The do'a recited by my brother every morning in the bus while we were in Beijing reminded me of a story shared by our Mutawwif while I went on Umrah with my mom in 2009.
In the do'a, I remember thanking for the chance of going to new places, to see the wonders of Allah's creation and to see the places where people were punished long ago as a reminder in our life. *I shiver every time*
We went to Mada'in Saleh. Mada'in Saleh means the city of Prophet Saleh, in a place called Al-Ula ( Higher Place ) because it was located 400 meter from sea level. It took about 5 hours bus ride from Madinah ( 300 km ), along magnificent hills of rocks, all deserted. It was a long journey to somewhere totally alien to us.
I remember seeing an old town almost empty, we stayed at one of the hotel at Al-Ula that looked more like lines of hostel rooms for tourists than a hotel. We visited an old abandoned small village where all the houses were made of muds, rocks and straws. All the villagers were relocated by the government to a much safer place. It was an amazing feeling, walking in an empty village, seeing rows of old houses abandoned. When I looked up, I saw dusts under the sunlight.
Mada'in Saleh was located 20 minutes from the hotel. The whole place was guarded and surrounded by wire fence. Several years back, town people in Mada'in Saleh were given land, house and farm by the government to leave the cursed city. When entering the area, we were warned not to drink or eat, and also reminded not to talk aimlessly. We were also reminded to stay in the group and asked to leave the area before Maghrib.
It was winter. There were many little purple flowers carpeted on the sandy land. I remember the sunlight, and the cold weather.
The most interesting part about Mada'in Saleh was the tomb. There were 131 tombs carved in the rock mountain. We visited those tombs, wondering how people carved these remarkable tombs on mountain full of rocks, 2000 years ago? This town was almost the same as what they have in Petra, Jordan.
Brief Story of Thamud, as remembered by what being shared from the mutawwif :
It is believed that the Thamuds lived there thousand of years ago. They were the non-believer of Allah. Prophet Saleh urged the Thamud to stop idol-worshipping but they refused. They asked for a miracle as a challenge. Prophet Saleh prayed and asked to Allah, to give a miracle for a sign; as challenged by the villagers, a big healthy pregnant camel came from one of the rock mountain. Prophet Saleh reminded the Thamud to protect and take care of the camel.
Ever since the camel was around, many people started to believe in Allah, and the Prophet Saleh's followers grew. Long story short, the town people put up with a plan and killed the camel. Allah cursed the Thamud.
On the first day, their faces turned to yellow. On the 2nd day, it changed to red and on the third day, it turned to black. Later the whole town was punished and destroyed by earthquake.
That was how the story shared by my mutawwif, it was a little bit different from what I read here. I believe there are many version, but the main storyline of the cursed city is there.
Many times in life, I remember this particular place. The story I heard while I was 9 in sekolah agama that seemed much like an afternoon storytelling that put a hold to my doubts when I grew up. Things like this, need to be experienced, and I can assure you, that it will stay in your memory.