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Continuing with my journey of work and life……
I was received by someone at Jeddah airport and was taken to a hotel where I was booked to stay. It was in the city center. A company driver took me to office and dropped me back every day. Things moved swiftly. My Iqama (resident card) was made in about two weeks. I performed the first Umrah of my life. Couple of weeks later, I got my driving license and I started driving myself because the company car was already parked in the office, waiting. I rented an apartment meanwhile and shifted from hotel. The purpose of this detail is to show that I somehow got very special welcome and treatment, quite unlike what people usually reported.
I settled immediately and focused on work. There was plenty to do. Three Pakistanis, three Indians, few Yemenis, one Palestinian, one Jordanian, one Sudanese, and couple of Saudis were working there. The manufacturing plant was fully automated and small number of labor force was required. Almost all workers were Filipinos. It was a truly multicultural place.
The business was a mix of domestic and export. The PVC manufacturing facility was an only one in the entire region. Domestic market was limited but the export market could be extended anywhere. Pharma packaging had more customers in the Kingdom.
I started by expanding business in the Kingdom. I got a very good response from everyone; the owners, colleagues, and customers. We got going.
The business was new for me. I had always worked in Pharmaceutical marketing. Now I was working with different products and customers. It was a new experience that required some new skills. I updated myself quickly. Everything turned out well.
I shall write in greater detail about the peculiarities and nuances of working in Saudi Arabia in the next post.
On a personal level, I had different sort of experiences. I was split from my family for the first time after seventeen years of marriage. It was a stress for my family and me. I had family visa, but my children could not stay there due to education. My wife came and stayed for few weeks. Then my children came one by one. Everyone got their Iqamas made.
One a deeper personal level, I had new spiritual experiences. I had the great privilege of going to Harmain Sharifain again and again. I cannot share most of these experiences with you. However, I shall share two, which were on the two opposite ends of the spectrum.
It was a weekend during the initial days. We had Thursday half day and Friday off. I came back from the office in the early afternoon. In the late afternoon, I took shower, got ready, took out my car and started towards Makkah.
Makkah is about 85 km from Jeddah. Makkah highway is almost straight and there is no break on the entire highway. You just keep going straight or take an exit from the few exits on the way. I reached Makkah in about an hour. There is an intersection and traffic light at the entrance of main Makkah city. The Haram is five minutes straight drive from there. I remember reaching that point. I don’t know what happened after. I lost the way and kept driving on small city roads like crazy for the next two hours but did not reach The Haram.
After two hours of driving, I finally got on a big road, and found out that I was on the way back to Jeddah. I was hurt and disappointed. I felt I must have done something wrong and was penalized. I earnestly asked for Allah’s forgiveness. After couple of kilometers, I stopped to get fuel. Just on a hunch, I asked the guy who was fueling if there was some way to go back to Makkah. He said yes. There was an underground way to get to the other side of the highway. I thanked him and in the next ten minutes I was in Haram. Lesson learnt for all times to come. No one can set foot in Haram without Allah’s permission. If you wish to come, follow the protocol of seeking permission first.
The other event happened after about a year. It was 27th Ramadan. I wished that I would go and have Iftari in The Haram. My office was near Makkah highway. I left the office early and reached Makkah a little after Asr. I parked the car and went to Bab Abdel Aziz, from where I usually went. It was closed. There was a huge rush. The guards said that inside was full, so all gates were closed. I felt sad and deprived and prayed to Allah to help. I started walking around the wall to see the other entrance. I found a small entrance which was open and in the next five minutes, I was sitting right opposite to Ka’aba Musharrafa. I had a wonderful Iftari, prayed Maghrib and then prayed Isha and Tarawih in the ‘imamat’ of the famous Sheikh Abdel Rehman al Sudais. Allah be praised. Such is His Benevolence.
To be continued……