My Hajj to Leiden

This will not be the only time you will read about Holland on my travelblog…

The three main reasons which attract me to that country again and again are:

1. The people
2. The people
3. The people

So far I only had good experiences with the Dutch people. They are open, friendly and fun…although sometimes they might seem different at first. Like when I met the Buurman who scared me to death, but that is a different story which you can read here.

This time I travelled to Holland for the wedding party of my best friend. What a lovely weekend! A beautiful couple in love, great kids and a fun party with lots of nice people, which were exactly like I described above.

Before the wedding party I had a lovely evening with my sister and family.  They are not Dutch but could not resist the  calling and have moved to Leiden two years ago.

How I can understand them! Just imagine a stroll through the beautiful town of Leiden at dusk and a  nice glass of wine in one of the many bars with live music. If you want to spend a nice moment, what else can you ask for?

And I got even more. A ride through the Dutch countryside from Hoofdoorp to Mijdrecht, an afternoon at the beach of Nordwijk and a trip to the Mecca without leaving Leiden.

Yes you read right, I did the Hajj in Leiden. The Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde in Leiden has a temporary exhibition highlighting the Hajj (pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca), until March 9th, 2014. You find out who does the Hajj, why the pilgrims do it and how it changes them. You will learn that you need a visa, that it will cost you at least EUR 4’000.– and  what rules and rituals have to be respected once a pilgrim makes it to the holy city of Mecca and to the Kaaba.

I also learned that I did well to go to the Mecca in Leiden. That day I was visiting the Mecca and discovering details about the Hajj on my own and I also learned that I could not only not go to Mecca مكة المكرمة (nor  to Madinah) as a non-muslim but also….that being a woman I would still too young to go there alone. If you are a woman below 45 you have to be accompanied by a male relative! To be too young for something is an experience I haven’t had for some time and I would not have minded to experience it once again, but I could definitely not be happy about not being able to discover something without being chaperoned by a man.

As luckily the same rules do not apply to Leiden I continued my visit of this beautiful town, which is like a little sister to Amsterdam. I absolutely love Amsterdam and I remember a Tuesday night out there that beats any weekend night in other towns. But if you want the historical houses, the cobble stone streets, the bridges, the canals, the windmills, cosy coffee places and all this without the tourist crowd…go for Leiden. Have a nice breakfast (I passed in front and stopped at the literary and art café “Vonaaf en toe”) and you will have the strength to discover among other things that Rembrandt was born in Leiden. Did you know that Rembrandt was his first name and that his complete name was Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. And take my advise and discover Leiden by bike.

Time flies. My long weekend passed too fast as usual. But I will be back soon hopefully. As long as I am still impressed with the bike parkings I haven’t yet had enough of Holland.

What are the places you keep returning to regularly? And for what reason? I would love to read your comments!