My Trip to Morocco

By Adeeba Hadi

We arrived at Marrakech Menara Airport around midday where we were met with the warmth of the Moroccan sun dazzling us. The view outside consisted of lots of beautiful palm trees which looked even more magnificent under the luminous sunlight.

Our Riad, (a traditional, historic Moroccan house with a courtyard used as a hotel) was a 20-minute ride from the airport situated close to the city centre, Jemaa El-Fnaa. The journey was filled with lots of palm trees and greenery, around which were streets filled with people, taxis and some horse carriages. Our Riad was within local alleys where we could spot the locals including younger children playing out on the streets. The Riad was a very cultural Moroccan house with numerous traditional paintings and custom-made furnishings; our room was situated on the terrace, allowing us a clear view of the beautiful day outside.

Our very first day was filled with embracing the diverse, roaring city centre, Jemaa el-fnaa; taking in the large space filled with various stalls offering fruits, dates and other moroccan street foods. The Jemaa el-fnaa was truly an unforgettable sight; a full volume of vibrancy and chaos that the city has to offer at the heart of Marrakech. As the sun set and darkness descended, we witnessed the city square transform into an exotic, busy atmosphere which entertained the evening crowds with mystical readings, snake charmers and deafening music. The Jemaa el-fnaa was surrounded by various restaurants with terrace seating which gave a magnificent view of the noisy, thrilling happenings of the city square below. The atmosphere of the city square with its lively, cultural and charismatic environment was the highlight of our first evening in Marrakech.                                                                                          

Standing tall at the medina quarter, on our walk to the Jemaa el-fnaa was the minaret tower of the ‘Kutubiyya mosque’, the largest mosque in Marrakech flanked by spacious gardens; situated close to the Jemaa el-fnaa.         

Our second day consisted of visiting the city square and various open-air Arab markets also known as ‘souks’. We had a camel ride booked for us later that evening which was no doubt one of the most extraordinary experiences of my trip. We were picked up from our Riad and taken to the palm grove also known as the ‘Palmeraie’, which reflects the intimate atmosphere of Marrakech’s medinas with tranquil courtyards, scented gardens and a breath-taking view of the sunset. After the exhilarating camel ride amidst the palm oasis, we were taken to a traditional Berber village where we were hosted by a very hospitable Berber family in their cultural, conventional home, and had the pleasure of enjoying the taste of Moroccan mint tea along with some dates and dried nuts.

We were greeted by our carriage waiting for us in the morning of our third day, which was going to take us to visit the various tourist attractions of Marrakech including the Menara gardens, Majorelle garden (Jardin Majorelle), and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent (YSL). The Majorelle garden is one of the most enchanting and mysterious gardens in Morocco. Created over the course of forty years, it is enclosed by outer walls, and consists of a labyrinth of crisscrossing alleyways on different levels and boldly coloured buildings that displayed magnificent art. It was truly a joy photographing some of the wonderful aspects of this elegant garden, designed and named after the French artist Jacques Majorelle.

Marrakech is a vibrant and diverse city filled with scenic views as well as an exotic environment with various activities. The city’s thriving culture, beautiful setting, mystical appearance and heavenly shopping make it a unique cultural and unforgettable experience. There were plenty of things to do and see in this exotic city, and one thing I can say with confidence is that once you’ve captured its charms, it will be impossible to forget them.

My Trip to India

By Manaal Rehman

Allah Almighty in the Holy Qur’an encourages all Muslims to travel across the world. And by his Grace, I was given the opportunity to go to Bangalore, Karnataka in India, through an all-expense-paid summer internship.

I was in the penultimate year of my Integrated Master course, in Computer Science and my University (King’s College London), had a partnership with an international Technology Consultancy, based in India. During the application process, I did not intend to even get the offer, let alone take the placement. I merely wanted to understand how far in the application process I could go. Since being rejected by three other companies in London, I had lost all hope by the time I received this offer.

This company was providing me with an opportunity to spend 8-12 weeks living on a fully facilitated campus, with a cab driver at disposal, a 24-hour medical service, a room in four-star accommodation and paid flights and visa, along with a large stipend, all to and be part of one of their projects. However, it was very far from my home, family and my Jama’at.

After many prayers, much deliberation and research, my parents and I decided it was not something that we could turn down and my mother encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity. It was finalised, that I was to leave on the 1st of June and come back the week before Jalsa Salana UK.

However, there were two conditions, first, that I have my own private accommodation (which was already provided by the company) and that I stay in touch with the Jama’at in Bangalore. As soon as signing my offer letter, my family wrote to Amir Sahib UK, and his office provided us with the contact details of the Amir Jama’at of Bangalore, the Missionary In charge and the Sadr Lajna. Prior to my departure, I contacted the Sadr informing her of my arrival. This would be crucial later on.

Being from the UK, and never having travelled to India or Pakistan before, it was terrifying for myself and my family. And upon my arrival, everything…and I mean everything, seemed like a surprise. The traffic, the people, the sights, sounds, smells were all so vastly different from home, it was both scary and exciting. It was a very interesting experience to delve back into the culture of our roots, and forefathers, and I realised that despite being raised in the UK, I still felt that the values I shared were much closer with the local people.

Upon arriving at campus, I immediately called home and made this a daily habit. I called my parents, sister, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, almost every day. And made a habit of ensuring that everyone knew what I would be doing and that I was being very well looked after.

The following week, I was assigned my project and introduced to my team. This was the first time, I realised that I was at a very strong advantage, due to the fact that I could speak to the employees in both Urdu (Hindi) and English. My mother had taught me Urdu, due to the guidance of Khalifa IV rh), and this was once again the blessing of Khilafat. This made me feel much more at home in this new place and I did not feel foreign at all.

By the grace of Allah, I was part of a historic project, which was very successful. I was working to build a robot, which scanned a physical space, and generated a 3D interactive representation of that space. This robot took pictures and depth images of its surroundings and stitched them together. My part was to research different ways of stitching the images together to create 360-degree view of the space.

Furthermore, I was part of another project which used a sub-field of Artificial Intelligence called Machine Learning. Here I was given a lot of data that was fed into a model, which was in the wrong format, and I wrote code to generate it in the correct format. This data was over 30,000 files which needed to be converted. Finally, I had the opportunity to produce demonstration videos for robots that my department created. I was given this project due to skills I had acquired from my work with MTA international. I was also blessed with a very nice and caring team, who encouraged and taught me a lot.

Furthermore, there were many times where I felt like Allah Almighty protected me either by changing circumstances or sending the right person at the right time. Additionally, there were many times that I had to make decisions on my own. This was a new experience because I quickly came to know that I was completely independent and without the support or guidance, nor could I ask someone what I should or should not do. In these times, I would think, what does Islam say? What have the Khulafa told us? What have my parents taught me?

If you take anything from this article take this: In such situations, think to yourself, that I must not do anything that I need to hide from anybody, or that would disappoint the Jama’at or my parents. Being thousands of miles away, it became even more important that I upheld my values as an Ahmadi girl, and make everyone proud. I hope and pray, that all Ahmadi girls, especially Nasirat, keep this in mind whenever they have a chance to be independent, and represent the Jama’at in the best manner possible. Ameen.

My Trip to Napoli, Italy

Last year in the month of June by the grace of Allah I was able to visit Italy. It was a trip long due and took a lot of planning. Our destination was Naples (Napoli), however during our stay we resided in a suburb near the city Pompeii. We only had 3 days in Italy, a lot to see and a lot to experience.

Let me start by explaining our trip to Italy. We flew using AirItalia from Heathrow airport, our flight was early morning, so I had to leave the house at 3am, which resulted in a sleepless night. We had a stopover in Milan, from there we flew to our destination Naples. At the airport our pre-booked taxi driver was waiting who drove us to our accommodation in Pompeii, which was an AirBnb. The weather was extremely hot so alhamdulillah our accommodation was air conditioned. As soon as we arrived at our accommodation, we unpacked, freshened up and left to go sightseeing. Yes, on the same day!

Our first stop was visiting the famous volcano Mount Vesuvius (Vesuvio). The history behind this volcano is that it erupted in 79 AD. Of course, it has erupted multiple times but the eruption of 79 AD is famous for wiping out the entire population of Pompeii, Herculaneum and other nearby cities. Now it’s a famous tourist attraction. When we arrived at the bottom of Mount Vesuvius we took a coach that drove us 800m above sea level, from there we had to walk 1000m on foot to the top of the mountain. This was probably the most intense walk of my life, bearing in mind the sleepless night and the fact that we had just flown into the country. We were able to get a look at the crate of the volcano. From the volcano you could see the entire city, the ocean and nearby islands. Once we had taken in the breath-taking view it was time to go back down. The rest of the first day was spent just exploring the city and of course eating some authentic Italian food.

Day 2 was very intense, all of us were ready to leave the house by 7am. The plan for the day was to visit the ruins of the city of Pompeii. The ruins were interesting, surprisingly well preserved. We were able to get a taste of how people used to live back in the day as some rooms were intact. The soil next to volcanoes is said to be very fertile, therefore there were lots of gardens and lots of greenery.

After we visited the ruins of Pompeii we headed to the Island of Capri. To get there we walked to the train station and took the train to a nearby city. From there we walked to the port and took a 30 mins ferry to the island. The island was probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. The island was extremely crowded, there was a lot to see and not enough time. We took a bus to go to the top of the island, there we witnessed a wedding taking place which was very beautiful. On Capri we all ate ice cream and as it was an island we got to have at the beach as well.

After spending many hours on Capri it was time to get back, once we arrived back from the ferry we sat at a restaurant and had dinner whilst watching the sunset next to us. Again, just amazing!

The travel home to Pompei was interesting, we would usually have to walk 30 minutes from the station to our accommodation, but on that day one of us wasn’t able to walk so we had to order a taxi. Unfortunately, no taxis were running at that time, so we made a quick stop and went inside a supermarket to enquire if someone there could help us. To our luck a customer overheard us asking the workers and offered the six of us a ride home in her five-seater car in which herself and her 2 daughters were also meant to travel. It was a massive risk but her hospitality is something that I will not forget to this day.

The third day was our last day in Italy and again we left the house early morning. The plan for the day was to visit the city Naples. Naples has a lot of history, the most interesting thing I found in Naples were the underground passageways. These underground passageways are 136 steps down approximately 40 metres underground, 100% humidity, around 2,400 years old. During the Greek era these tunnels were exploited as cisterns for the water supply of the city to protection from airstrikes during the second world war.

There are approximately 400-500 churches in the city of Naples alone, so it was fun visiting a few of them and witnessing Mass as well. There was also an artistic museum which we visited but were not able to enjoy as much due to extreme fatigue. Once we toured the museum we explored the roads of Naples. There were loads of bakeries but rarely a restaurant or a place that sold savoury food. People had little stall set up everywhere selling souvenirs, jewellery and flowers. One man was even selling Naples’ air in a bottle. Yes, air in a bottle!

Eventually we headed back home to Pompeii. Once we got to Pompeii we explored our own area again as we did not get the chance to do that before. There were many restaurants and an amazing ice cream place that sold every flavour you could imagine, and I mean every flavour.

Something interesting that I noticed in Italy was that the people in Italy were very hospitable and very friendly. Whenever we spoke to someone they would respond with a big smile on their face and joke around. They enjoyed talking about their culture and were very proud of their history. Another thing that I noticed was that during the day everything would be quiet, many shops would not be open, you would not see many people outside. However, towards the evening the roads would get busy and you would see every shop open and crowded with people. Children would be awake riding their bikes, playing and their parents socialising.

Overall, our visit to Italy was memorable and a trip that I will never forget. I pray that all of us get a chance to visit other countries and explore other cultures. Ameen.

My Trip to Madrid, Spain

In the late Summer, my family and I decided to fly out to Madrid (Spain). Barely off the plane, we were welcomed by the blazing afternoon sunshine. Unsure of what to expect in such a vibrant city made us all the more excited to see all the charms and hidden gems Spain had to offer.  After a quick stop at the Hotel, we all went for a walk around the local area in search for some food and much needed water.

Strolling about for a good half an hour to forty-five minutes, not knowing where we were going and having walked around in circles a couple of times, we did not care. It would have made sense to use Google Maps, but we were too busy being intrigued by the complete structural differences of Madrid and London as well as enjoying the scent of olives every few metres. As Madrid is the Capital and right at the heart of Spain, we had assumed it would be relatively similar to London but that was not the case. After some searching, we found the high-street and thankfully some places to eat and made our way back.

Scorching temperatures, suntan of three shades darker, olives everywhere and stunning sites full of history and culture

Day 2: Our first stop was to hire a car. Let me tell you guys that this was a lifesaver and the best decision to make. Before leaving London, we’d noted down some places to visit and as soon as we got the car we wanted to start ticking them off. Our first stop was Parque del Buen Retiro. A magnificent public park filled with sculptures and a lake. Within the park itself there was so many attractions to see including the Casita del Pescador, which looked like a small bright coral coloured temple or hut, a rose garden and the Palacio de Cristal (meaning crystal palace).

Day 3, and our next stop was Mezquita Basharat (Basharat Mosque) in Pedro Abad. The foundation stone was laid by the third Khalifa (rh), inaugaretd by the fourth Khalifa (rh) and visited by our current Khalifa (aba). This blessed mosque that has been visited by three Khalifa’s of Ahmadiyyat was a top priority for us to visit too. What a shame it would be to go to Spain and not visit an iconic part of our Jamaat. Despite being above the motorway, there was a peaceful and quiet aura surrounding the mosque. At the gate again, you are welcomed by this amazing scent of olives. The mosque was absolutely stunning and different from anything I could have imagined. The brick interior and designs were outstanding. We were given a tour around the places, but what caught my eye the most was the different fruit bushes and trees planted around the mosque. There was a very homey vibe. The members of the jamaat also very kindly prepared food for us.

After saying our prayers, we travelled a little further to Córdoba to visit the historical Mezquita de Córdoba. From the outside it looked like a spectacular fortress. Upon entering into the foyer there are lines upon lines of orange trees. The inside of the mosque was made up multiple columns made of marble and granite. Looking from top to bottom you could see the deep intricate engravings and craftsmanship which left you in awe. The hours that must have been spent in building this mosque is unimaginable. History shows that this mosque had been taken over and changed into a cathedral and there was clear evidence in all the statues of Jesus (as) and Christian symbols all over the mosque.

After saying our prayers, we travelled a little further to Córdoba to visit the historical Mezquita de Córdoba. From the outside it looked like a spectacular fortress. Upon entering into the foyer there are lines upon lines of orange trees. The inside of the mosque was made up multiple columns made of marble and granite. Looking from top to bottom you could see the deep intricate engravings and craftsmanship which left you in awe. The hours that must have been spent in building this mosque is unimaginable. History shows that this mosque had been taken over and changed into a cathedral and there was clear evidence in all the statues of Jesus (as) and Christian symbols all over the mosque.

The part that stood out the most to me was, the Mihbrab had not been removed by the Christians. It was locked off so you couldn’t get too close, but it was a sight like nothing else. The Mihrab was from bottom to top made up of marble and gold with an astounding geometric pattern of Quranic verses. It was a sight like no other and showed how God all mighty protected this area for it to not have been destroyed or changed in anyway. No pictures can do justice of the beauty of the mosque. It was structured in a way that the Mihrab was in the perfect position so that when the time for Adhan or Friday sermon came, the voice would echo to the corners of the building.

Outside the mosque was the Guadalquivir river with the most gorgeously blue water. crossing the bridge, we could see the beauty of the mosque from a distance and how it stood out above everything else. After this, being the girl that I am we decided to go shopping for a few hours. Just around the corner was a shopping centre, what better place than to spend my father’s money.

Day 4: after our adventures in the south, we drove back up to Madrid to enjoy another day visiting local tourist attractions including the Real Madrid Stadium, a bit more shopping and driving past historical buildings in the city such as the Plaza Mayor and the Royal Palace.

Day 5: on our final day we visited the Zoo and Aquarium where the child within me came out. Taking a map, I made it my mission to visit as many animals as possible before we had to leave for the airport. Watching the dolphin. Seal and bird shows were the highlights for me and none of us wanted to leave. Alas, it was time to say farewell to Spain and return the car as we made our way to the airport. With so many more places to see I am looking forward and praying for a chance to visit again.

My Trip to Tokyo, Japan

Japan is also known as the ‘Land of the rising sun’ and is known for its harmony of both the contemporary and archaic culture. I had the opportunity to visit some cities in Japan and also attend the 35th Jalsa Salana in Nagoya, in April this year.

 

Tokyo

The capital city of Japan is Tokyo, and like all cities has a mix of tall skyscrapers and parks. Having arrived in Tokyo, we stayed in the Tokyo Ahmadiyya Mission House, which was very close to the city centre. The Mission House is also where the Friday Sermon took place, where Murrabi Sahib’s Urdu Sermon was translated to Japanese. We were also able to meet some of the members of the Tokyo Jamaat.

Amongst some of the sights that we visited in Tokyo, one was the Tokyo SkyTree (pictured on the left), a tall tower lit up by bright colours. Going to the top of the tower allowed us to see the lights of the whole city.  We also visited the Asuksa Senjoki Temple. The temple grounds contained the features of traditional Japanese architecture, such as pagodas (pictured). These temples often contain large statues of the Buddha, as Buddhism is one of the most practised religion in Japan.  The temples were filled with people – tourists and worshippers.

We also visited some Shinto shrines, and a marked difference between the shirines and temples was the fact that the shrines would contain a Chōzuya – which is an area for water ablution, containing a large shared basin and small pot liked containers used to wash hands.

Other sights in Tokyo included the Shibuya Crossing – this is an extremely busy district where there are many crossings in one place for pedestrians. Hence, traffic from all directions is stopped to let the mass of people cross the area.

Transport System 

The infamous bullet trains, which can travel up to 320 miles per hour, run from numerous stations to various cities, with trains arriving every minute, however, during the course of the day the stations are always busy and bursting with people. Hence to control traffic there are marking on the floor to tell those waiting in line exactly where to stand so that so passengers on the train can easily get off the trains first.

 

What I found most interesting was that on some trains, there were designated Women Only carriages! Particularly to be used during the rush hour – this is just one example of the high regard of respect that is found in the Japanese culture. 

 

 

 

 

 

Kyoto

Another well-known city in Japan was Kyoto, where we visited to see the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. However, by far, the most interesting place in Kyoto was the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine (pictured), which contains 10000 torii (gates) and has 12000 steps. This shrine is on a mountain side and hence climbing up became harder and harder, however, we saw that many worshippers would climb to various different temples located along the route, and had rest stops so that people could enjoy the view. On our way down the steps, we also realised that the shrine had lots and lots of cats.

Food

Japan is famous for its sushi, but there is a whole cuisine in Japan which is both very interesting and at the same time can be overwhelming! Most of our meals consisted of rice or noodles. However, for me, the most interesting thing about Japanese food and more particularly its restaurants was that many of the restaurant fronts would show the actual dish on the menu – so you saw exactly what you can order!

 

 

Jalsa Salana – Nagoya

The Jalsa Salana in Japan, takes place in the Bait ul Ahad Mosque in Nagoya. Here we had the opportunity to meet many members of the Jamaat from Nagoya as well as other cities in Japan. The Jalsa Salana was a small one, with no more than 30 or 40 women and children. The proceedings of the Jalsa were in both Japanese and Urdu, with translators to help those who did not understand either language. There were sessions in which guests from outside the Jamaat were invited as a form of Tabligh. All members of the community were especially courteous and most loving. Everyone would make sure that they met with everyone and were introduced to each other, and even though there was a language barrier between me and some Japanese Jamaat members, they ensured that I was included in their conversations and that there was a translator present! And there was Aloo gosht from langar.

 

 

 

 

Cherry Blossoms  

Another well-known aspect of Japan is the ‘Sakura’ – cherry blossoms, during the beginning of spring – so around April. All over the country, in a span of about two weeks, these pink petals of the cherry blossoms can be seen.

 

 

 

 

Mount Fuji from Hakone

Mount Fuji is very well known for its unique symmetrical shape  and can be seen from miles and miles away. When we were travelling from Tokyo to Nagoya, we also saw a view of the mountain from the bullet train (pictured). However, we also visited Hakone – a national park in Japan. In Hakone, there are various spots to view mountain Fuji, and as you get to these you have to take various forms of transport, including a chairlift over a volcano, where you can see fumes coming off!

 

 

 

 

 

Nara

Another National park that we visited was in Nara. This National Park had a temple with the largest wooden Buddha statue, however the highlight for me were the deer that were freely roaming in the park! Perhaps the most peculiar aspect and characteristics of these deer was that when people would bow to the deer, the deer would actually bow back!

 

 

 

Hiroshima and Miyajima Island

To end our trip, we also went to visit the memorial site of the Atomic bomb in Hiroshima.  The building (pictured) that remains is in a poor condition and has been debated on whether it should be a world heritage site, currently it is being preserved and we were amongst the hundreds who flocked to see it. Very close to Hiroshima are also the Miyajima islands, which was a ferry ride away from the Hiroshima docks. When we arrived, we found out that the Itsukushima Shrine (pictured) has inspired the shrine emoji! It truly is a unique beach, with a market selling Japanese sweets, mementos and gifts.

 

 

Japan is certainly a country with deep cultural roots infused with the modern world, not only is it impeccably clean, the people are kind and respectful. We have much to learn from these people and as Ahmadi’s much to teach them.

 

 

 

 

 

Article by Mahedah Rehman

 

My Visit To The Buckingham Palace, London, UK

On a balmy Tuesday afternoon in the middle of June I was standing in a queue. Nothing unusual about that, you might say, that’s how most of us in the UK spend our time. This was a queue, however, like no other. It was a fairly long queue, of about 240 people. Luckily, I was quite near the front.

What was I queuing up for? Well, if I told you it was in Buckingham Palace, would you be able to guess? Yes, little old me was about to meet the Queen!

I had no idea the Queen would actually be present when I received the invitation to attend a reception at Buckingham two months earlier. She is after all the head of state for the UK, she is 93 years of age, she has far more important things to do than meet a complete nonentity like me. That’s what I thought, even when I read the invitation which quite clearly said it was from the Queen. I was completely and utterly wrong.

The Queen was more than happy to meet all of us, involved in some shape or form in community cohesion and inter-faith work. We had been brought together from every corner of the UK, from as far afield as Scotland and Northern Ireland and as close as north and south-west London.

I asked the usher what I was supposed to say? and he told me whatever I wanted. I didn’t need to bow, I could if I wanted to it was up to me. I had not rehearsed anything. I didn’t even quite know why I was there. The rest of my company were equally flustered and excited. I edged closer to Her Royal Majesty and then suddenly my name was read out, “Nabeela Shah from the Upper Mitcham Ahmadi Women’s Association.” She stretched out her gloved hand and I just took it thinking, I am meeting the Queen of England, I am actually in Buckingham Palace meeting the Queen! I don’t recall if I said anything at all. I don’t recall if I bowed. I just remember it was over as quickly as it had started. Before I knew it, I was walking on into a plush reception room jumping for joy that I had just met the most important British person I was ever likely to meet. The usher really couldn’t help laughing at my excitement.

The Queen is a most impressive character. Firstly, she is quite tiny – only about 5 foot tall. However, her eyes are sharp as buttons and she is most alert. She was asking some people little questions about where they came from as she met them. Then later she stayed to chat with a select number of guests for about 20 minutes. Never once did she sit down. That is some stamina. She was also very beautifully dressed in an evening gown of cream encrusted with rhinestones which sparkled as she waited to receive us.

I know what you are all wondering as you read this, how did this all happen? Tabligh. A couple of years ago I came across an award programme in London to recognise community work in the area. I entered our local halqa because when I read the criteria it seemed we ticked all the right boxes. We did charity fundraising, we visited the old and sick, we provided a facility for women to improve and grow. Why shouldn’t we enter? I thought. I didn’t expect to win anything; I just wanted our name to be recognised as one of the entrants. However, we did end up winning a particular category, along with about 40 other groups. I went to ceremony, had some pictures taken and brought the certificate home and forgot about it.

Then, in April that invitation from Buckingham Palace arrived. I could not believe it. One small tabligh step and it led to this? If that does not testify to the fact that Allah blesses all our endeavours in His honour, I don’t what else will.

                     

By: Nabeela Shah

My Trip to Mecca, Saudi Arabia

In February of this year, I was blessed to be given the opportunity to perform Umrah. It was going to be a whistle-stop tour: we were going to spend four days in Mecca and 3 days in Medina before flying back home. Because we travelled on Middle Eastern Airlines we had a stopover in Beirut of 4 hours. This meant that we were travelling for about 2 days of our holiday – but that all added to the sense of being a pilgrim.

Indeed, before we had even left Heathrow we began to sense the feeling of common purpose when we saw the aeroplane was going to be filled with Muslims from all parts of the country all heading for the same destination as us – Jeddah. That is the nearest city to either Mecca or Medina with an airport. All pilgrims have to start their pilgrimage from Jeddah airport. The tag on our luggage confirmed that we were indeed all pilgrims as it read `Umrah’ and our fellow travellers were all discussing prayers to recite, carrying booklets, like me, on how to perform what and where. I felt in good company.

The stopover in Beirut was really quite comical. All the men got off the plane from Heathrow in jeans, shirts and T-shirts and by the time we were boarding the smaller plane to Jeddah they had all changed into two unstitched cloths and slippers. Within 4 hours they transformed themselves into simple pilgrims.

 

Women are not required to dress in a particular way for Umrah but some of them had also decided to change into white clothes and some little children too – which was really cute.

 

Once we had landed in Jeddah we had to get a taxi to Mecca and our hotel. The journey took us forever (it seemed) because, don’t forget, we had been travelling for about 20 hours by that time. Eventually, we got to our hotel – exhausted and weary. I couldn’t wait to change out of my clothes and brush my teeth. When I heard our room was on the 21st floor, I sighed. So high! I thought. I won’t ever be able to take the stairs if the lift breaks down.

 Then when I entered our room for the first time – all my weariness simply disappeared. Why? One side of the room was simply made up of a huge window overlooking the Ka’aba. I couldn’t take my eyes off the scene below. It just dominated the room and drew you towards it. Then we heard the adhan being recited and we could hear it, not only from the speaker in our room, but directly from the Ka’aba – from its source. It seemed like we were part of another world.

 

After a little rest we decided that we would perform our Umrah that very night after Isha prayers and some dinner. Despite our long journey, I was so caught up in the excitement that I just went along with the whole plan. I didn’t feel tired at all.

 

We walked around the Ka’aba seven times, called tawaf, and said the prayers I had been learning as we passed the corner with the Black Stone. There were people from all walks of life, all moving round and round with us. Some had distinctive scarves of red or blue as they were part of a special party. Some were really elderly or disabled and were being pushed in wheelchairs. Whilst others were just so engrossed in their prayers, they just marched on regardless of anyone around them.

One thing that you should try to do is touch, or kiss the Black Stone. However, I had been told this could be really dangerous as the closer you got to the actual brickwork of the Ka’aba, and that place in particular, the more emotional and passionate the atmosphere becomes. Everyone at that spot was so keen on trying to get near the Black Stone people actually injure themselves. My husband thought he would lose his wrist when he tried it!

 

There was a police man who was positioned right near the Black Stone to try and keep order. He was strapped to the wall and had a baton in his hand. Beneath him there was a permanent scramble of people fighting to get their hands on the Black Stone. Every now and again he would wave his baton at some pilgrims to shrug them off.  Then he would take up his position again looking straight ahead ignoring the hustling going on under his nose. It looked really funny, like he couldn’t wait for his shift to be over.

 

I decided not to chance it and simply waved a salam to the Black Stone as I passed.  Then we proceeded to the Safaah and Marwah, the two little hills that Hazrat Hajirahra (also known as Hager) had run between in her hunt for food after she had just given birth to Hazrat Ishmael (as). If you don’t know the story, Hazrath Abraham (as) had left her near the Ka’aba upon Allah’s instructions. After giving birth, she became desperate because there was no food or water in that place. And I can certainly say that the area around Mecca is very much still like that. On our drive from Jeddah airport that is what I noticed the most – how lifeless and bare the area was. In her time the area was rocky and dusty and you can imagine what a struggle it must have been in the heat of the sun, after having just given birth to run seven circuits. Anyway, an angel came to her aid and directed her to a spot where the baby Hazrat Ishmael (as) was kicking the dust with his heel to reveal a gushing spring. That spring was Zam-Zam.

 

 

Nowadays, thankfully, the whole area is marbled and air conditioned. So, I just felt that this is simply too easy. How on earth are we ever to share in the pain and agony of that noble woman? Well, let me tell you those hills are deceptive! The backs of my legs ached for days afterwards and there was a whopping big blister on my right foot.

 

All around the Ka’aba there are huge barrels of Zam-Zam water free for anyone to sample at any time. They have a great system to reduce litter. You take a cup from one side of the barrel and once you have finished you put your used cup in a chute on the other side of it and it is disposed of. How neat is that? Another way they keep the area clean is by having teams of cleaners washing the floor around the mosque around the clock. This is a sight to behold, how they close off the area with two or three cleaners acting like mobile cordons stretching across some tape. Within the area they have blocked off three of four cleaners with mops zoom around mopping up the cleaning fluid they have just splashed on the floor. Then as the cordon moves on a drying machine driven by another cleaner buffs up the floor. Within 5 minutes people can walk there again. This was just amazing to watch.

 

After we had performed our prayers, our Umrah was essentially over.

 

We then proceeded to begin to enjoy the rest of Mecca: the shops, the food and the constant rhythm of adhan and prayers. Because all the shops shut as soon as namaz begins throughout the day, after Ishaa prayers the shops stay open way into the night. You can be wandering around at 1.30 am and buy a prayer mat, some rice and chicken or some aspirin. I saw a young girl, wearing a full-face veil manning a Lebara phone card stall after midnight with not a fear in the world.

 

And that’s another thing, women there wear all types of purdah and work. I saw women in hotels working as receptionists, women in the markets selling bangles and women in the mosques acting as security guards. All wore some kind of purdah.

 

The next few days were also spent visiting the battle sites of Islamic history. We went to the place for the Battle of Badr, Battle of the Trench and the Battle of Uhud. We also visited the site of the Last Sermon that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) delivered – that is Mount Arafat.

 

There were many lovely mosques to see too. One mosque was only recently discovered, which they say dates back to the time of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and is where he received some early Muslims who had travelled from Medina to see him. Remember, that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) remained in Mecca for 13 years after his mission had been revealed to him to try and convert his people. Well, the disbelievers made it really difficult for him to perform his prayers and so he went to this mosque just outside Mecca (or so the story goes). You can still see the mosque in the middle of a new road complex. It looks so quaint.

 

When we were there, we met one of the constructors who had led the excavation and he explained how they had come across the mosque. They had been digging and breaking up the ground with their bulldozers and drilling machines to make a road for pilgrims to go from Arafat to Mecca more quickly. Well, at one point they noticed their machines kept breaking and they couldn’t understand why. Then they stopped work and took a closer look. As they began to unearth the sand and dust, they discovered this little mosque. What an amazing find!

 

After 4 days in Mecca we took a taxi to Medina. This is the final resting place of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). He lies within the confines of the magnificent Nabwi Mosque with Hazrat Umar (ra) on one side and Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) on the other

 

Masjid Nabwi is extremely impressive and has features not found anywhere else. There are special umbrella-like canopies all around it to protect worshippers from the sun and the rain. There are also about 30 or so different doors to get inside the mosque – only one is reserved for women.

 

Although it was very difficult to find out how to get near the final resting place of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), my female companion and I managed to do it after Ishaa prayer. It took us about 2 hours of queuing, waiting and wondering if we were in the right place, and scrambling ahead when the security women let us go ahead. The mosque area near this site is very beautiful. It marks the boundary of the original mosque but was completed 30 years after the passing of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) by sahaba’s who knew the Holy Qur’an off-by-heart. 

 

Before we knew it, our time was coming to an end. We headed for Jeddah and our journey home. I noticed the change in atmosphere as soon as I entered Jeddah. Gone was that sense of common worship, of spirituality, of love for Islam. By contrast Jeddah just seemed like another international city with takeaways, huge department stores and the odd mosque tucked here and there.

 

Now I am back home I think back and can still feel the magic of that time in Mecca and Medina. I can picture in my mind’s eye all the wonderful places I visited. If I feel a little lost, I just gaze into the prayer mat I bought from Mecca and relive my view of the Ka’aba from my hotel window.

 

Article by Maleeha Khalida Malik

Age 10

My Visit to Qadian, India

niagra_falls

Last winter I went to Qadian with my family. We went to India through the Wagah Border from Pakistan and we then took a taxi from Amritsar to Qadian. It was my first ever time going there, and I was very excited. When we got there, we were very lucky to be staying in Darul Masih which was the home of the Promised Messiah (as) and his family. From our room we had an amazing view of Minaratul Masih.

 

On our first day we had a tour of Darul Masih which included: Masjid Mubarak, Masjid Aqsa, the room where the Promised Messiah (as) was born and other famous places in the history of Jama’at. Every day we would go to Bahishti Maqbara to pray at the grave of the Promised Messiahas and his companions. Every evening, I would go and offer nafl prayer in different places in Darul Masih with my mum.

 

Our last three days in Qadian were the three days of Jalsa. On each morning of the Jalsa we would walk from Darul Masih to the Jalsa Gah with some of our family members. The Jalsa gah in Qadian is a little different to the one in England because in Qadian it is in the open air and it is cold because as Jalsa is held in the winter. In England the Jalsa is held in a huge marquee and as Jalsa UK is normally held in the summer it tends to be very hot. There were however a few things that were similar to the Jalsa in England – for example, both Jalsas are for three days, they have speeches and nazms and you have to have your badges scanned and your bags checked.

 

Because it was the winter, we had to wear hats, scarfs, gloves and coats as unlike the Jalsa in England it was freezing (we even had to wear these when were asleep as it was so cold!). For each day of Jalsa, my cousins and I would bring massive goodie bags and we used to share all the drinks, fruit, chocolate and crisps between us. In the evenings my family and I would go to the bazaar to buy ourselves some treats.

 

I had an amazing time in Qadian and I hope to be able to go back again soon, inshAllah.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                        Article by Sabuh Khan, Age 10 

My Visit to Punjab, Pakistan

 My stay

On 19th July, I went to Pakistan with my family. I was very excited about this trip, as I have many relatives who live in Pakistan.

Chawinda and Gujranwala

My first stay was in Chawinda stayed with my relatives there. We also went to Sialkot. Sialkot is home to a beautiful park. It had all types of rides, types we would normally not see here in England. Playing at the park with my sisters was fun, we played for a while before my parents decided that it was time to say farewell to this beautiful park. We also went to Gujranwala. Gujranwala is the city where my father used to live in Pakistan. It was exciting visiting the place where my father used to live.

Rabwah

Rabwah is a city built by our jama’at, founded by Hazrat Musleh-e-Ma’ood (ra). Rabwah demonstrates a city of peace filled with the motto,” Love For Allah, Hatred For None”. We visited places such as  Darul-Ziafat, which serves as a guest house, serving accommodation and meals. I really enjoyed exploring these new places. After, we went to Bahisht-e- Maqbara for prayers. Then we visited Gol bazaar for some shopping. We also visited Tahir heart institute, which is one of the leading hospitals in the world, caring for people from all walks of life.

I loved going to the places in Pakistan. I wanted to stay there for a long time but obviously I couldn’t. In England there are fun places but I would recommend Pakistan to people. It’s a fantastic place to be. There were lots of other places we went, such as: malls, bazaars, restaurants and much more. My family enjoyed Pakistan. Though I have to admit Pakistan is not like England. England is always freezing and gloomy but Pakistan is a sunny, bright place. I’m sure anyone who goes there will agree with my point of view.

Lahore

In Lahore we visited safari park. It was so much fun. There were lots of animals. Another day we went to Minar-e-Pakistan. There was a tall building there. There were also decorated buggies. We also sat on a boat. We went to Allama Iqbal sialkot house there were loads of memorable things like beds, rooms, books and much more. I would love if other people visit Pakistan.

 

Article by Maleeha Khalida Malik

Age 10

My Visit to Ontario, Canada Part 2

In the previous Travel blog, a dear sister described the mesmerizing views of Niagara Falls. In this post, I aim to do something similar and travel through various places in the province of Ontario, Canada. I assure you, just like post 1, this post will pursue you and your parents to book an immediate flight to Canada!

 

My stay

On June 4th, 2018 I traveled to Canada. I am very fortunate that I have a lot of relatives who live in Toronto, Canada. So, the accommodation was not a worry. I stayed with my cousins in Vaughan, which is only a 5-minute drive from the famous Peace Village.

 

Peace Village

Peace-Village is a faith-based sub-division which provides residence to over 200 houses and is centered by the beautiful Bait-ul-Islam Mosque. For an Ahmadi who has not had the opportunity to yet see the astonishing beauties of Rabwah and Qadian, seeing the streets of Peace Village filled with greetings of Assalamo’Alaikum (Peace with upon you) was an experience worth reviving one’s faith. I had the blessed opportunity to see Beloved Huzoor’s (May Allah be his helper) house which was currently under construction, however still a beautiful sight. Sadr Lajna Canada graciously invited me to Bait-e-Maryam, the Lajna office in Peace Village and gave me a detailed tour of the three-storey office. What a beautiful and well-constructed building with the atmosphere of love and harmony! 

 

Reading names of streets such Ahmadiyya Avenue, Bashir street, Mahmood Crescent and visiting a beautiful park named after the late Fazia Mahdi sahiba, all made me realise that by the grace of Allah the Almighty, our community is not only filled with love, respect and honour it has and will insha’Allah conquer the world!

Ramadhan and Eid at Bait-ul-Islam

Fortunately, my trip to Canada covered the last Asha’ra (Ten Days) of Ramadhan. I was very grateful to be able to regularly go to the Mosque to offer my Salat and listen to Dars leading up to Iftaar and Maghrib prayers. Dars lead by respected missionaries of the community was covered in Urdu and English to accommodate all listeners, and topics were covered in great detail. As per traditions of the Canada Jam’aat, anyone present at Dars is given a pack of dates, a water bottle and wipes to open their fast. Each evening spent in Peace Village during Ramadhan illustrated the truthfulness of Islam Ahmadiyyat. The Spirit of Eid in Canada is extensively celebrated. I saw my cousins making goody bags for friends, cooking extra portions of sawaiyaan (a vermicelli dish), to be distributed amongst family, friends and Muslim and non-Muslim neighbours.

Living in London, England I have always been used to the Mosque being full on Eid day. This time, I was excited to see where I would be offering my Eid prayers and how full the venue would be. To my surprise, the overflow at Bait-ul-Islam Mosque was very similar to what I had been experiencing back home. In fact, the large Mosque was unable to accommodate all members of the community and Lajna, therefore, prayed Eid Salat in Tahir hall, a multi-purpose building adjacent to Bait-ul-Islam Mosque. Again the streets of Peace Village echoed “Assalamo’Alaikum” and “Eid Mubarak” as we all headed back home to enjoy the rest of this blessed day.

Beach Day

Let’s now move a little out of the city of Toronto. June 17th, 2018, marked itself to be an extremely hot day, so we decided to travel to Innisfil Beach Park in Bradford, Canada. A beach Park, providing access to Lake Simcoe for swimming, boating and fishing. It’s an extremely well-planned structure really caught my eye! It has a distinctive parking area, followed by a small park overlooking the lake. Walking on, one sees a relatively big area dedicated to BBQ purposes only and last but definitely not least- a sandy beach! It was the perfect way to overcome a heat even the AC couldn’t seem to control! With enough privacy to enjoy scrumptious BBQ lunch; swing around a Frisbee; have water fights and craft an interesting sand castle, Innisfil Beach made the perfect picnic and nature capturing scenery!

Downtown-Toronto:

High-reaching buildings, heavy traffic, and lovely people; Downtown, Toronto is a must! A city center filled with eye-catching monuments which cannot be missed. The best experience is caught if one walks through the city and becomes familiar with its culture and beauty. We walked a full day starting our journey at Ripley’s Aquarium walking to various destinations including Nathan Phillips Square (acting as a forecourt to the Toronto City Hall) and the famous Dundas Square to make a round trip to Eaton Centre and gain a Canadian mall experience. Similar to London, Toronto is a multi-cultural city, one can easily choose different cuisines to dine at and you’re sure to come across people from different religions, ethnic backgrounds, and nationalities.

 

Ripley’s Aquarium

Ripley’s Aquarium is a place one must visit on their trip to Canada. It is a fascinating adventure for children and adults. Not only are thousands of sea life species collected and beautifully kept in habitats throughout the Aquarium to adore and learn about. Interesting talks are held to help understand the steps we must take to save under-sea animals but also their habitats. Children can run around in the bright-coloured spacious environment, feel various sea life species and try their hands at a number of interesting experiments set up in each gallery throughout the Aquarium. Take pictures, make videos, learn and adore sea life as close as never seen before!

 

And if that doesn’t sound enough, how about visiting the gift job, where I bought a beautiful wooden shark which my nephew and I later, assembled and painted together. From stuffed toys to puzzles, Ripley’s sure has it all!

The CN Tower

The famously known CN (Canadian National) Tower is a tower standing 1,815.3 feet tall. Being the ninth tallest free-standing structure in the world. For those who do not have enough time to visit most parts of Toronto, visiting the CN Tower is an excellent way of overlooking Toronto City and breath-taking sights of sunsets, aeroplanes landing up close and busy trains passing through the city.

 

The CN tower has plenty of spaces to sit and eat, from in-built restaurants. It provides exciting views at each level. The staff takes visitor’s over 300 feet over-ground where visitors have the chance to walk around its globe and adore the city or walk over the glass floor and step out into a very safe gated Terrace. We decided to go to the Terrace, sharp at sunset. Anyone, planning to visit the CN tower should do the same! It was a view one cannot miss and capture in their eyes forever. Anyone not fond of stepping out can also make the best use of the ceiling mirrors and take pictures for the memory of their trip.

Scarborough Bluffs

When visiting Canada, seeing mountains, rivers and lakes, was one of the desires which had to be fulfilled! I visited Scarborough bluffs, which are beautiful cliffs overseeing Lake Ontario. This sight was not only full of surprise but also a description of the thought, Allah is the best of all creators. To reach the cliffs, we walked through a small jungle crossing through a narrow way which opened itself to the edge of a cliff illustrating a sight which seemed as though the sky and sea unite at this place. Clear skies and the blue sea with bright greenery and fine crafts of spits and cliffs, this is the beauty Allah the Almighty has hidden in the city of Scarborough, Canada.

Vaughan Mills and Toronto Premium Outlet

Like, any other person visiting Canada, it was a must for me that I make the most of the shopping experience in Canada. Being able to purchase clothes and other accessories at more decent prices, was definitely a delight to my eyes and wallet! I made a few trips over the course of three weeks to Vaughan Mills shopping centre, as it was relatively close to where I was staying. Vaughan Mills exposes you to various shops and places to eat. This is where I had the opportunity to try my very first Sushi dish and the famous Canadian dish: Poutine, which are fries covered with gravy and cheese.

Toronto Premium Outlet is also an excellent choice for anyone in areas around Milton, wanting to explore different retail options in areas or spend a lovely day out with family. With an inclusive but open space, every shop stands out well and demonstrates a safe and peaceful environment. It provided great sales and options to buy clothes for kids and adults of all ages.

Article by Sabiha Khullat Cheema  

In the previous Travel blog, a dear sister described the mesmerizing views of Niagara Falls. In this post, I aim to do something similar and travel through various places in the province of Ontario, Canada. I assure you, just like post 1, this post will pursue you and your parents to book an immediate flight to Canada!

 

My stay

On June 4th, 2018 I traveled to Canada. I am very fortunate that I have a lot of relatives who live in Toronto, Canada. So, the accommodation was not a worry. I stayed with my cousins in Vaughan, which is only a 5-minute drive from the famous Peace Village.

 

Peace Village

Peace-Village is a faith-based sub-division which provides residence to over 200 houses and is centered by the beautiful Bait-ul-Islam Mosque. For an Ahmadi who has not had the opportunity to yet see the astonishing beauties of Rabwah and Qadian, seeing the streets of Peace Village filled with greetings of Assalamo’Alaikum (Peace with upon you) was an experience worth reviving one’s faith. I had the blessed opportunity to see Beloved Huzoor’s (May Allah be his helper) house which was currently under construction, however still a beautiful sight. Sadr Lajna Canada graciously invited me to Bait-e-Maryam, the Lajna office in Peace Village and gave me a detailed tour of the three-storey office. What a beautiful and well-constructed building with the atmosphere of love and harmony! 

 

Reading names of streets such Ahmadiyya Avenue, Bashir street, Mahmood Crescent and visiting a beautiful park named after the late Fazia Mahdi sahiba, all made me realise that by the grace of Allah the Almighty, our community is not only filled with love, respect and honour it has and will insha’Allah conquer the world!

Ramadhan and Eid at Bait-ul-Islam

Fortunately, my trip to Canada covered the last Asha’ra (Ten Days) of Ramadhan. I was very grateful to be able to regularly go to the Mosque to offer my Salat and listen to Dars leading up to Iftaar and Maghrib prayers. Dars lead by respected missionaries of the community was covered in Urdu and English to accommodate all listeners, and topics were covered in great detail. As per traditions of the Canada Jam’aat, anyone present at Dars is given a pack of dates, a water bottle and wipes to open their fast. Each evening spent in Peace Village during Ramadhan illustrated the truthfulness of Islam Ahmadiyyat. The Spirit of Eid in Canada is extensively celebrated. I saw my cousins making goody bags for friends, cooking extra portions of sawaiyaan (a vermicelli dish), to be distributed amongst family, friends and Muslim and non-Muslim neighbours.

Living in London, England I have always been used to the Mosque being full on Eid day. This time, I was excited to see where I would be offering my Eid prayers and how full the venue would be. To my surprise, the overflow at Bait-ul-Islam Mosque was very similar to what I had been experiencing back home. In fact, the large Mosque was unable to accommodate all members of the community and Lajna, therefore, prayed Eid Salat in Tahir hall, a multi-purpose building adjacent to Bait-ul-Islam Mosque. Again the streets of Peace Village echoed “Assalamo’Alaikum” and “Eid Mubarak” as we all headed back home to enjoy the rest of this blessed day.

Beach Day

Let’s now move a little out of the city of Toronto. June 17th, 2018, marked itself to be an extremely hot day, so we decided to travel to Innisfil Beach Park in Bradford, Canada. A beach Park, providing access to Lake Simcoe for swimming, boating and fishing. It’s an extremely well-planned structure really caught my eye! It has a distinctive parking area, followed by a small park overlooking the lake. Walking on, one sees a relatively big area dedicated to BBQ purposes only and last but definitely not least- a sandy beach! It was the perfect way to overcome a heat even the AC couldn’t seem to control! With enough privacy to enjoy scrumptious BBQ lunch; swing around a Frisbee; have water fights and craft an interesting sand castle, Innisfil Beach made the perfect picnic and nature capturing scenery!

Downtown-Toronto:

High-reaching buildings, heavy traffic, and lovely people; Downtown, Toronto is a must! A city center filled with eye-catching monuments which cannot be missed. The best experience is caught if one walks through the city and becomes familiar with its culture and beauty. We walked a full day starting our journey at Ripley’s Aquarium walking to various destinations including Nathan Phillips Square (acting as a forecourt to the Toronto City Hall) and the famous Dundas Square to make a round trip to Eaton Centre and gain a Canadian mall experience. Similar to London, Toronto is a multi-cultural city, one can easily choose different cuisines to dine at and you’re sure to come across people from different religions, ethnic backgrounds and nationalities.

Ripley’s Aquarium

Ripley’s Aquarium is a place one must visit on their trip to Canada. It is a fascinating adventure for children and adults. Not only are thousands of sea life species collected and beautifully kept in habitats throughout the Aquarium to adore and learn about. Interesting talks are held to help understand the steps we must take to save under-sea animals but also their habitats. Children can run around in the bright-coloured spacious environment, feel various sea life species and try their hands at a number of interesting experiments set up in each gallery throughout the Aquarium. Take pictures, make videos, learn and adore sea life as close as never seen before!

 

And if that doesn’t sound enough, how about visiting the gift job, where I bought a beautiful wooden shark which my nephew and I later, assembled and painted together. From stuffed toys to puzzles, Ripley’s sure has it all!

The CN Tower

The famously known CN (Canadian National) Tower is a tower standing 1,815.3 feet tall. Being the ninth tallest free-standing structure in the world. For those who do not have enough time to visit most parts of Toronto, visiting the CN Tower is an excellent way of overlooking Toronto City and breath-taking sights of sunsets, aeroplanes landing up close and busy trains passing through the city.

 

The CN tower has plenty of spaces to sit and eat, from in-built restaurants. It provides exciting views at each level. The staff takes visitor’s over 300 feet over-ground where visitors have the chance to walk around its globe and adore the city or walk over the glass floor and step out into a very safe gated Terrace. We decided to go to the Terrace, sharp at sunset. Anyone, planning to visit the CN tower should do the same! It was a view one cannot miss and capture in their eyes forever. Anyone not fond of stepping out can also make the best use of the ceiling mirrors and take pictures for the memory of their trip.

Scarborough Bluffs

When visiting Canada, seeing mountains, rivers and lakes, was one of the desires which had to be fulfilled! I visited Scarborough bluffs, which are beautiful cliffs overseeing Lake Ontario. This sight was not only full of surprise but also a description of the thought, Allah is the best of all creators. To reach the cliffs, we walked through a small jungle crossing through a narrow way which opened itself to the edge of a cliff illustrating a sight which seemed as though the sky and sea unite at this place. Clear skies and the blue sea with bright greenery and fine crafts of spits and cliffs, this is the beauty Allah the Almighty has hidden in the city of Scarborough, Canada.

Vaughan Mills and Toronto Premium Outlet

Like, any other person visiting Canada, it was a must for me that I make the most of the shopping experience in Canada. Being able to purchase clothes and other accessories at more decent prices, was definitely a delight to my eyes and wallet! I made a few trips over the course of three weeks to Vaughan Mills shopping centre, as it was relatively close to where I was staying. Vaughan Mills exposes you to various shops and places to eat. This is where I had the opportunity to try my very first Sushi dish and the famous Canadian dish: Poutine, which are fries covered with gravy and cheese.

Toronto Premium Outlet is also an excellent choice for anyone in areas around Milton, wanting to explore different retail options in areas or spend a lovely day out with family. With an inclusive but open space, every shop stands out well and demonstrates a safe and peaceful environment. It provided great sales and options to buy clothes for kids and adults of all ages.

Article by Sabiha Khullat Cheema  

My Visit to Toronto, Canada Part 1

niagra_falls

The Niagara Falls is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world with over 14 million visitors each year. The Niagara Falls are located between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and New York, consisting of three different falls, the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. The Horseshoe Falls are located on the Canadian side while the others are located in New York. The Niagara Falls was the most anticipated aspect of my trip and something I had been looking forward to since I was a little girl. Waterfalls have never failed to amaze me. The beautiful natural flow of water to such depths makes them a fascinating sight. 

My stay was in the Ahmadiyya abode of peace where my mums Aunt lives in Toronto. We began our journey in the afternoon around 12pm, as the journey was one and a half hours long. The weather was beautiful and it was incredibly sunny with temperatures going to 35 degrees. Once we arrived at the Niagara Falls, after parking up, we began the trip with some cold iced frappes from Tim Hortons, a very well known and popular café in Canada. The Niagara Falls attraction is made up of a small funfair with many restaurants and cafes surrounding the area, leading to the waterfall.

As we took the last stride towards the waterfall, I tried to keep my eyes down to ensure I would only see the magnificent sight once it was right in front of me. I opened my eyes to one of the beautiful and scenic places I had ever seen. The noise of the water rushing down with such force embraced my ears and the pleasant rush of breeze across my face made me close my eyes and lean my head forward. I took a while just letting the pleasant sound of the water and the breeze play at my ears, as I turned my head to take in the whole view of the falls. Saying I was “mesmerised” comes somewhat close to describing how I felt standing in front of one of the world’s most beautiful places.

After taking many photos of the view which in no case did justice to the actual beauty of the falls, we went to queue up for the boat ride of the falls. I saw people drenched in water as they were leaving the boat, wearing disposable jackets with caps. We were each handed an orange jacket which we put on as we got into the boat. As the boat started moving we could view the Niagara fall from a different angle from the bottom and see the rush of water falling down, giving off white smoke. As we neared the center of the falls, we felt light spritzes of water fall on our faces. The wind got harsher as we started getting wet with heavy droplets of water the nearer we moved to the falls. The boat took us right up close to the centre of the falls at which point we were all drenched in water from head to toe. I quietly stood at the edge of the boat looking up as far as my eyes could reach to take in the falls and the white smoke. The boat then turned, and we started distancing from the falls. I turned to face the waterfall one last time to take in the last few moments of being at such close proximity.

Once we got off the boat, we roamed around the funfair for a while, enjoying the colourful setups and displays before having a scrumptious lunch of burgers and fries at Wendy’s. We decided to walk back and stand at a different point to view the falls and take some more photographs. For me, I just wanted to cherish a few more moments quietly as I stood and watched the falls. It was definitely a day I will not forget, and I have wonderful memories and pictures to take me back to this trip, allowing me to cherish it forever.

Article by A.M Hadi               Pictures by A.M Hadi and S.K Cheema  

My Visit to Washington DC, USA

Our arrival in the USA was a little more complicated and delayed than was expected. Having missed our direct flight to Washington, we were handed alternative boarding passes for a connecting flight from New York to DC. A further misfortune was the fact that our beloved Aunty had boarded our initial flight… without us. It’s safe to say the air hostesses got an earful once she realised they were nearing take-off and she was still seated amongst three empty seats. On the other side… we sat watching from behind the airport windows as our flight began to take-off… praying our Aunty was alright. Nevertheless, eventually we reunited at the DC International Airport and it’s safe to say, we had never been happier to see our Aunty.

The rest of our stay in DC was eventful, to say the least. We stayed with my Aunt’s family in Maryland, who are extremely blessed to have a house right by Bait Ur Rehman Masjid. Taking us from central DC to every shopping mall possible, our family sure kept us moving and entertained. Seeing the White House in real life felt surreal, although it was rather difficult to get a good glimpse of through the dozens of security measures surrounding it. Capitol Hill as we hear it in all the American shows, had the inner tourist in me going wild- it felt as though I could finally draw a personal connection to all the American TV I had watched. The food and the portion sizes lived up to their expectations and certainly did not disappoint! 

With the grace of Allah, we also had the opportunity to attend our second Jalsa of the year after having attended Jalsa Salana Canada only a few days prior, we were now blessed to be making our way to Pennsylvania for the 70th Jalsa Salana USA 2018. The American Jalsa Salana was a different kind of experience altogether, but regardless, the sense of familiarity I felt despite being from across the globe, remains very close to my heart. From sitting amongst sisters listening to the inspirational speeches, having duty holders request us to stop talking, estimating what toilet queue will end faster, to queuing up for the delicious langar food; the sense of familiarity was comforting, to say the least. But that is the blessing of our Jamaat, no matter which part of the world you travel to, you know one thing will always remain the same, and that is the love and unity of Khilafat. Alhamdullilah for a mesmerising trip.

Author: Aneela Mahmood