Madinah calling: Exploring the Prophet’s city

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Updated 24 June 2015
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Madinah calling: Exploring the Prophet’s city

The holy city of Madinah Al-Munawwarah has its very special place in history. It is where the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) migrated to and was welcomed with open arms by the inhabitants of the city. Hundreds of years after the prophet’s migration the city is still as welcoming to everyone as it has ever been. Families that are originally from the beautiful city tell of family gatherings, neighborhood festivities, visits to historic sites and so much more.
Madinah has been a keen interest for many khalifats during the numerous Islamic dynasties in the past, taking care of the city has always been a priority. It has always been an important city in Islam, the second holiest city after Makkah Al-Mukarramah, and for centuries the city has expanded around Masjid Al-Nabawi and protected by four beautifully constructed historical gates. The city loved the Prophet (pbuh) and which he in turn loved, the care of the city was always a priority for the caliphates, the Saudi government and the residents of the city for years.
Photography is one of the best methods of capturing the essence of a location, and what best way to preserve a city’s history than through a lens. Moath Al-Ofi is a photographer, born and raised in the holy city and for years he’s been searching for the old city of Madinah and discovering its true essence one picture at a time. “I’ve been away from my city due to my studies abroad for about eight years and was very surprised with the amount of change the city has gone through in the time I was away. It was like it was a new place with a new life, areas outside Madinah where we used to spend weekends became new neighborhoods connected to the city and the old were transformed into new. The expansion is all around the city and because of this, I had come up with the idea of searching for the city in early 2013 and have since rediscovered some of the hidden gems of this beautiful city.”
Every historic city has its hidden treasures buried among the concrete jungle of the 21st century and Madinah is no exception. The city is going through a major overhaul to accommodate the vast amounts of pilgrims and visitors, from foreigners to locals, that flock the city all year around, so it’s easy to get lost in its wonder. The city’s grand history speaks for itself and for years people have been flocking into the city, some pass by and some settle due to its beauty and profound importance. Some might wonder why someone would go and dig into the past, why wouldn’t they cover the marvels of everyday life? The answer is simple, what makes a place special is its humble beginnings.
“Old is gold, I personally am very connected with the old Madinah along with its notable neighborhoods and alleyways. I believe that the city will truly prosper and become great but I tend to stay close to the old. I feel like it’s a race against time, I’m always searching and documenting what I find in order to preserve it the way it is. It’s a wonder how things change so fast but then that’s natural evolution for the better. People don’t really know Madinah the way residents see it and that’s where I try to come in. I’m documenting what I find and post it on social media to educate others, to show the essence of Madinah and give them a glimpse of its true inhabitants.”
Moath’s photos are not centered solely around Masjid Al-Nabawi, he goes deep into the city’s old neighborhoods, historic mosques, locations of great battles, abandoned castles, souqs and he frequently visits and documents the surrounding mountains of the city and features tidbits of the significance of a certain mountain. He also ventures outside of the city walls and villages, valleys and craters spread about Madinah’s province.
“I’m rediscovering relatively unknown areas, I was fortunate enough to get a hold of many books and guides that lead me to these places. Many places still hold old ruins such as the Khaibar castle, it’s about 70 km away from the location where the battle took place but you’d be surprised to see so many palm trees in an area where there’s a lot of dormant volcanoes. There was the Asfan Castle near the Hijra Highway for example and many resting oases where the pilgrims used to stop as they head toward Makkah that are still standing and so much more. I’m in awe of these places and I strive to revive them through my pictures. Many of my followers are surprised by them and didn’t even know they existed.”
Moath has been able to document areas little known to people, the only knowledge of these areas might be through historians or their inhabitants. He has visited areas so rare and that hold so much history that it’s a wonder how they’re still standing. Rwawah Beck, some 40 km from Madinah, is a spot that was visited frequently by pilgrims headed to Makkah to perform the annual Haj and that goes back to as early as the rule of Khulafa’a Al-Rashidun. He’s photographed Mount Tathru, White Mountain, volcanic craters such as Al-Wahbah crater, seaside towns such Al-Shaba’n and much more.
“I’m very keen on photographing everything I feel is worth documenting, there will come a time when the next generation might not see what I see, I take pictures at every opportunity I get to educate those who will not be able to share my experiences and the things I see. It’s a form of preservation that would allow the viewer to transport to a time when the picture was taken and through that go back into some other time, it’s a cycle and your imagination can just play its roll.”
The number of historic mosques in Madinah surpass that of any other city in the Kingdom. Moath’s pictures portray the connection of the visitors with the Creator, the humbleness and pure devotion as they pray or simply sit and reflect on the fine creations of the Creator. Some of the mosques are squeezed between alleyways and some are well known such as Thu Al-Qiblatain Mosque, Sultan Abdul Hameed the Second Mosque or aka Al-Anbariyah, Masjid Quba, Mohammed Adeh Mosque, Masjid Al-Fat’h and many more that hold historic significance and were built in different centuries.
Even though Moath has spent all his life in the city, he’s still finding new places as he goes and tours the city. “I feel like the Madinah that I want to see is the old Madinah. I’m still discovering things as I go along the city. There was one place I wish I was able to photograph — the old courtyards of Madinah. They’re a group of houses surrounded by a wall and one gate which closes during the night. The significance of these courtyards is that they were built and designed in old Islamic architecture. It’s been said that the city held over 70 of these courtyards at a time but they have since been removed. It would’ve been a beautiful sight to see.”
Moath’s quest for his search of Madinah is still on-going and he is working on different photography series. Be sure to follow up on more from Moath through his Instagram account “Moaz84” and his snapchat holding the same name as he continues his quest in search for Madinah Al-Munawwarah.

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UK’s Duchess of Sussex Meghan is pregnant, Kensington Palace says

Updated 15 October 2018
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UK’s Duchess of Sussex Meghan is pregnant, Kensington Palace says

  • The couple married in May this year in a wedding that was televised around the world
  • The news comes as the two embark on a two week tour of Australia

CANBERRA, Australia: Prince Harry and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, are expecting their first child in the spring, Kensington Palace said Monday.
The announcement came hours after Harry and the former Meghan Markle arrived in Sydney at the start of a 16-day visit to Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand. Hundreds of people gathered to catch a glimpse of the couple after they landed.
“Their royal highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public,” the palace said in a statement.
After their arrival in Sydney, the prince and the former American actress held hands and walked out an airport rear entrance and into a car. Meghan, wearing skinny black pants and a black, burgundy trimmed coat, was smiling and clutching folders, while Harry gave a thumbs up to bystanders.
The announcement of the pregnancy confirms weeks of speculation from royal watchers about why Meghan was not joining Harry on his Sydney Harbor Bridge climb set for Friday.
Harry and Meghan — along with Prince William and his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge — have stepped to the fore in the last year as Queen Elizabeth II, 92, slightly reduces her public schedule.
Monday’s announcement is welcome news in Britain, where Meghan has won many hearts since her engagement to Harry was announced last December.
British Prime Minister Theresa May offered her “warmest congratulations” on the news, which provided a bit of relief from concerns about the stalled Brexit negotiations. “Wishing them all the best,” May tweeted.
The royal couple started dating in July 2016 after they were introduced by friends, and Harry courted Meghan on a trip to Africa shortly afterward. They kept their relationship secret for several months but word eventually leaked to the British press.
They were married in May in a spectacular ceremony on the grounds of Windsor Castle that drew tens of thousands of people to Windsor and was watched by a global TV audience.
Harry has become immensely popular in Britain, in part because of his military service and tireless work on behalf of wounded soldiers, and he has spoken often in recent years of his desire to settle down and start a family.
Meghan, with her American roots and successful acting career, has been seen as a modernizing influence on the sometimes stodgy royal family, and she is credited by many for bringing happiness to Harry, who has long struggled to cope with the early death of his mother, Princess Diana.
Harry has broken new ground by talking openly about his mental health issues related to the death of his mother when he was only 12, and that candidness, which is part of a royal campaign to raise awareness about mental illness and end the stigma surrounding it, has brought the royals increased public backing.
The royal couple’s trip Down Under is their only international tour since they were married, apart from a two-day visit to Ireland.
Days after watching Harry’s cousin Princess Eugenie tie the knot in a lavish ceremony in Windsor, the couple touched down in Sydney on an overcast morning after a regular Qantas Airways flight from London with a brief stopover in Singapore.
Sydney’s weather is expected to be drizzly and cool on Tuesday, with showers forecast for most of the week.
It won’t be the first time Harry has had to brave the rain in Sydney. Last year, he made a whirlwind visit to cast his eye over the Invictus Games preparations, where he charmed his fans during torrential rain.
The couple’s current tour coincides with the games, which start in Sydney on Saturday. The sporting event, founded by Harry in 2014, gives sick and injured military personnel and veterans the opportunity to compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball.
Harry and Meghan will attend the games’ opening and closing ceremonies. In all, they have 76 engagements scheduled over 16 days in Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.
In Australia, they will pet a koala in a Sydney zoo, visit the drought-stricken Outback town of Dubbo and meet indigenous leaders on Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island, in northeastern Queensland state.
The royal couple were driven from the airport to Admiralty House, the official Sydney residence of Governor General Peter Cosgrove, who represents Australia’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, Harry’s grandmother. The couple had no official functions on Monday following the 17,140-kilometer (10,650-mile) flight that Qantas says takes 22 hours and 20 minutes.
Hundreds of well-wishers gathered with umbrellas outside the airport and Admiralty House in the hope of catching a glimpse of Harry and Meghan. The crowd cheered as the waving couple was driven through the gates of the harbor-side mansion.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who plans to climb with Harry to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, told Parliament on Monday that he commended the prince for coming to Sydney for the Invictus Games and welcomed the couple.
“I want to ... commend Prince Harry for his tremendous initiative in lifting the spirits of every single service man and woman all around the globe,” Morrison said.
After the announcement that Harry and Meghan are expecting a baby, Morrison tweeted: “What fantastic news! Australia is thrilled for you both. Looking forward to sharing in the joy during your stay down under.”
President Donald Trump’s representative in Britain, US Ambassador Woody Johnson, tweeted: “Happy news to wake up to on a Monday morning — congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex!!“
The royal couple’s visit comes six months after Harry’s father, Prince Charles, made his 16th official visit to Australia, primarily to open the 21st Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast city in Queensland.