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Besides, women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.This meant that Fakhri would have to be the sole driver.Saudi Arabia’s visa application form had to be translated to Arabic, Bahrain’s must be type-written.It took hours merely to sort out these essentials, not to mention the many trips to the respective embassies.Although the vehicle’s air-conditioning system was working well, we had no illusions about the soaring temperature outside as could be seen by the mirages that loomed endlessly ahead of us.By then, we were going at an average speed of 140km/hr.Barely two months after we set foot in the Gulf, and hardly had we settled down, the question was posed to us by my husband’s Omani colleague Jumea Al-Harthy and his wife, Awatif: Would we like to join their family on a land trip to Mecca in the coming summer?It was only our second meeting with them and the offer took us completely by surprise.
But, for six-month pregnant Jamilah Samian, this one came with a bonus. Today, on the eve of Hari Raya Haji, she shares with us the excitement and reverence of the 15-day trip. We would travel by land from Muscat, Oman, to Mecca to perform the umrah (minor pilgrimage).Stops are few and far between and if we ran into trouble, getting assistance would be no easy task.I would also be quite heavily pregnant by the time we made the journey. But the more we thought about the matter, the more convinced we were that this was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime chance.A month before the agreed departure date, the four of us adults sat down and drew a detailed plan and compiled a list of provisions.We had wanted to travel light yet essentials had to include cooking utensils, medical supplies, collapsible tent, potable water and dry food. At 5am our home in Dhiab Street was a bustle of activity.