Travel Is Important…
But to Extremes?

This essay has three backstories. The first backstory is that I have issues with our fake president…big issues. In an attempt to present a more scholarly means to diss Donald the Dumb, I decided to write my essay base upon three learned people. George Santayana, a Spanish American writer, who went to Harvard and then taught there. Santayana said, “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.” It is clear to me that Donald the Dumb didn’t learn either in school or outside of school.

Maya Angelou is my second scholar. She was a writer, civil rights advocate, and a professor. Her thoughts about travel addressed the obvious. “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” Our fake president has problems with people of color and/or traveling to countries of people of color.

Muhammad, my third scholar and thinker said of travel, “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” Muhammad’s assumption is that one learns through travel. In Muhammad’s case, whatever travel he did was a teaching moment for him.

My selection of the three relates to Donald the Dumb’s dislike for Hispanics, blacks, and Muslims. He is a racist, a xenophobe, a white supremacist, and a sexist. My recent article, A Teaching Moment dealt with that reality.

My second backstory is about Sandy, my web administrator, who is in her mid-twenties, a Muslim from Pakistan, and works in Sweden. She emailed me regarding my essay about my teaching moment. The email can be read at the end of this article. Sandy was surprised by the drawing of Muhammad. Muslims never draw pictures of him for religious reasons. Nonetheless, she wrote about going on a hajj to Mecca with her mother and Ali, her husband. Additionally, she included a half a dozen photos related to places where they visited, like the cave at Hira, which I mentioned in my essay.

The third and final backstory has to do with a student that is in one of my classes this semester. She came from Greece and wrote an essay about the Greek Orthodox Church. Instead of addressing the parallels between Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam not painting religious people in either religion, I opted for writing about Shelley’s comment, “We are all Greeks.” Shelley’s point was that we in the West think in the manner of the ancient Greeks. Shelly added, “Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts have their root in Greece.”

The next email from Sandy was in reply to my essay, Yearning for Faraway Places. She was excited about her next trip. She told me that she and Ali, her husband, are traveling to Norway to visit the Trolltunga cliff area.

Sandy will send me a photo of Ali and her waving to me like this couple.

I live life with some abandon but not like this. Traveling is the greatest educator, but this is a bit extreme….

This is the letter from Sandy.

Hey Grandpa,

I read today's article and its very interesting. I just wanted to tell you that I saw prophet Muhammad's picture the first time in my life because growing up, we believe that there wasn't any pictures and caliphates and companions after him made sure there were none. 

We only live by imagining him based on very basic details described by his companions in narration. We just know he was whitish and pinkish in complexion, had broad shoulder and chest, shoulder-length hair, not too short and not too long height... things like that. 

Saw this picture for the first time and realized that it exists. Gave me something to search on and something to ponder on if Muslims actually visualize him according to this picture. I always wondered why we have pictures and paintings or even carvings of Jesus (who lived way before Muhammad) and not Muhammad and was told that the reason, for not having the picture, according to the belief, was to ensure no one starts to worship him. 

You also mentioned cave of Hira and I wanted to share my story about cave hira. I recently went to Saudi Arabia with my mom and Ali in June (during my visit to Pakistan). We went to see Mecca and Medinah. Mecca is where the Kabaa is and its where Muhammad's life was before he migrated to Medina post revelations. Cave of Hira is in Mecca on Mount Noor. Noor means light and probably its called Mount Noor/light is because its never dark there most of the days when moon is out. We hiked up this steep rocky mountain to the top where the cave was, to experience how Muhammad climbed it up in his 40s. It was moderately difficult hike provided the weather was super sunny and around 45 degrees Celsius. 

We started climbing around 5pm and took us 1.5 hours to reach the top with small breaks. By the time we were coming down, it was dark. There were no lights or electricity or guided path on the rocky mountain so we were a bit scared but people told us that it's never dark here and its because the prophet used to pray here. But then we noticed it was the moonlight that keeps the mountain lighted. The relative position of the moon with the mountain always keeps it lighted all times during the night. Luckily, it was a full moon and the view was stunning.

Here are some pictures:

Base where we started our hike

30% done and overlooking the city

This is the peak on the mountain where you have to climb down a little on the other side to reach the cave. The group of people is waiting in a queue to get inside a very small cave and say their prayers exactly where Muhammad did. 

City view from the top. The tower you see in the background far away is called clock tower and is located inside the big Mosque that surrounds Kaaba. When I looked at it, I understood why Muhammad chose Hira. Probably because most of the people in Mecca at that time were idol worshippers and they had Kaaba as their worship place. While Muhammad believed in 1 God and wanted to use Kaaba for his prayers. If you reach cave Hira, you face Kaaba straight ahead and you are away from everyone so it was a perfect spot. 

Sunset from the top

Someone praying inside the cave

This is a great video of Trolltunga.

This is a drone video of several breathtaking places in Norway including Trolltunga.