Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ramadan 2016, Day 15 – Souvenirs from Mecca

During Ramadan most Qataris do not travel, preferring to remain in Qatar during the month. There is one exception to this, performing Umrah in Mecca. The Umrah is a pilgrimage to the Kaaba in Mecca and can be undertaken at any time of the year, unlike Hajj which occurs at a specific time. An Umrah is not as involved as Hajj (it doesn’t span many days unlike Hajj) and unlike the Hajj is not mandatory, while it would be preferable for a Muslim to perform Umrah sometime in their life it is not a requirement. Because Ramadan is a Holy Month it is one of the most popular times for Muslims to perform Umrah.

One of my friends just returned from performing Umrah and he generously bought some souvenirs for me.

First, there's a small jar of perfume, a mixture or aoud, anbar (ambergris in English) and other fragrances. Traditional Arab perfumes are an oil rather than a spray. You take a little bit of it, just a little because these types of perfumes are quite strong, and put it on your wrists and then rub it on to your neck, the back of your hands or wherever.

The next thing is a set of prayer beads, called a misbaha. Some of them are 33 beads but in this case it’s a long one of 99 beads. They can be made of various materials, this one is made of wood but I also have one made of amber (see here), which is a popular material for misbaha.

One of the main uses for a misbaha is to recite a tasbih, a type of prayer. The tasbih requires a Muslim to say, 33 times each:
Subhan’allah (Glory be to Allah)
Alhamdulallah (Praise be to Allah)
Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest)

So the misbaha can be used to keep count, moving your finger to the next bead as you recite the prayer. Misbaha will typically have a smaller bead between every 11 or 33 beads so that the person will have a better idea where he is in the count.

Finally, do you have any idea what this is?

I had never seen one before either. It’s a vintage souvenir that was quite popular in Mecca back in the day. There is a small lens that you can look through and see a picture, by pressing the bottom of the “TV” it then rotates to another picture, very similar to the ViewMasters that were popular in North America in the 70s.

I managed to get a couple of pictures through the view lens.

In it are eight pictures of Mecca, including the mosque, the Kaaba, the Black Stone, and worshipers performing pilgrimage. My friend loves vintage things and when he saw a shop that sold these he immediately picked one up for me.

It was kind of my friend to buy these things for me, given I can’t go to Mecca myself.

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