JAKARTA: A king, a commoner and a YouTube video. As far as fairytales go, this story also has a happy ending.
And if all goes well, Uhi, a 95-year-old man from the Batulawang village of Indonesia’s West Java province, will soon embark on his dream trip — to visit Saudi Arabia for Hajj.
He will be accompanied by his three children and two grandchildren.
While they are undergoing health checks before their departure, their new passports have been submitted to the Saudi Embassy in Jakarta, where they have met the Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia, Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi.
Uhi — who like many Indonesians uses one name — still cannot quite believe that he and his family had been invited by King Salman to go to Hajj.
“I feel so happy. I could never imagine that this would happen. Once we arrive in Makkah, I just want to pray. Thank you for inviting me to go to Hajj,” Uhi said in Sundanese, his local dialect, during an interview with Arab News in his house on Tuesday.
The invitation came after a video message of himself and his two daughters — holding the king’s photograph while pleading in Arabic their wish to go to Hajj in spite of their family’s limited funds— went viral and was reported to have reached Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Uhi’s daughter, Nana Rohana, said they recorded the video just before Ramadan in their family house, which is located in Cipanas, a mountainous resort area about 95 km from the capital and a popular holiday destination.
Uhi and his family had befriended a regular Arab visitor, known only as Ali, who suggested making the video. He gave them the king’s pictures featured in the clip.
“I was just chatting with Ali in the house. He asked me ‘do you want to go to Hajj?’ And I told him I wanted to but I didn’t have the money. He jokingly said that he’d tell his president (the king). I really thought he was joking,” said Uhi, who is believed to be a nonagenarian because according to his family, he could remember the era when Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch.
Nana said that Ali had told them he would upload the video online after Eid. The family had no idea what happened to the clip until they got a call from a stranger, telling them that Uhi had been invited to go to Hajj. They didn’t believe it and they wouldn’t let him go alone anyway because of his old age.
But the invitation finally became a reality with a call from the embassy and a meeting with the ambassador.
“I was really moved. I still wonder if this is real, it gives me goosebumps and cold hands. I’m very grateful to Allah. It was my first time ever to set foot in an embassy. I kept thanking the ambassador. Alhamdulillah, this is a gift from Allah, just because this video went viral,” said Uhi.
Nana described the invitation as their “biggest gift from Allah” and that no amount of money could ever compare with it.
“My father always wanted to go on the Hajj pilgrimage. Alhamdulillah, it is happening now. Before we leave, I praise and thank the king who made it possible,” Nana said.