I rode 50 km along the Hejaz railway. I’m left with almost no water. The railway started to move away from the main road. As far as I can see from the map 20 km ahead there must be a location where this railway comes closest to the main road. What if this is a mountainous location? What? It is hard to make a decision. Either I leave the path I follow right away or ahead later or sooner. If I decide to return to the main road it is 18 km air distance or less from the point where I’m and there is no road! I wasn’t aware that this region was such tough! Saying this, I at least thought there would be small pathways here and there. I wish I had taken more water. If I continue I’ll run out of water most probably, not far for being already. I need to leave this road. Pofff…
Back to the beginning of the story, I moved along Hejaz road after I left Al Ula. There was an old railway station on the roadside in the town. I came upon another station after 15 km outside the city.
Again the same day I stayed overnight next to a station. Some of the stations were built recently. There were elevations constructed for the railway in front of these stations which runs along the main road at a distance of 2 km.
Well there is nothing left resembling a rail… The rails were removed by Arabs under British order to prevent Ottomans return. Especially people were paid for bringing the junction screws. But the part of the railway elevated with stones is still as intact as the first day. The bicycle moves smoothly on this part. Well, this was the part I entered the second day after I left Al-Ula. The highway police officers in the jeep tried to follow me but after some point they gave up. They wanted me to stop sounding their sirens.
– What happened?
– You cannot enter this area?
– Forbidden area
– Your state gave me a special permission to travel in your country. I travel the way I want.
– No you don’t
– Yes, I do. It is up to you whether you follow me or not.
I start to move but they try to head me off blocking the way with their jeep. I call the embassy. An employee of the embassy talks to the police officer telling him that I’ve got a special permission and so on. The police officer calls his superior. His superior tells him to leave me alone but let me to sign a document to state that I’ll travel on my own risk. I sign the document and the police officers return right away leaving me on my own. After that moment I’m totally alone on the Hejaz railway. One of my friends who makes a research in that area traveling with jeeps sent me a message to one of the photos I shared days after. “I can’t still believe how you managed to travel in this area on bike it was already hard on 4×4 wheels Gurkan.”
In this area I see the culverts, bridges built by Ottoman engineers. Didn’t pass at least one train on this railway? They all look so new. I also came upon to a railway station. Really strange, why was a station built right at this spot?
There aren’t any settlements around. The railway comes out of the desert entering into the valley stretching to Medina. I know that there is a tunnel ahead. I’m riding on this line for the last 50 km. I’m exhausted… I’m running out of water. No way buddy! I’m surprised at myself! How come I could enter this area being such unprepared? Ugh…
I’m able to ride on the railway line but as soon as I go down to the sandy and stony area I’m forced to push my bike. There is only 18 km air distance to the main road but it won’t be easy to reach. There is a mountain to the left and a valley ahead. Let me try to go there and see what’s waiting for me. I entered the valley pushing my bike. 30 minutes passed. Puff.. Pushing the bike makes me to drink more and more water. I start to eat the walnuts I was carrying in my panniers. I keep moving along the valley then came upon another hill. The road forks, I choose the right one stretching through the valley. What if this road is dead end? I might be pushing my bike for nothing. I’m in such an area where there is no vehicle nor camel traces, none of any. I’ll follow a trace but there is none.
I leave my bicycle back and start to walk taking only the handlebar bag. I walk for an hour and come to another hill. Hum. There is no internet. I can’t take a look around since I’m not able to receive satellite view from Google. The topographic map of this area is not loaded on my GPS. I started to climb the hill. After 30 minutes I’m on the top of the hill but at the same time ran out of water. It so bad! On the top I said loudly: “Gurkan, now you screwed up!” I travelled in so many places and managed to survive in so many tough areas. I’m going to kill myself in the labyrinth among these mountains. It seems that the main road doesn’t go among the hills. It is impossible to cross those hills on bike. I even don’t have enough water to cross on foot! I feel thirsty, I have to go back to my bike and eat whatever is left.
It seems I’ll call for help for the first time. Let me call the embassy from satellite phone. It’s pretty hard to exit from this coordinate pushing my loaded bike. Returning to my bike I eat all what I find almonds, walnuts. I eat muesli as it is, dry. Take one of the tuna fish cans. I first drink the oil inside the can and then eat the fish. On top of all only one sip of water. I take my satellite phone out of my bag and press the button. Ugh? It doesn’t turn on. Low battery alarm is beeping. Gosh! It turned somehow on in the bag and the battery is dead. Hahahaha .. Hey, what else and not to laugh? I cannot recharge the batteries using the dynamo since I’m not riding. I’d used the dynamo batteries for the phone. Wellllll… Actually, there is another method which I had used before and it worked but I’ll try this only when I’m at the death’s door. : ). Then, only the S.O.S. tracking system is left. I’ve still some power. Pressing this button should be the last choice. Don’t let me set the world on fire pressing this button. Let me first turn back to the fork and try the path on the left. I pushed my bike back for 40 minutes to the fork. The path on the left turned to right after some point and came to another fork. This time I chose the left side. I’m running out of water and also of my power. By the way the temperature is 45°C…. Once a while I stop and listen to the silence. That’s good… I must admit even now I take pleasure of silence. At least if something happens to me I’ll be resting in peace here. Hahahaha
Pufff… Once again I came to a dead end. I took the S.O.S. device and opened the signal lid. I can’t believe, really can’t! Look where I’m in. The path forks again while I’m at a fork to make a decision. It is hard to overcome this situation. It is time to press the button. The signal will first go to the center in USA, then to that in Turkey. The rescue team in the nearest US base will be informed by the crew in USA and the crew in Turkey will inform the foreign Affairs Ministry and my family. “S.O.S. signals are received from the device registered to Gurkan Genc”. Nothing to do, in the mean time we’ll be testing the device (hahaha). I decided to look around for the last time. Like, you’ll taking a look around before jumping from the sinking ship. While I was looking up to the hill a camel appeared behind the slope. Oooooo. Wowwww. I immediately raised my bike and started to push towards the slope. My arms are running out of power. Pushing a 50 kg (after all water and food was depleted) heavy bike for such a long time made me exhausted. That all put me through the wringer. Hahahha
When I arrived to the place where I saw the camel, I saw that the road turned to left. I started to follow the footsteps of the camels in the labyrinth, then saw the faint tracks. Well, that’s it. I can ride my bike here though it’ll be hard. Yeeesssss. I feel so thirsty feeling myself at death’s door. After one hour struggling through the hills at that very hot day I come to an open area.
Just at the horizon line I see the vehicle passing through the road. The asphalt road was just in front of me, about 6-7 km ahead. I had never thought that I’ll say “Wow! I found the asphalt road.” I feel completely exhausted. As soon as I get off the saddle I’ll either fall unconscious or my blood pressure will drop down. Just keep on pedaling. I try hard to reach the road so that at least some one will see me lying there if I fall unconscious when I stop. I even don’t have the power to climb that firm slope approaching the road on bike. Arriving to the road you must have seen how I got off the saddle, I really throw my bike on the road. Just at that time a pick-up came to me, the driver realizing me coming out of the mountainous area. My blood pressure dropped down and I lay down on the roadside.
People came out of the car, talking in Arabic. “MA, MA, MA (WATER, WATER, WATER). They immediately gave me some water. I’d never drunk water as such. They refilled all my water bottles and poured icy water down my head. They gave dates. And they asked me “Are you alright?” endless times in Arabic. They offered me to take to Medina. But I replied “God bless you, but I’ll ride.” What to say, I can’t be always the deus ex machina. : )
It is pretty hard to find entrance and exit roads connecting to the main road in Saudi Arabia. The area I was riding was such an area. Therefore, cars were passing only occasionally. When I returned to Hayber road the highway patrol was waiting for me just at the exit. I passed the car and looked behind me. The officer must have called his superior and said “The Turk is moving towards Hayber” or “The Turk showed up” probably. The car didn’t follow me. If a police car doesn’t follow me then undercover policemen are. They drive me nuts. They know where I go to toilet. “He is behind the tree, will crap soon. He crapped. He is back on the road” so on. It was 5 km to Haber when a car stopped in front of me. The driver came out of the car. Well.. As I recognized from his beard he was a religious police officer. I was riding with shorts and sleeveless t-shirt. : )… Is he going to comment on this? He made me stop
– Salamun alaikum
– Alaikum salam
– Where are you coming from and where are you going to?
– I’m coming from Turkey. I’m going to Medina, then to Mecca, from there to Bahrein.
– Ya Suphannnn Allaaaahhhh.. Be my guest this night.
– Thank you very much with a great pleasure.
I accepted his invitation. If this guy is a religious police officer, I’ll have some questions for him. His house is in a village just outside Hayber. His brother welcomed us. They took my bike to the yard. First they showed me place to wash my hands, then prepared the bath to take a shower. As usual, afterwards I joined men’s assembly. After coffee, tea, dates trio we started to chat.
I introduced myself and talked what I had undertaken so far. I mentioned the places I traveled in Saudi Arabia. Ahmed liked what I was talking about very much and called his relatives for dinner. There was a Turkish restaurant in the city. He took me there and introduced to its owner. They also wanted to host me but it was impossible for the time being.
For dinner we had lamb on rice again. I really got used to this meal. Ahmet’s colleagues also came over for dinner. Well, they are all religious police officers and I’m still in shorts
– May I ask you something? Is it forbidden to wear shorts and sleeveless shirts? You see my shorts are above my knees.
– No Gurkan, they are not forbidden but jogging shorts. Besides, you are a sportsman. Such prohibitions are not valid for athletes.
Hum. I got it. I guess they’ll forbid my jogging shorts if they would see it. That one is pretty short made of very thin fabric which I use as sleepwear.
– Do you force people go to mosque to pray five times a day? Is it true that you whip people refusing to go to mosque?
– It happened before. But now there isn’t such forcing.
Well this changes from region to region. A person having power within the system becomes overwhelmed by his ambition and applies such force. There are still regions where people are not allowed to walk around on the street during praying hours.
After dinner Ahmed’s father joined us. While we were talking he asked:
– Mr. Gurkan how many kilometers can you ride a day?
– 100 km with ease but if I have to arrive somewhere I can make 200 km.
– Well, a camel also walks 100 km per day. If we make him run also 200 km. Mashallah Mr. Gurkan you are like a camel.
Everybody laughed but Ahmed’s farther, he remained serious. He meant it by heart. “Mashallah you are like a camel.” When we were left alone with religious police officer Ahmed his words found their place in my note book.
– Ottomans should never have left this region.
– Do you know where Ottoman’s gold is hidden?
Ottoman’s gold was actually the salary of the military troop based in Yemen which I have already mentioned in my Jordan article and also mentioned how this gold was hidden. Then he whispered in my ear: “Don’t miss the Jewish village just next. Set off very early in the morning. Undercover police officers are following you.”
Yeap, as I say they are following me. Strange, this time I didn’t recognize that they were following me. Since I usually fight with them or try to keep a distance they don’t come close to me anymore.
The town Hayber was a former Jewish village. Prophet Muhammad attacked this town both to solve the Jewish issue and to secure Damascus trade route. The town was invaded under the command of Ali. I have no idea about when and why the Jews deserted this town. But, after the war prophet Muhammad allowed the Jews to continue to live in the city. Looking at the presence of the houses in this area it is possible to claim that Jews or others were still living in this region 200 or 300 years ago. I knew Arabic Jewish people were living in Spain and Morocco. I saw also Moroccan Jewish during my travel in Israel. The presence of Jewish is not restricted to the north of Arabian Peninsula but stretching to Oman and Yemen. With this battle the Moslems stated to take the control over Jews. I knew that there was the remains of a castle in Hayber but not the city itself. Well, since I’m already in this region why not visit this city. Of course, I’ll do.
Early in the morning I left the house using the back streets. After about 1 km a car appeared behind me. I stopped at the traffic lights to allow the driver to pass me. We greeted each other. He asked me where I was going. I said Medina. “Be careful” he said and moved on.
I saw that he was looking at me from the rear-view mirror. He drove up the slope and then disappeared. There is no one not in front nor behind me. I immediately took the side road I saw on the GPS. It was a little hilly but directed me to the old city. I came to the main square and took a couple of photos.
Where is the castle? Hah, I saw it. I’m riding through the side streets inspecting the houses. As I mentioned before people were living here at least 200 years ago. The houses are not worn as if 1400 years old. While on the side streets I hear siren sounds. Four cars came out of four corners. From each car 3 to 4 people got out. I was surrounded by them. They are shouting at me “you are not allowed to enter here”. They want my camera.
Take it easy men!!
– You are not allowed to enter this area. Leave this place immediately. And delete the photos you have taken.
– This place is a historical site and I’m allowed to visit all the historical places in Saudi Arabia.
– But not this site. Please take your bike and leave.
– Don’t push my bike! Do not touch ever again. Don’t cause a crisis situation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia!
– Hand your camera!!
– No, I don’t. If you want my camera you first have to talk to the Turkish Embassy.
Meanwhile I called the embassy from my mobile and told what was happening. Then I handed my phone to one of the guys. After a feverish talk he returned my phone
– Gurkan I don’t know where exactly you are but leave this place immediately.
– Ugh, I’m at a restricted area?
– Yes, yes. They’ll not keep you camera but delete the photos and leave the area.
The ones who read my road memories know that actually I return afterwards to such places. But I was warned by the embassy no need to insist. Why is this site so important?
- Are they trying to protect the historical artifacts? (I don’t think)
- Because it is an old Jewish town and not to be mentioned in road memories of a traveler (absurd)
- Are they not wanting this site to be taken as a holy place by Muslims? (possible)
- Because it was a battle won by Ali? Then, it is clear who will visit this site. (This came to my mind after I visited seven mosques in Medina. Furthermore, for similar sites in Medina such precautions were taken)
I leave the area. Go to the new town. Buy some provisions. I come from the store, the police officers are still there.
– You wanted me to leave the town, I did. I don’t want any police car or undercover police officers behind me after the exit of Hayber.
– But for your own safety.
– Come on! From whom are you protecting me? From your own citizens? Don’t worry we get along very well. Furthermore, no one can protect me better then Allah. If you keep following me I’ll stay longer in this town. Even, put my tent up in the middle of town. Your police officers would then have to overnight accompanying me.
– Alright, alright.
I don’t know whether someone had ever talked to police officer like this in Saudi Arabia. While I was talking they were staring at me. I guess I was also speaking loudly. Well, as if I had been befriended with the King. : ). Self-confidence, courage of ignorance, brave heart or else.
I arrived in Medina in the afternoon. There was a huge control post 15 km outside the city. The police officers welcomed me of course. “There is traffic in Medina, the cars could annoy you, let us give you an escort car”. This is a good idea much better than people escorting me. They almost had run over me trying to take a photo.
You recognize some sort of urban planning in Medina. There is a road system formed of three nested circles. Nabawi Mosque is right at the center. I could reach only the outmost circle after it darkened. Good that police car was escorting me. People of Medina immediately surrounded me with their cars. If the police cars weren’t there I don’t know what would happen in nightfall. Cars could easily hit me somehow.
First night in Medina I’ll be hosted by Abdurrahman Abi (elderly brother in Turkish) a friend of Ruhfen Abi I met in Turkmenistan. He is an engineer at the company Yapi Merkezi, Medina. They are building one of the stations for speed train system in Medina. They cooked eggs with Turkish sausage for dinner together with the other engineers of Yapi Merkezi : )… Wow, that was delicious.
Back to train station construction. There are stations in Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina and three other in between each constructed by different companies. I had seen one of them before Medina at the exit of Dumat Al-Jundal. It was far from the city. I’m sure the city will expand towards the station in the future. I inspected the station in Medina during day time. The construction was almost finished. Only track laying and data processing network remained to be finished. The Turkish company was ahead of deadline. It was impossible to finish their constructions for the other companies. They hadn’t completed even the rough construction works as I had seen when I visited the cities mentioned above.
Therefore, I would like to congratulate all the engineers of the Yapi Merkezi Company. While visiting data processing area inside the construction one of the engineers said: “Gurkan from fiber optic cables to toilets the best materials were used here. That is, with this material used you can construct 6 train stations in Turkey still at top quality”. There is no doubt that they used the best of all. Maybe they exaggerated that much aiming 50 year ahead. Who knows? When I go on pilgrimage to Mecca in the future I may see the trains on duty. I may get in one of the trains just to test.
After saying good bye to everyone in Yapi Merkezi I rode towards city center. In Medina I was hosted by Ahmet Bey (Mr in Turkish). His apartment was 800 m away from Nabawi Mosque at the last floor and you could see its minarets and dome from the windows. But before arriving in I came up to noon pray. I directly rode my bicycle to the courtyard of Nabawi Mosque.
It is incredibly crowded. The police officer following me came also to the entrance with me. Well, I came with my bicycle to some point but what then? I saw the police officer behind me and said: “Watch my bicycle, I’m going to pray”. Hahaha, you must have seen his face. I just left my bicycle not even taking my passport and wallet. Don’t think that there’ll be robbery here. Inside of the mosque is crowded, people are all around. No way! I’ll enter the mosque and pray. I entered inside trying to find a place. Uncle just move aside, brother allow me some space. Oookkkk.
After the pray I met with Ahmet Abi. He has such a story I’m not sure to tell or not. Even reading this paragraph he would have said: “Gurkan be objective, be objective”. When I was there he was trying to renew his visa. It almost passed a year and he is still trying. Anyway, the prince has put his word so that Ahmet Abi will be able to renew his visa. He is in the aluminum construction business. As I was there he was renewing the roof of Medina University. They must have been satisfied with his work he is still doing works for the university. I met Cem who was living in Medina since a long time due to Ahmet Abi. He was in steel doors and roof business. He invited me to his flat for a dinner in Medina.
While I stayed in Medina I visited Nabawi Mosque, Mount Uhud, Quba Mosque, Mosque of the Two Qibla, Jannatul Baqi, the Seven Mosques and Miqat Mosque. By the way, since I came to Medina for Umrah purpose I had to wear Ihram before going to Mecca. I left my bicycle at Ahmet Abi’s apartment and we went with Cem’s car to Mecca for Umrah all together. Thanks to Mehmet who was working for Hajj and Umrah tours in Medina for supplying Ihram and all the other necessary things.
Before going to Kaaba I spent a whole day in Nabawi Mosque. I felt emotional as a one coming all the way from Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
(Al Aqsa Mosque)
I had visited Al Aqsa Mosque twice and spent a long time inside. Both the architecture of the mosque and also being almost empty made me feel peaceful. There wasn’t any artificial lightening. I kept saying the motifs on the walls and ceiling were master pieces.
Nabawi Mosque didn’t give the same impression and peace feeling since it was full of crowd and also as a construction. I was lost in thoughts even when passing by the tombs of our prophet and the califs. When you turn your face towards the tombs and start to pray the religious police warns you: “YOUR KIBLAH IS MECCA!! NOT THIS SIDE” Well right, but we have learned differently. But why do I wonder, in every Islamic country Koran was interpreted differently changing with the culture and education. This difference in interpretation can be observed by ordinary people on the streets. Right behind the tombs people sit for hours and pray. I also heard that some spend a whole day here next to the tombs.
I can say that I share the same opinion with the Mutawwi (religious police) in Saudi Arabia in some issues. For example, I went to the area where battle of Uhud took place. When I saw its present situation and the archer’s hill (we know this hill as the “mountain” where the archers left their assigned posts in the thought the battle was over) I got surprised a little. “This is the mountain pardon me the hill and because of it the battle was lost???” Takes only 20 steps to the top.
Hum. I try to imagine and analyze the military moves on this area making use of the knowledge from the books I’ve read about martial arts and strategies. The hill is 150 to 200 m to the battle area. It is most probably true that they didn’t take part at the beginning of the battle. The arrows of that time can reach at most 150 m distance and the possibility to hit the target from this distance is low. Furthermore, it is impossible for the archers waiting on the top not to be seen by the enemies. From the battle area the top of the hill the archers were in clear vision. I would have liked to go to past to see what really had happened.
In front of me is the mountain where our prophet hid after being wounded. I went down from the archer’s hill and went to that area. Not far from the hill 600 m or at most 1 km. Initially, I visited the small cave where he first hid. It is said that this cavity smells after rose but I didn’t sniff such a smell. What I can say that the smell in the cave was not bothering. When I just came out of the cave a Turkish citizen most probably an imam was telling what had happened. He started from how our prophet was injured by a swart, how that swart hit his helmet, which tooth was broken, how the helmet was bended, where he put his hand at the entrance of the cave (I took a look where he put his hand. Our prophet must have been at least two and a half meters tall. But the imam immediately added that there was a landslide therefore it remained above). He described all so lively you could believe that he was one of the Sahabes (companions of prophet Muhammad) sent to present by a time machine to tell us what had happened. The people listening to imam put their hands all over in the cave saying “Suphan Allah” each time. Interesting.. Then, I went up to the cave where he finally hid.
But Saudi government blocked the cave with cement, not a place to go easily. Someone has climbed with a robe and attached it to a solid spot before. Anyone who is able to climb can see it. Well, of course we’ll climb. There is enough space to hide for a person, a small cave for only 5-6 people to fit in. When looking from here towards the battle area it becomes clear why the lower cave smells nice, why the robe was placed here and why the Saudi government gets angry to this issue. There are other things to be considered! How many pilgrims come to this place and who, how much earns from this commerce?
Huseyin and his family from Kayseri invited me for lunch. During conversation I learn that there was a runway for Ottoman aircraft till 5 years ago now earthed. Furthermore, I also learned that the military zone in Medina was formerly used as garrison for Ottoman soldiers.
I even saw the remaining walls of the garrison. After Jordan, I learn that Ottomans also built schools in this region. Of course, no need to mention that there are other buildings in place of this schools now. These schools were used by the British to provoke the Arabs revolt against Ottoman Empire prior the First World War. “They’ll change your language”. Now, the foreign language in this country is English.
I had also the opportunity to visit the Medina station recently restored. The name of Ottoman Empire is almost not mentioned. A foreigner, not knowing the Ottoman history, would think that this station was built and run by Arabs. It is strange that the new railway crosses the desert while there is the great Hejaz Railway in Saudi Arabia already its feasibility known. The national museum I’ve visited in Sofia comes in my mind. The end of 14th to the end of 18th centuries the period when they were ruled by Ottomans was not mentioned as if it did not existed. Well, this is done also in my country. In this way I do understand Saudis. There are people saying that “Turkish history starts at 1923 and we don’t care else”. How come? Your history goes back to Mongolia, if you further dig around you might find yourself in Ethiopia in East Africa!
One thing that caught my attention visiting museums in Islamic world is that the women’s clothing is always in the foreground. Traditional men’s wear is very occasionally exhibited. This was also true for Medina Museum.
On the right side of the museum is a mosque called “Turki”. There is also another museum built during Ottoman period worth to visit.
A detail what I have learned during my visit in the Seven Mosques was interesting. This mosque was mostly visited by Iranian pilgrims. This place of seven mosques was the place where our prophet and califs used to pray during the battle of the Trench. After the war mosques were built on this place. There was the Al-Fath (conquest) Mosque in the place of the mosque where present day worships are held. To the left of the mosque is a police quarter and an office of Mutawwi’s. I didn’t recognize in the other mosques but here the security is visible. At that time we were together with Ahmet Abi and Cem. Hey, what the hell is the garden at the back? Why is its entrance locked? One of the mosques has been there. Well, why is it then locked?
Looks like a pretty nice garden. I ask the religious police officers. Ali had prayed in this place during the battle. Therefore mostly Iranian pilgrims were visiting this mosque.
The government has decided to plane the surroundings of Nabawi Mosque for 5 km. Therefore, all the hotels in this area are pulled down one by one. The inside of Haram area looks like a huge construction area. As far as I can see this pull down process is not very precise. One of the beams of a building was broken down and the building was bended to the left etc. To take this photo we had to go on the roof of the hotel which Mehmet’s hajj tour organization was using.
People of Medina are put in a different place and praised by foreigners. I pedaled for 4000 km in Saudi Arabia. The people in the rest of the country are not different than the people in Medina, the same hospitality everywhere.
I was informed by our embassy that there was a Turkish school in Medina. Cem’s children were going to this school. So I held a presentation there. Since the school is in Haram region girl’s and boy’s schools were separated. Except the ones in Mecca and Medina all the Turkish school in Saudi Arabia have mixed gender education. Normally this is also forbidden but since the land is registered to Turkish Republic they cannot intervene in educational system.
Mehmet is another Turk I met in Medina. He is the school bus driver, we are going together to the school. Entering the boy’s school children look at me as if saying: “Who the hell is this man?” Most of them thought I was the new teacher. When they learned that I came to Medina all the way from Turkey on bike they didn’t believe at first.
The following days, I guess they read my road memories, almost half of the school’s children sent me messages. The girls also sent me messages finding out that I held presentation at boy’s school wanting me to come to their school also. Such a message was sent by Riyadh Turkish Embassy: “Mr. Gurkan if you go there, they most probably shut the school down.” I couldn’t take that risk and didn’t hold a presentation in girl’s school. The same happened also in Mecca. My message to the female students: “Invite me to the universities you’ll study in the future. Just write that you were going to these schools at the time I was there and I’ll come definitely”.
Before leaving the city I visited the stores around Nabawi Mosque for the last time. In one of the stores I met Mehmet owner of a misbaha store. I was surprised by the high prices of the misbahas. He had an incredible collection of misbahas made of valuable stones. “He gave me a misbaha made of valuable amber stones having a marvelous smell as a gift” I still have it by me : )
There were Uzbek also owners who hosted me in their stores.
Lastly I went to Nabawi Mosque once more. I met a Turkish pilgrim group there. They all came with a touring company. I joined the group. While the head of the group was talking with us he asked me:
– Gurkan, my brother with which organization did you come here? How many pilgrim brothers are in your group?
– My group is a one-man group Abi. It’s only me. I came from Turkey with bicycle tour.
After this moment the conversation was not the same. I try not to talk about my travel if I’m not asked for.
Time to go on. Destination Badr and Jeddah. : )