Same Time, Different Year

How fast time flies. It’s now August 2008. Seems to me that August 2007 was only one week ago.

Last year in August 2007 I went to do Umrah (small pilgrimage) in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, with my dear mother. That was my second Umrah trip after the first one in April 2005. I first step foot on the holy land in Feb-Apr 2000 when I did the Haj (big pilgrimage) with my wife.

For the 2007 Umrah, I brought along with me my Lowrance iFinder H2Oc GPS receiver so that I could mark interesting waypoints and tracks during the eleven-day trip.

I did not expect it nor did I plan for it, but on each sector of the Boeing 747 flights, I was assigned a window seat. This enabled me to hang my GPS receiver on the aircraft’s passenger window, and let it plot the aircraft’s flight throughout the journey.

Lowrance H2Oc mapping GPS, showing the aircraft just inside Saudi Arabia border

Lowrance H2Oc mapping GPS, showing the aircraft just inside Saudi Arabia border

This is the mapping GPS receiver.

In this image the current position is graphically indicated in the display, against a built-in world map. This is one of the page views that the GPS can display.

For the journey, I set the map orientation as “top shows map north”.

The advantage of this orientation as a passenger was that I could picture the actual progress of the flight.

When I took this picture, the flight had just left Oman’s airpace and had entered Saudi Arabia’s.

GPS readings, showing current latitude (N or S), longitude (E or W), speed (km/h), track and altitude (m)

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This is another page view of the GPS display.

Here numerical details of the position were displayed:

Latitude – the North-South position on the globe.

Longitude – the East-West position.

Speed – how fast the vehicle that the GPS is in, is moving. I set the unit in km per hour. The aircrart was cruising at nearly 1,000 km per hour !

Track – the direction that the vehicle is moving to. In degree.

Altitude – how high above sea level the GPS is at. The aircraft was nearly 12 km up in the air !

Here are some of my trip’s GPS tracks overlaid on Google Earth maps.

GPS flight tracks KUL-JED and JED-MED-KUL

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On the outgoing journey from Kuala Lumpur’s KLIA to Jeddah, we flew over the Straits of Malacca into the Bay of Bengal, across India into the Arabian Sea, across Oman south of Muscat before entering into Saudi Arabia.

On the return journey from Jeddah to KLIA, the flight made a short transit stop in Madinah, before crossing the Arabian Peninsula into Arabian Sea, then flying over south of India, across Sri Lanka and Indonesia’s Sumatera.

More details of GPS flight tracks over the Arabian Peninsula

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Here on the second image can be seen more details of the outgoing and return journey over the Arabian Peninsula. Interestingly, the flight tracks crossed each other nearly in the middle of the Saudi Arabian deserts.

After landing and dispensing with the usual airport formalities in Jeddah, we were taken to Madinah on a chartered bus. After two days in Madinah, we were taken to Makkah on another chartered bus.

Even more details

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Apart from doing umrah and solat (prayer) in Makkah’s Masjidil Haram, Islamic world’s holiest place, we were also taken on a rarely allowed trip to Taif, the city which Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. (peace be upon him) went to do dakwah but was turned down and stoned by its people, until blood flowed down his ankles.

But he persevered and declined angel Jibrail’s offer to uproot and turn Taif’s hills on top of the city’s residents. Instead he told Jibrail that even though the city’s residents refused to listen to his dakwah, he hoped that their offspring would accept Islam and would proclaim the religion of truth.

By the grace of Allah, the city was saved from destruction. And true enough, several years later after the Hijrah, the city’s residents embraced Islam. In the above image we can see the relative locations of Taif, Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah.

On the above image we can also see the place called Qarnul Manazil, which is one of the “miqat”, boundaries of the holy land, where Muslims intending to perform Haj or Umrah are required to don the “ihram”, which for men are two pieces of cloth with no closed sews, and make the “niat” .

Desert traveller from Kuwait, at Qarnul Manazil Mosque

Desert traveller from Kuwait, at Qarnul Manazil Mosque, Saudia Arabia

At Qarnul Manazil mosque I came across many vehicles at the parking lot. One especially caught my attention, because from a distance it looked like a two-tone SUV.

Upon closer view I realised that the lighter tone on the Ford Excursion was actually desert dust, which had covered and stuck to half of the front of the vehicle.

From the registration number, the SUV apparently had crossed the desert all the way from Kuwait, about 1,500 km away…

Racetrack above the Straits of Malacca

GPS flight tracks over the Straits of Malacca, showing a racetrack-shaped holding pattern

There must have been heavy airport traffic at KLIA when the aircraft was approaching the Malaysia Peninsula, because about 67 km North-West of the airport, the aircraft did a racetrack holding pattern in the Straits of Malacca off Pulau Ketam, Klang. From the GPS track I measured the loop as 28km by 17 km.

The aircraft then got out of the loop and took a  059 degree bearing to north-west of Meru before making a turn to approach KLIA on 145 degree bearing to runway 14R of the premier Malaysian airport.

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