Saturday 26 May 2018

35 days in Makkah

Asalaamu Alaykum readers, 

Ramadaan is in full force, and I constantly find myself yearning for the Haram at various times in the day. There is something really magical about this month that reinforces my experiences of Hajj every single day. There are times where I recite in the tranquil space of my home, and I'm instantly transported back to Madinah, where I spent countless hours reciting in the Haram. 

My last post Makkah post ended with our first Umrah, where I found myself on this amazing high, unable to think of anything else but the majestic Baytullah. I was transfixed with the reality of actually being there in person and able to rest my gaze on this most beautiful view. Upon returning to our room after umrah, I rushed to the window with the hope that I'd be able to see the Ka'bah, I could however just see the Mataaf (the area just outside the entrance). The significance of the first Umrah still sat with me, and continued into the next day. Once we had a little nap after breakfast to restore our energy, we headed out to explore. This vibrant city had already taken residence in my heart, and I was entranced with every step I took around Makkah. The malls are filled with shops and stalls, fast food places, the ever present Bin-Dawood, and of course thousands of people navigating their way around the Haram.

The Haram is obviously the centre and the heart of this city, pulsing hundreds of thousands of people in and out every hour. We were fortunate to make it to the Haram for every waqt and grabbing a great spot for salaah (prayer) was relatively easy in the first two weeks. Makkah started filling up really quickly after that, and at every turn, I was faced with a fellow Muslim from a different country. It was overwhelming to know that there were 3 million people headed for this city to fulfil the final pillar. All our time was spent in prayer in the Haram, catching up on sleep and eating. Some time was spent shopping, although we did most of our shopping in Madinah to ensure maximum time in the Haram.

We were so fortunate to have spent over a month Makkah. 35 Days!!
This included our time in Azizziyah and Mina, and yet, when I reflect back it sped by in a heartbeat. We were in central Makkah until 4th Thul Hijjah, ie a total of 19 days before we left for Azizziyah (I'll cover Azziziyah in another post). We felt that this move to Azziziyah would be essential, to have those 3 nights in Azizziyah to rest up and prepare for the 5 days of Hajj. It provided me with time to disengage from the Ka'bah and focus on my spiritual preparation for Hajj.
Those 19 days are indelibly etched in my memory as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. In between waqts we would perform tawaafs, usually one per day, which we did at various times. After Thuhr and before Asr used to be very quiet, but in the heat of the day. Or between Maghrieb & Eshaa, which was cooler, but fuller. The most extraordinary thing is that even though the area around the Ka'bah would be unbelievably congested, we would always find a place. And even better, we'd even find ourselves close to the Ka'bah Algamdulilah! We performed every single tawaaf right by the Ka'bah, often with masses and masses of people. 

Our travel operator took us on a few ziyarahs, to see Jabal Rahmah (Arafat), the Mina Camps, we did a walking tour to the birthplace of the Prophet (PBUH) (almost on the Mataaf) and visited Jabal Thawr. Jabal Thawr is the mountain that the Prophet (PBUH) and Abu Bakr sought refuge in for 3 days and nights from the Quraysh. The feeling of walking in the steps of our Islamic history is so powerful and so intense. We also performed a midnight climb up Jabal Nur, to the cave (Hira) where the Prophet (PBUH) received the first revelations of the Holy Quran during the month of Ramadaan. I felt so honoured and privileged to be able to perform 2 rakats in this cave, on the very same place as our beloved Nabi Mohammad (SAW), Subghaanallah!♥️

Our Hajj group also performed a few Umrahs afterwards, and we also chose to do some on our own. Another exceptional moment for me was celebrating my 40th birthday on Hajj, and performing an umrah with hubby just after Fajr that morning. I cannot even describe the fullness of my heart on that morning, except to say that gratitude and awe are very mild words to capture my feelings. All that I know is, when you're on Hajj, it becomes very clear why we revere our Hujaaj so much. My dialogue with the Almighty is so sacred, it is as clear as day, and I could tangibly feel the mercy, the all-knowingness,  of my Creator every single day on this journey. It has been something that has remained with me since, and I try to be conscious of this all the time, striving to live and performing my prayers with the same manner of supplication.

Day 1 after the first Umrah

It was really empty during the first two weeks
Jabal Thawr in the background

Jabal Rahmah
Mid-day Tawaafs

After climbing Jabal Nur (Hira) & performing two rakahs in the cave 

The birthplace of the Prophet (PBUH) in the background

The gate closest to the place where the house of Khadija 

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Friday 18 May 2018

Ramadaan Rejuvenation

Happy Friday and Jumuah Mubarak readers!

Today is the first Jumuah of the Ramadaan, a month I look forward to, for it brings so many blessings and insights for me. This is usually a month of introspection for me, and this year I feel that I have accessed another layer within myself. This is mainly due to my Hajj, and the realisations and lessons learnt during that remarkable journey. I don't think anyone ever takes 6 weeks away from the rat race to reflect, to connect and to rejuvenate the soul.

Our lives are centred around rushing from one point to the next, in search of the next buck (which is important to feed our families) and in search of love (which I believe is important to nourish the soul). These two things are essential to our 'being' on earth, but allowing it to become all-consuming doesn't necessarily allow us the luxury of introspection. The tag line being: 'There is no time ' - for anything. I understand that not everyone has been afforded an opportunity to take 4-6 weeks away from life for a journey of a lifetime, however Ramadaan presents the time for this. This month is filled with opportunities for contemplation and supplication; it fuels the soul for spiritual rekindling. And yet, although there is 'no time', we're able to binge on series, online shop for ages, scour social media and get lost in a virtual world. I too watch series (but I can just manage 1/2 episodes at a time - if I'm lucky), online shop and sift through social media. But this month becomes my haven away from the virtual & physical world, indeed it becomes the time when my most meaningful connections happen. 

My Hajj has taught me that the space of spiritual contentment lies within me, ready to be accessed at any time. It's the space where my dialogue with my Creator emanates from and my introspection into my own souls contract occurs. Each year Ramadaan is a point from which I start afresh, I feel as if I am cleansed, both physically and emotionally. A time when I take stock of work and business ventures and assess my way forward for the next 12 months. One of the most important realisations for me has been to trust in Divine Decree; to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can take care of the day to day things, and the bigger picture is taken care of by the Almighty. I can plan each day, strategise the bigger picture but it is always with full trust in my Creator. And whether I have a bad/traumatic experience, that it too has it's purpose in teaching me something about myself. 
It's called "FAITH".

Without Faith I would be lost, floundering in a vast ocean with no sense of direction, nor a base to tether myself to. My family is key to my grounding during this month, we spend more time together, more mealtimes as a family, we try the prayer times together as far as possible and even preparing Iftar (to break fast) is done as a unit. For the 5 of us, it becomes a time where we connect more, as we're all home most of the time, there are no parties, no commitments apart from focusing on this time (and of course, sports as well!). It has become routine for our home to go quieter, it even feels as if a slowing down of the pace occurs. This is the most conducive environment for a wonderful and blessed Ramadaan.
I'd like to wish all my readers observing this month a Ramadaan Mubarak, may this be a healing and blissful month Insha A Allah♥️

I am still debating on whether I'll do any lookposts this month, it depends on my spiritual programme, but here's a Winter inspired look shot during a filming session. The fur coat is a vintage buy which I have had for a while, the boots, and jeans all old, and the bag purchased a good few years ago abroad.
My message this Winter is to repurpose what we have, and buy very specific key pieces to update your look. My pearl top is the only new item in this ensemble which was a very good buy from Phasionista.
Repurpose away lovelies!

Outfit details:

Faux Fur from Human Image (Thrift buy)
Woolworths ripped jeans
Phasionista pearl top
Mimco boots
Chanel bag
The Glam Closet sunglasses
Lovisa earrings
Scarf from a market

Ciao for now, 
RuBe xoxo

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Friday 11 May 2018

#HajjSeries... Health Prep for Hajj

Asalaamu Alaykum & Happy Friday Readers!

With Ramadaan just a few days away, I find myself in a twirl trying to wrap up some work projects, and get things done. I usually go quieter during the fast, so that I can spend my time in rejuvenating on a spiritual level, here's to hoping that it will all be done in time! 

It's also a time when I start planning our eating routine, preparing food to ensure that we sustain ourselves during this auspicious month. Last year, I completely changed our food traditions and prepared healthy food to break fast with and one treat (pancakes, fritters or savoury). Because my kids are still as active during the fast (we've tried to slow them down and it didn't go down well), so I have to ensure that the food they consume is sustainable and a good source of fuel. 
My last #HajjSeries post focused on my first entry into Makkah and the magnificence of the Holy Bait-ullah. The the place my journey had been preparing me for and, even though I did not know it at the time, the healthy eating habits maintained during Ramadaan was crucial to supporting my health and strength whilst on Hajj.

When people come to bid you farewell, they always wish you strength and the presence of mind to complete your Hajj. Only once I arrived in Makkah did I realise how important my health and physical state of being was. With very little sleep, change of climate, extreme heat and people from all walks of life, there is bound to be more than just a few bugs one would be susceptible to. I may not have known at the beginning of the fast last year that I would be embarking on this phenomenal journey, but by regulating our eating habits even during the fast, we were starting the preparation. Both Ghaalid and I were really fortunate to have been fit and healthy before, during and after our trip. Algamdulilah, we were in the best of health for this amazing trip and all the trials that came our way. 

It would have been a blow for me to have been ill, and unable to perform my ibadah and so I was completely obsessed with trying to stay healthy. I was constantly aware that I needed to be strong and ready for the 5 days of Hajj (this too is only within my control to a certain degree- I understood this). I would therefore recommend any prospective Hujaaj preparing to depart in about two months or so, to pay close attention to your personal state of health. This does not mean that you should now go and do10km runs if you have never done it before, or hit the gym for an OTT session either. It means making the right lifestyle choices in a way that it would be easy for you and the body to adapt to. During Ramadaan, I was very fussy about my clean protein intake, coupled with a good balance of carbs. I had a hearty bowl of soup each evening and occasionally indulged in boeber. I don't also deprive myslef completely, it really is all about balance!
I am not a qualified doctor, nor a dietician, but below I have shared some health practices for prospective Hujaaj to manage their health for the impending journey, which worked very well for me.
PS: I do not suffer from any lifestyle diseases nor do I take any chronic meds, so I could manage these on my own without the advice of a medical practitioner. 

  1. Try to incorporate greens into your daily meals, a healthy hearty soup during the fast is a great way. I also start the day with a green juice. 
  2. Start taking your supplements now, which you will just continue with whilst in Saudi.
  3. On a normal day I take the following: Vitathion & Nutrilite Daily vegecaps everyday. To prepare for my trip I incorporated some Vitamin C supplements; and when I felt that I needed it, a good probiotic. It's difficult to take along live cultures so a probiotic tablet/capsule will need to do.
  4. I steer clear of traditional meds, so when the sniffles started making an appearance, as is the case when the weather in Cape Town suddenly turns cold, I took Septogard, Echinaforce (sometimes Echinoforce Forte, depending on the severity of the cold/flu) and if needed, Sinugrain. Both Seoptgard and Sinugrain are Tibb alternatives to allopathic medications.
  5. If you're not a gym frequenter or do very little physical activity, try to do some daily walking just to get the muscles limber and the shoes walked-in. I do regular yoga mixed with some cardio and light weights, so I am not super fit and I managed the physical exertion of the trip very well.
  6. Try to sort out any lingering health issues here prior to taking the trip. I suffer with migraines, and would have needed my prescription meds (thankfully I didn't need it!), but anything which is manageable apart from chronic lifestyle diseases should be attended to here. It may get worse when aggravated by the travel, your state of mind, the heat and so many other factors.
  7. When I arrived in Saudi, and the heat hit me, I started drinking Rehidrate (mixed with some Tang) every single day. This worked wonders for my energy levels and ensured that I never suffered from dehydration. 
  8. I was sorely disappointed in the availability of vegetables and healthy green dishes in Saudi, apart from the raw vegetables at the supermarkets. So at breakfast I would ensure that I have some form of vegetables and as I mentioned previously fruit was a staple in my diet. 
It is also important to note that leading up to your departure,  you may get very little sleep, this further compromises the body. As difficult as it may be try to rest often during these next two months, as the week before you leave, it will be near impossible! Ramadaan is actually the perfect time to revitalise the body, as it is already a serious detox which we prepare for. The spiritual aspect of the fast adds to my sense of peace and tranquility, and completely helps calm my mind and body. 

Remember to pay close attention to your health throughout your time in Saudi. With the crowds it is very easy to contract bugs, and ensuring that the immune system is strong is the only way to combat the possibility of getting sick. When I felt run down, or felt a scratchy throat, I would take Septogard immediately. On a side note: due to the heat, one tends to drink ice cold Zam Zam water, this irritates the throat! Mix the cold Zam Zam with some warm water and drink it at room temperature. This was a tip from one of the SAHUC officials which helped the moment I felt that my throat was scratchy and sore.

On this note, I wish all my readers a fruitful and tranquil Ramadaan. May all your supplications be accepted and all your prayers be answered InshaAllah.

Good luck to those pilgrims preparing to leave, it's just about two months away so please be mindful and take good care of your health.

This pic taken in Madinah at approximately 1am

And barely any sleep before we're back for Tahajud salaah

You meet so many people of different nationalities, sometimes sitting in
close proximity for long periods of time

After Thuhr tawaaf, with crowds of people, under the blazing hot sun

Visiting Ziyarah places can involve some climbing and requires physcial stamina, especially
in the overwhelming heat
Ciao for now, 

RuBe xoxo
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Friday 4 May 2018

Fostering Sibling Love

Happy Friday lovely readers!

You would have  noticed that I didn't post anything last week, and this was intentionally done... It was done so that I could be present with the family and have a proper time out. I planned work for two mornings and then set aside the laptop, and just chilled with the boys.

Part of my kids growing up means they have become young people, with lives, schedules and places to be. And they do all of this, independent of me, so they can drive themselves, arrange their own meeting times and check in for curfew before they're out the door. As a result we spend limited time together as a family, apart from evening supper where we check in on each others day. I have realised that keeping the closeness alive involves care and attention, from all of us. 

I reflect back to when they were little, and all three under the age of ten. They would spend all their time playing together, teasing the youngest, watching movies and making up dance routines (yes they !). Without any cousins on either side, they only had each other to play with, have sleepovers with and talk to. My reasoning to them was that there would always be moments where they'd fight, get frustrated with each other, but that it was important to learn to be in each others space peacefully. I wanted them to more than just co-exist, I wanted them to bond and form a secure connection based on mutual respect and love. And with every squabble, I encouraged and mediated resolution, which would end with an apology and a hug (the hugs only worked when they were little hehe). And after a while, I would need them to mediate for themselves and resolve quarrels on their own, or consult me with some solution if they wanted intervention. 
Now that they're young men, they are more opinionated, with strong and differing views on many topics. So we still have heated quarrels and debates; but most times it is resolved with respect, sometimes with exasperation and at times it ends up in a momentary sulk. And yet, they always emerge from their sulk, with mumbled apologies, to engage with each other as if their disagreement had never happened. It takes a lot to foster this kind of understanding, and means that as parents we need to lead by example. Hence we need to be conscious of how we resolve conflict, between us and also with the kids. They're always watching and learning😊
So when I choose to be present with them, it shows them that they matter; I also get to be a part of their interactions with each other. I watch as they laugh with each other, animatedly talk soccer, play games, tease and talk. And then the moments which melt my heart, Ziyaad making lunch for Ihsaan because he's incapacitated due to a broken collarbone. Ameer packing Ihsaan's school bag in the morning because he's slower due to the broken collarbone, or Ihsaan using his allowance to buy the brothers birthday gifts. I am fostering an environment of sibling love (I know there will still be fights) and choose not to have the popular adage 'sibling rivalry' apply in my home. If I cannot guide them to treat each other with respect from a young age, how will they know to do it outside the home?
And so the path continues...

Today's lookpost features a light Haya Collective nude coat, over a silk tunic, skinny pants and a pair of loafers. Casual and chic for work or just a mommy day.

Outfit details:
Haya Collective coat
Country Road silk tunic (old)
H&M skinny pants
Leather loafers (old)
Kate Spade bag (purchased abroad)
Giorgio Armani sunglasses
Witchery linen scarf
Lovisa dreamcatcher necklace

Ciao for now, 
RuBe xoxo

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