President Jammeh’s journey on Umra

Tuesday, September 30, 2008
President Yahya Jammeh and delegation flew from Banjul, late Monday evening, and had a brief stop in Algeria, where he was given a surprising welcome at the Waribomedene International Airport in Algiers.

 He was received at the foot of the aircraft, early Tuesday morning, by the president of Algerian Senate, Abdoulah bin Salih and a Guard of Honour mounted in his honour by elite forces of the Algerian army.

Speaking to a waiting press crew, the Gambian leader expressed his delight for the welcome accorded him and his delegation, attributing it to the years of cordial relationship between the people and government of the two countries.

President Jammeh, accompanied by the First Lady, Madam Zeinab Yahya Jammeh, their two children, and a team of religious leaders, arrived at the King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Here they were received at the Royal Terminal Building by Prince Misel bin Abdul Aziz – the governor of Jeddah, and the Gambian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Alhajie Lamin Kiti Jabang, and a cross section of Gambians living in the Kingdom. The presidential entourage was finally installed at the Jeddah Conference Palace after the usual airport ceremonies.

His first meeting there was with the Gambian community in the Kingdom, where Mustapha Bojang, the Gambian Consul General in Jeddah, told the gathering that audience with the Gambian leader had become a tradition and a forum to discuss issues impacting positively or otherwise on Gambians in the Holy Kingdom. Bass Ceesay, president of Gambian women association in Saudi, pointed out issues she said were affecting their general welfare, while Ebrima Kambi described the massive infrastructural development and continuous upgrading of the social set up back home as impressive.  

Ambassador Jabang on the other hand, spoke of President Jammeh’s ability to foster unity and competence in governance.  He recalled his appointment time when he was still a member of the opposition, describing the gesture of the president then as a judgement that calls for closer collaboration amongst the nation’s political parties to achieve uniformity in development.  Ambassador Jabang described his first audience with the Gambian leader as a moral booster and a reminder to his office that there is a greater force behind Gambia’s success story.

President Jammeh, for his part, spoke highly of the Gambia’s Ambassador and Consul General in the Holy Land.  The two, he said, had handled the affairs of Gambians in Saudi competently.  He referred to the appointment of Ambassador Jabang as a call for concerted effort to develop the nation, noting that politics ends when a winner has been declared in an election.

 The President provided an immediate solution to problems highlighted by the Gambian women in Saudi, offering them a chance to handle cooking he personally caters for for Gambian pilgrims.  

He also donated to the group a sum of $10,000 and a separate equivalent to their male counterpart. The president also briefed the gathering on undertakings aimed at controlling prices of basic commodities and to ensure sustainable economic growth, stressing however that the bottom line to achieving sustainable development lies on the willingness of Gambians to assume responsibility and to take up major ventures now in the hands of foreign individuals.  He also advised Gambians in Saudi Arabia to respect and adhere to the laid down laws and regulations of the Holy Land.

The first family and delegation flew to Medina on Wednesday morning, to commence their religious undertaking proper, preceding the Umra at the prophet’s mosque, which also house his remains, that of Abubakar Sidiq and Umar bun Khatab. President Jammeh was provided with an escort to perform the required prayers beside the prophet’s shrine, which was reportedly a house belonging to his wife, Aisha, where he passed away almost 1419 years ago.

He performed Zuhr, Asr, Maggrib, Isha; as well as Nafila and, together with the First Lady, Madam Zeinab Yahya Jammeh, he paid homage to the Holy Prophet of Islam, Mohammed (PBU) and his two companions. President Jammeh also had the privilege to perform prayers at the "Piawdu" – part of the original mosque built by Prophet Mohammed, after his migration from Mecca.

It was a rare opportunity; an opportunity billions sought for; and as President Jammeh walked into the second mosque built by the prophet, after Quba – swelling with emotion and passion:  A cultivation of reasons dignify the shadow of emotion – prayers at the Holy Mosque in Medina is equivalent to 1000 prayers at any other ordinary place of worship – said Imam Abdoulie Fatty .

The early morning rush to perform Fajr was the beginning of Thursday activities.  The First family and delegation were led to series of sites in Medina being history of the struggle to institute Islam as a religion.

At Mount Uhud – a shrine commemorating the 70 lives lost, when the Muslim army experienced its first defeat during the jihad of the Prophet.  Prominent among the fallen heroes was Hamza, a warrior who sacrificed his life and fought along side the Holy Prophet.

At this shrine the First Family and delegation paid their respect before proceeding to Masjid Qiblatain – which had its Qibla at Jerusalem, before Prophet Mohammad was ordered to redirect it towards the Kaabah in Mecca. At Quba – the first mosque built in Islam by Prophet Mohammed, survived almost two thousand years standing.  

The Prophet had reportedly said – anyone who visits Islam’s first place of worship and perform two rakaats within its premises, they would receive reward equivalent to that of Umra. President Jammeh did exactly that.

The Presidential delegation also paid its respect to the millions buried at Janatal Bequiya – Medina’s main burial ground – which is also said to contain the bodies of the Prophet’s wife, Aisha, and many of his followers.

At the end of the visit, President Jammeh returned to his hotel where he would leave, later that afternoon, for Mecca, where he would perform the rites of the Umrah.
Courtesy of GRTS’ Abdou Njie

Author: DO