over the world was amazing! Everyone was speaking their own language and some tried to speak a little English. Attending the University for the first year was very challenging for me at times because I did not understand anything that the teachers were saying and the only language that they spoke was Arabic. There was one Arabic teacher that knew some words in English however that wasn’t helpful because she could not converse with me or understand the questions that I was asking in English. That was the most difficult part about attending the school during my first year. After the first year the course work became slightly easier. Some classes that I found interesting were my Aqeedah, Fiqh, Tafseer and writing class which consisted of learning how to write Arabic letters in the script that it is written in the Mushaf. That was my favorite class! I really enjoyed learning the different ways to write Arabic letters and how to use them as a form of Art.
Another thing that I loved so much about the University was being able to uncover your head on campus. It was the best feeling ever to take off your abaya and tarha (scarf) when you entered into the University, and walk around campus in the sun without your hijab. The Abayas were not allowed at all once you were on the campus grounds. We had uniforms which consisted of a long skirt without splits and a long sleeve shirt any color of your choice except for neon. Overall it was a great experience. I thank Allah for giving me the opportunity to learn Arabic and study in the Land of the Muslims and live close to the Kabah.