Our closest aunt and neighbor, a 45 year old mother of five, went on an Umrah trip to Mecca this past Ramadan. This is some of what she went through.
Ramadan 20: Umrah trip starts from Baghdad to Mecca. No direct flights to Saudi, so will drive to Damascus, Syria and take a plane from there. After a twenty four hour drive (should only be 12 hrs), arrive in Syria, a couple of days later, in Saudi. Two week trip extended to four weeks because of no return flights to Syria. Ran out of money, had to borrow.
Four weeks later:
Friday, November 3rd: Start return trip to Baghdad. Leave Medina around 5 pm for Jeddah. Arrive in airport around 9 pm. Flight leaves Saturday morning at 5 am. Spend the night in the airport.
Saturday, November 4th: Flight from Jeddah to Damascus rerouted to Halab because of cloudy conditions in Damascus. Spend three hours in the airplane in Halab, awaiting the weather to clear in Damascus. Weather clears, fly to Damascus. After landing, board buses for Baghdad.
Saturday, November 4th: Discover that a curfew has been imposed in Baghdad and other provinces of Iraq, borders closed. Trip leader decides that we stay in Syria until the curfew is lifted, so that we don't spend the night at the borders. Spend the night in a nice Syrian family's guest house.
Sunday, November 5th: Trip leader assumes that the curfew will be lifted by Monday morning. Leave Syria around 3 pm. Arrive at the border before night, but curfew has not been lifted. Spend an uncomfortable, cold night in the buses at the Iraqi border. No clean bathrooms around.
Monday, November 6th: Border is opened, and we travel towards Baghdad. Arrive at Abu Ghraib around 4:30 pm (about an hour from Baghdad). Curfew has not been lifted. Will have to spend the night in a small village in Abu Ghraib (no hotels around). Village tribal leaders divide us up amongst the different houses in the area, where we spend the night with a family we don't know. Much better than another cold night in the bus.
Tuesday, November 7th: Curfew has been lifted from Baghdad! Arrive home at 7:30 am, exhausted, but happy to finally be home. Home, sweet home, even if it is in Baghdad!