I still remember clearly staring at the wall directly in front of me and speaking out loud, ‘be and it will be, if you can part the sea for Moses you can bring me back home walking’.

I am conversing with God in my desperation eyes streaming with tears.

Having seen my MS specialist I have been told I am to use a wheel chair full time as I have ‘truncal ataxia’ in laymen terms my core muscles no longer work which means I am having repeated falls even though I am using a Zimmer frame to walk about the house.

For those who have been a regular reader of the ‘Asian Image’ you will remember me as a regular writer for the newspaper but have not done so for four years now as being a sufferer of Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that attacks the nervous system   seeing it as a foreign body. 

If you can imagine an electrical wire with the plastic covering essential in sending the messages through, in the body this is called the myelin sheath protecting the nerves.

MS attacks the sheath thus rendering the body unable to send messages from the brain to the body part affected. It is one of the most common degenerative nervous system disease with no cure.

As it has progressed (21 years) with time it has affected my ability to write regularly due to fatigue, lack of motivation. Unfortunately, it has also affected my cognition, i.e. memory, thought process.

I have now also lost the ability to walk. It was not an easy decision for me to make but reality meant I would need to give up the passion for writing as my health had deteriorated to such an extent.

Two months ago, my sister told me my mother and father were planning a trip to Saudi Arabia to perform the Umrah I kept declining the offer as my mother and father are both heart patients and was worried that my sister would be able to cope with three patients.

She virtually had to nag me to even consider it.

The fact is I have carers coming to my house 5 times a day, from waking me to dressing me and arranging my evening meal to finally last thing at night helping me bathe and getting me ready for bed. 

This is no mean feat to be performed by a single individual who is also going to be helping my parents. One day I awoke and with an overwhelming feeling deep in my heart that I should go, after all God (Allah) knows all I am dealing with so he is not going to make it difficult if anything it will be made easier.

I still remember my father’s face when I said I had decided to please arrange a ticket for me.  He was delighted, as he desperately wanted me to go but was deeply concerned regarding my health.

I performed all my essential tasks of settling all debts and visits to all asking for forgiveness.

The flight was pleasant and flew by thanks to me taking my medication (all legal!). Having arrived anyone who has been in a wheelchair will know the advantage of being in a wheelchair is you are the first to board but the last to disembark.

Sitting in my wheelchair I was alongside a Caucasian lady wearing a head scarf a lady I assumed to be a convert. She was surrounded by four children three girls and one boy.  She was escorted by an Indian/Pakistani man.  I greeted the lady with Salaam (peace be upon you) she responded with the appropriate response ‘and may peace be upon you too’). 

The gentleman with her must be her I assumed, he asked me quite directly.

Although it took me aback I accepted it as coming from the culture I knew etiquette is something that does not exist and he did not mean to offend. 

I smiled and responded, ‘I have MS’ to which he said, ‘ah same as my wife, we have had twenty wonderful years together and may Allah bless us with twenty more’. What a wonderful start to my Umrah.

Once having arrived I found the temperature to be extremely pleasant. Our correspondent who was meant to meet up with us was surprisingly nowhere to be seen.

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The airport had arranged a taxi after half an hour which was a relief as at this point I desperately needed to sleep.

Surprisingly the five-star hotel was pleasantly decent.

To be truthful compared to where we had stayed when I had performed Haj 19 years ago {the main pilgrimage to be performed at least once in your life time) this was luxury. We had stayed in a two up two down house.

We shared a room with 8 extremely noisy complete random women who would have visitors in the middle of the night. Our mattresses were three cotton sheets piled on top of each other. 

This five star hotel was a stone’s throw away and I was in my wheelchair being pushed by my sister.

There were no dips in the pavement for us ‘handicapped’ people as we are known as in Saudi Arabia. After we had had a night’s rest I was desperately eager to get to the Harem Shareef (mosque that contained the Kaaba) my goal.

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I had wanted to go for years but for one reason or another it was not possible. As they say you will only go once you are invited by Allah(God).

I had against all odds been invited again to this most sacred of places.

When I saw the Kaabah for this time I had both arms extended shouting ‘Allah Allah’ while crying.

I was completely over taken by emotion. I am quite sure the pusher thought I was a loony who had escaped a yellow van with square wheels.

We had been told by the Government that wheelchairs had to be pushed by their ‘professional’ pushers who were only meant to take us down the middle isle between the two mountains ‘safa’ and ‘marwa’.

All I wanted to do was get to the ‘Kabah’ the black square (literal meaning) run up to it and put my body against it and kiss it. 
Seeing the Kaabah for the second time after 19 years made me extremely emotional where words could not describe the elation deeply affecting my heart.

I was keen to perform this every day and we had planned to stay in Mecca for five days and then go to n Medina for five days.

I must confess before going I had great concern regarding my ability of waking for the dawn prayer(fajar) I don’t know if it was the adrenaline or the fact I was it was the location but I was even waking to pray (tahajad) a prayer performed before ‘Fajar’ one that is not even a mandatory prayer.

Luckily for us, I say luck but truth be told luck had nothing to do with it, we came across a Pakistani neighbour an absolute angel, there really was no other word for him.

The first day we payed 250sr each for myself and my mother to perform the ‘Tawaf’  (circumnavigate of the kabah) the exchange rate at the time was 4sr to the pound.

The neighbour told my father he would sort out two pushers for us which he did at a cost of 60rsr each!

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He also told father of a Pakistani take away around the corner mum and dad were delighted where as my sister and I survived on slices of cake available at the hotel restaurant.

The neighbour spoke to my father with concern regarding my lack of ability to walk and suggested I had a bath in the blessed water (zam zam).

He told father to leave it to him to arrange the three buckets of water then my sister could bathe me with it where the fire escape as no one is ever seen in that area of the HOTEL.

He was true to his word, two hours later there was a knock at the door where a heavily perspiring neighbour confirmed that three buckets of zam zam were at the fire escape with a jug so my sister could bathe me

I was fully clothed and had the holy water poured all over myself from my head to my feet. I was shivering as the water was freezing but was elated as how many people could say they had bathed in this most precious water; if it had not been for this angel this opportunity would never have been possible.

Our first Jumma (Friday prayer) in Mecca had arrived. Mistakenly my mother sister and myself had  sat in the male area. Once the Farz namaz (mandatory prayer) had been completed the men began to rush past us. 

I and my mother both sitting in wheelchairs were almost trampled. I raised my voice ‘Haji Haji Saber, Saber’ (Pilgrim, pilgrim, patience, patience). 

I wouldn’t mind if the rush was due to them having to scarper home to prepare dinner for a very stern wife.

Every evening I would go to perform the tawaf with the unofficial men.

They were very professional as one wore the two pieces of unstitched cloth tied over his body while the other wore a normal thobe (long loose dress like cover down to his ankles).

They both worked very well together expertly dodging the security men as they were around scattered around every corner.

The hotel at which we were staying was included to be part of the Harem (blessed mosque) so when I was too tired to get to the mosque I would pray in the mosque located on the ground floor; a small room carpeted and with seating available.

Our final day had arrived at Makkah and I was deeply saddened as I doubted if I would ever get the opportunity to re visit this most holy of sites again.

I was however looking forward to going to Medina the mosque at which our Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him lay.