Continued from Trip To Syria: Flying Away.
We reached the hotel in Muhalla-e-Zainabia on the outskirts of Damascus. Imagine waking up from a deep sleep and then having to carry sixteen heavy suitcases to the hotel building. And it doesn’t stop at that. The room was on the third floor. Thank God for the elevators!
We were told to come down for tea. What ‘down’ turned out to be was ‘down – 1′ i.e. the basement. It was divided into parts. Ours had plastic seats and tables set up for around thirty people. The tea was served and IT WAS PATHETIC! My cook makes better tea.
Khair, not to be unfair to the Maulana Sahab cooking for us there, I think it was the tea’s fault.
We were told that the Haram was to close at eight-thirty.
I came back up and went to sleep. Woke up around six-thirty and got busy in getting ready. That usually consists of emptying myself (in this case, all the Etihad food and specially the Octopus) and taking a bath. Left at seven-thirty with my uncles.
The hotel was five minutes from the Haram and my taya (father’s elder brother) led the way through the crowded streets of Muhalla-e-Zainabia. We entered through one of the small side gates and came upon a small opening with people sitting. The place was extremely crowded. Crossing another gate, we came into the main courtyard.
The burial chamber sits in the middle, surrounded by a circular courtyard and then again by a circular building that houses administration offices and other rooms. Two tall minarets stand in the courtyard on both sides of the main entrance. The huge gold brick dome sits on top of the large burial chamber, marking the resting place of the eldest daughter of Haider, the lion of Allah. The place emits an aura of authority and fearlessness, all the while maintaining a charming elegance and attraction for millions of devotees.
Welcome to Syria, the place where the Captives of Karbala (A.S.) were brought tied up in chains, bare-footed, bare-headed, being stoned from all sides, in a state of helplessness that does not find it’s counterpart in the realms of documented and undocumented history. This was the place where Yazeed (La’natullah) ruled and the people were hardcore enemies of the Ahle Bayt (A.S.). Where the mention of Ali (A.S.) was met with curses and abuses.
Who could have thought that the stronghold of Bani Umayyah (La’natullah), the capital of Muawiyah (La’natullah) and Yazeed (La’natullah), would fall to Lady Zainab (S.A.) in such a way that nothing would remain of their kingdom and they would become the focal point of all curses and abuses themselves? That their followers would become a minority and the country would come under the rule of people who would hail Ali (A.S.), not as a Caliph, nor an Imam, not even one of the most astounding creations of God, BUT GOD HIMSELF!
And the daughter of this God “sleeps” near Damascus. Welcome to the Lioness’s Den!
I went with my phupa (father’s sister’s husband) towards the burial chamber and stopped outside the door. An Arab with whom my phuppa had become acquainted helped us read the Ziarat of Lady Zainab (S.A.) that hung beside the door. Then we went in. I will not describe what I saw inside. You will see for yourselves in later posts!
My taya had told us that it would be impossible to reach the Zareeh (gold and silver cage above the grave) in the middle of the chamber on the first go due to the usually huge crowd but we did not find one of such size. The reason being that this was the first year when all barriers to Karbala had been lifted and most Zaireen (visitors) had gone there. The gathering in Karbala on Arbaeen this year was 20 million strong as compared to only 1.7 million for Hajj!
Result: we got to the Zareeh easily.
After praying and paying our respects, we came outside and offered the Ziarat prayers. I left my phuppa with the Arab and returned to the hotel, cursing myself for not taking my camera with me.
NOTE: I have uploaded some pictures of the tour to my Facebook account and will upload the rest with each related post. You can see them there if you want.