Lebih senang nak pegi Amerika dari nak pergi ke Mekah?
A friend of mine after so many years decided that it is time that he went for small haj.
So he prepares the monies required, made the booking and presumes that everything is set as he and his families have all the passports required.
Until he talks to the document handler at the travel agent.
"Haji, the background of the pix must be white."
"Tapi saya masih gambar lebihan passport tahun lepas background biru," he replied.
So he had to take another set of pix and throw away the remaining passport pix that he had. A waste he reckons.
"Isteri haji ikut kan? Kena ada surat nikah!"
He had been married to her for nearly twenty years and this is the first time anyone asking for their surat nikah. Dah anak pinak dah, dah boleh nak dapat cucu pun, and they are asking for surat nikah?
This really require some digging ni. Nak korek mana pulak..
"And anak haji, kena ada surat beranak!"
"La, kan dia dah ada IC and passport sendiri," he replied.
"Maaf haji, ni requirement kerajaan Saudi. Mak mertua haji ikut sama ke? Kalau macam tu, isteri haji pun kena surat beranak!"
Ni lagi haru. Dah tua2 macam ni, manalah nak ada surat beranak lagi. Dah hancur dah dek makan anai-anai, tak pun dah hilang dok banyak sangat pindah randah.
Unlike IC or passport, we don't normally treat this document with the same respect.
"Kan passport dah ada? Tak cukup ke?"
"Haji, ni visa ziarah. Saudi strict sikit. Ni since mak mertua ikut, dia nak make sure muhrim. Surat beranak isteri ada nama mak," he explained.
He is not sure if he wants to laugh or cry.
Honestly, my friend reckoned, if Umrah is not an ibadah and he is going for leisure, he would be cursing both the agent and the Saudi government and not bother to go. He and his family had travelled the world over, and had gone through visa applications for many countries, United States included.
But since he is going for an ibadah, he tried very much to keep a straight face and silently comply with requirements without complaining, for fear that his ibadah would not be accepted.
There could not be another country with more stringent visa requirement.
What do you need to travel to another country? One can apply online, show letter of invites, show proof that you can support yourself while in the foreign country and of course that you are not in the country's list of persona non grata.
Why they are making such a holy journey to visit His Baitullahil Haram so difficult for the muslims?
I don't have the answer. I have not been there myself.
I can comment on getting a visa. Heading to Canada, they would not even bat an eye-lid when I applied for a visa in 2005, although Canada used to be visa-free for Malaysian due to our Commonwealth status. But no more for some reasons.
Getting the American visa was a bit tricky then. I had an indefinite visa from the 90s. With 911, that visa was considered expired, I guess. Applying online, one would only need to go for interview. It went well to be honest, we were even addressed by the officer informing us that we were lucky to be applying for visa at a location considered the most efficient (of all American embassy) - can't recall if he said we would know (or have it ready) within 3 days.
It was that efficient.
Unfortunately for me, I applied the week Rafik Hariri was assassinated. With another Hariri heading to the US, I guess they would have to do further check on this Hariri guy in Kuala Lumpur. They didn't say that; but they did say they have to check on me.
I got my visa within 1 week though.
I think they personally called me to inform.