It’s the third day of the Hajj and back in Mina, a day after finishing our live broadcasts at Arafat – the site of where the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) gave his last sermon.
We stayed in the very adequate surroundings of a converted corrugated iron shed. The cows would have loved it! Sarcasm aside, the Saudis have looked after the media very well, we’ve been chauffeured in buses and coaches from location to location with relatively little hassle.
It’s been a God-send, or should I say, Allah-send. Seeing how the pilgrims have to travel by foot the few kilometers to Muzdalifah, another sacred site overnight, I’m counting my lucky stars I’m on a coach with a toilet.
The coaches are bumper to bumper – you could think you’re in Times Square, New York. Bright lights and the loud beeps of horns, a sea of white-clad bodies all moving in one direction.
As the coaches jostle for a decent position on the road I come back to the reality of where I am. There are obstacles and they come in all shapes and sizes, but what I saw next I wasn’t expecting.
A pilgrim has been knocked over by a bus, he’s unconscious as others gather. The police seem to be quickly on the scene and we drive past in slow motion, helpless to do anything as the ambulance arrives.
I’m wondering what the world’s journalists are making of it all. For many travelling with us it is the first time they are covering the Hajj. Perhaps another article of the fragility of life. I pray for the man’s recovery, what more should I do?
We finally arrive at Muzdalifah and being so far from the media centre we have to walk…I know, walk at my age! However, I sucked it up, as we say in Northern England where I’m from, and toddled off behind the rest of the 20-man and one-woman AJE team, Arabic and English.
The walk was supposed to be a 250-metre trip across the car park, but 250 kilometers (well it felt like that) and 45 minutes later my Timberland knock-offs were not wearing well. I needed inspiration or a cup of tea but it didn’t come instantly.
We pray, and as I spend more time here I am feeling very comfortable with my faith as I always have but there’s a joy in how I’m praying that I have never felt before.
Later, exhausted and tired, I spot showers on the site. I rush in along with my cameraman Ahmed …into separate cubicles you’ll be relieved to hear.
The water pours over me and I give out an almighty groan of pleasure as the sweaty Sohail Rahman is refreshed and ready for the next religious test of faith.
Coming out of the showers I’m given a few strange looks from the international faces that are the media contingent here…oh dear, I think I must have enjoyed that shower a bit too much!