The twin towels.

1400 years ago Mecca was the home of Islam. In 2014, however, during the turmoil in Syria, Iraq and now Libya, it seems that Muslims are being split more and more, even in the only place they might actually agree on. I recently had the opportunity to visit Mecca; the home of Allah.

Recent work has changed the scenery since my last visit, which was in 2012. As if the constant commercialization of Haj (pilgrimage) and Umra weren’t enough, it seemed that the Saudi Arabian Kingdom decided that early Islamic sites were no longer relevant in comparison to the vast amounts of Muslims flooding for Haj and Umra.

While Medina had three of the world’s oldest mosques destroyed in the name of expansion, Mecca’s population had been paid, evacuated, and had their houses along with Islamic historical and archaeological heritage destroyed. Along with the constant destruction of physical Islam, tensions were high in Masjid al-Haram; where the Kaaba (big black cube) is located.

Muslims have multiple sects, namely; Shi’ites and Sunnis. While I personally have no preference, it seems that the growth of ISIS counts completely on the fact that they are fighting for Sunni rights; while Hezbollah is demonized as the Shi’i sect that has Islam misconstrued and uses it for the devil’s intentions. The divide between Sunnis and Shi’ites is nothing new, it has been around since the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

However, all these divides were generally put aside when both sects would come into contact in Mecca; not this time. It seemed that the divide wasn’t of importance, if anything, it was an insult to God all together. I went with my family. Personally, I decided to drape my towel on both shoulders, rather than just one. While Sunni people consider this to nullify my Umrah, the Shi’ites would disagree. As I did my Tawaf (Walking around the Kaaba 7 times), I found myself being inappropriately undressed, as I hadn’t been following the rules that the person behind me believed in. However, undressing people is not merely a habit of Sunnis it seems, my father, who had draped his towel on one shoulder, was also inappropriately dressed by another man, who disagreed with the way my father’s towel hung. As if we were in the ghettos of California where the way a piece of cloth hung off our bodies would signify which gang we belonged to, we were automatically categorized and hated/respected accordingly. I found those actions to undermine God, and minimize Him to the pettiness of man.

As if God is a child with a magnifying glass growing angrier at the mere thought that a man’s shoulder showed or not. I fear this divide between Sunnis and Shi’ites will only grow as the clashes continue and the growth of extremism in Islam continues. As long as petty things such as towels divide Muslims, governments and corporations will continue to undermine the very home of God and destroy all things that link us to the original ideals of Islam. tl;dr Muslims will fight about towels.


The rusted golden age.

Art has no place in Saudi Arabia. It seems that we as Saudis have missed the chance to indicate our struggles, emotions and endeavours in a manner that is unique to us. “We do have a culture. It is Islam” is the answer I mostly get when I asked about that situation, however, reality cannot be farther. Saudi culture seemed to have taken a break and never recovered at the Bedwen days, while Islamic culture had been distorted, destroyed and left to rot in an alleyway occupied by cats. Throughout my stay in multiple metropolitan cities, I’ve realized that the voice of the unheard maintained its presence on the walls of their homes, and the homes of those who they might even hate. Graffiti and street art is an integral part of the rebellious youth’s culture in most parts of the civilized world. However, in Saudi Arabia, graffiti lacks a voice, it is simply names written in a kindergarten student’s handwriting, and blackberry pins, in the hopes of getting a ninja to present herself and show her ankles. This lack of inspiration, even in violent acts against society, is partially blamed on the canvas; a bleak rectangular wall, accompanied by more hopeless rectangular walls with no character. Architecture is lacking to say the least. Buildings are simply tall boxes with windows, and homes are more boxes with no character. True Saudi architecture seems to have halted at tents. It is important for one to revere their heritage, however, it is even more important to expand upon it. It seems like Saudi’s are more willing to imitate than innovate, as if all cultures have a certain charm to them that they lack. Some say Islamic culture is the one and only culture that Saudi’s can accept, however, it seems that they say that out of conviction rather than experience, and the experience is not one that they will be living through any time soon.