Amina Dimacutac Damiray performed her first and only Hajj in 1997. She was 36-years-old and relatively new to the faith, having converted to Islam in 1992. Amina’s strongest memory is of the overpowering spiritual connection that enveloped her during her journey.
“I was with my husband and we were part of a group. The only memories I have are of looking up at the sky, when we were doing the Tawaf (circumambulating the Kaaba), and feeling this really powerful connection with the Creator. I wept, as did thousands of people around us. It is a feeling that I cannot describe in words and have never been able to explain,” she said.
Amina is originally from Mindoro Island in the Philippines and has lived in the UAE since 1989.
“I was working as a babysitter in the Emirate of Sharjah, and I used to watch people go to the neighborhood mosque. I was attracted by the calm around the mosque and the worshippers, and I was curious about the community spirit of going to pray together. I read a lot about Islam and even when I returned to the Philippines, I tried to learn as much as I could about the religion. In 1992, I converted to Islam, and I still remember feeling completely free and really happy on the day I converted,” she said.
“I married an Egyptian in 1995 and we had trouble conceiving. I prayed a lot and decided to perform Hajj. Less than two months after returning from Hajj I became pregnant. It was the greatest blessing I could have asked for,” she said of her decision to perform Hajj.
Amina is currently a driver at the Dar Al Ber Society, an Islamic charity and philanthropic organisation in Dubai. She undertook her Hajj in 1997, and she recalled her initial anxiety about the crowds. “When I saw so many people, I was frightened, especially because it was my first time in Makkah and I was relatively new to the faith. But then I realised very quickly that we were all there for the same reason. We were all there to surrender to the same Creator and were experiencing the same emotions. That is a very unifying feeling,” she said.
During the symbolic Stoning of the Devil ritual, Amina lost her slipper and then was briefly separated from her husband, who had gone in search of it. “It was very, very hot, but we were constantly provided with bottles of water by the authorities. The spirit of coming together amongst all the pilgrims was truly a motivation for completing the rituals despite the overwhelming heat, and all the pilgrims were encouraging each other to perform the rituals properly.”
Her fond memories are also fueled by the fact that she found her slipper.
Although Amina has already performed one Hajj and two Umrahs, she is determined to return for another Hajj. “I am much older now, but I have heard from many friends and colleagues that every year the authorities are improving the facilities. I hope I will have another opportunity to perform and experience Hajj.”