A feeling that one is swinging from the very uncomfortable to situations of great ease has been a characteristic of our experience here so far. There have been times of marked discomfort, like having to stand on a crowded bus whilst moving from Muzdalifah in the middle of the night as it made its way through the jammed traffic to arrive at the Jamarat for the stoning of the pillar, yet even within these there have been moments of relative ease and lightness - like managing to relax and snooze at Muzdalifah and enjoy the crowd and the largeness of the night. But the most trying experiences have been counter-balanced by so much that has been distinctly holiday-like, especially enjoying excellent food and drink with amiable companions. At times it's felt like moving between two separate worlds, sometimes in the space of a couple of hours, with our quarters at Shisha being a kind of gilded sanctuary.
All this involves a certain degree of guilt - especially when one cannot help but be aware of those pilgrims who are not so privileged, who are surviving on the bare minimum, literally on the streets outside. But it's important to bear in mind that the Prophet (peace be upon him) made it very clear indeed through his actions that there was nothing wrong with seeking to make life as easy as was reasonable as long as the essential truths remained in clear sight. It's strange how easily we forget the idea of Islam as the middle way in a world that no longer understands its own extremes.