Medina (ANTARA) - At 9 p.m. Saudi Arabian time, the Nabawi Mosque in Medina is packed with pilgrims who flock back to their respective hotels after performing night prayers.

Meanwhile, Indonesian pilgrims, particularly men, often feel a sense of incompleteness if they do not "hang around" for a while to enjoy a night in the Holy City.

Indonesians, regardless of where they are, like to spend the night conversing with new friends or exchanging thoughts over a cup of coffee.

The people of Saudi Arabia seem accustomed to this Indonesian culture, readily engaging in conversations and sharing stories over a cup of coffee.

In Nabawi, several residents, especially traders, can speak the Indonesian language, as Indonesians constitute the vast majority of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims every year.

Like in Indonesia, the conversations flow naturally. Each Hajj pilgrim, with a different ethnicity, culture, and language, exchanges enthralling stories of experiences in the Holy Land.

This social scenery can always be found in the courtyards of hotels where Indonesian pilgrims stay. In fact, this culture of hanging around can indicate that the nearby hotels are largely occupied by Indonesian pilgrims.

Moreover, the distance between hotels occupied by Indonesian pilgrims is not too far. Hence, it is not surprising that someone from one group joins in a chat with another Hajj group.

It was only when midnight arrived that they returned to the room to restore their energy for the next day's activities.

"I feel like I am in Indonesia," Herman Santosa, an Indonesian Hajj pilgrim from Malang City, East Java, stated.

The government has divided the accommodation of Indonesian pilgrims into five sectors in Medina. The five sectors surround the Nabawi Mosque.

The closest hotel to Nabawi is only 50 meters away, while the farthest is about 350 meters. The distance is not a problem, as the crowd of Indonesian pilgrims around the Nabawi Mosque makes the journey less tiring.

Unlike pilgrims from other countries, the social interaction of hanging around and enjoying coffee together may be unique to Indonesia. Other pilgrims mostly returned to their respective rooms. The night felt like it only belonged to Indonesian Hajj pilgrims.

Meanwhile, middle-aged Indonesian women Hajj pilgrims prefer to not hang out in hotels and instead throng shops around the Nabawi Mosque area.

This phenomenon can be witnessed every day. The discounts offered by sellers seemed to have caught their attention.

"While I am here, (I need to shop). When will I go to the Holy Land again?" Kokom, a resident of Cianjur, West Java, remarked.

Not only Hajj pilgrims but also Hajj officers unwind after fulfilling their duties by looking for a place to hang out while enjoying a cup of coffee.

At first, there were only two people, though later, more will gather. Although their purpose in Medina is different from that of the Hajj pilgrims, these Hajj officers exchanged stories about the miracles they experienced in their lives.


The most interesting aspect to observe is the background of the Hajj participants, such as where they are from. Of the 88,987 Indonesian pilgrims in the first wave who arrived in Medina, as many as 98.52 percent had never performed Hajj.

In addition, several Hajj pilgrims have never taken a fight, gone out of town, or been familiar with daily facilities.

When the first phase of the Hajj group arrived recently, there were several pilgrims who did not know how to use the toilet seat, how to shower using the shower head, how to use the hotel key, and so on.

However, the hospitality of Indonesian people is also reflected in their positive character in their activities in Medina.

Each Indonesian pilgrim helps and teaches the other during the Hajj implementation.

Young Hajj pilgrims patiently guide those who are elderly. There is no grouping by age in the hotel room, as the young and old stay together.

This is also a form of strategy carried out by the Religious Affairs Ministry so that those sensing the difference, in terms of the atmosphere in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, are not taken aback.

Hajj officers

Another aspect that makes Medina feel like Indonesia is the presence of Hajj officers, who are on standby both around the hotels and in the courtyard of the Nabawi Mosque.

The officers are on standby round the clock, with work shifts.

Despite the Nabawi Mosque spanning an area of 165,000 square meters with 95 doors and 10 minarets, pilgrims who lost their way are easy to find owing to the help of the officers.

The officers are tasked with helping the pilgrims, whether taking them back to their hotels, massaging their tired feet, assisting the sick, or guiding those who got separated to find their group.

Indonesia has a large number of Hajj officers, as it has the highest number of Hajj participants with diverse backgrounds and age groups, meaning it would be difficult if they did not get the Hajj officers’ assistance.

With so many Hajj officers, the language barrier no longer poses an obstacle, especially since quite a few Indonesian Hajj officers live in Saudi Arabia to study and work.

What makes the Indonesian people famous in Saudi Arabia is their friendly demeanor and generosity.

Indonesian pilgrims are unable to give up the habit of hanging around, which just goes to show that they miss their home country.

Related news: Garuda Indonesia apologizes for delays in Hajj flights
Related news: Ministry records arrival of 102,104 Indonesian Hajj pilgrims in Saudi

Translator: Asep Firmansyah, Kenzu
Editor: Anton Santoso
Copyright © ANTARA 2024