Wednesday, September 30, 2009

10th year anniversary: Suede gig

I suddenly got the urge to write about my Suede gig (which was also my first ever gig)

1. Then looking at the date, I realized it happened 10 years ago! Hence, the post name

2. As it happened a decade ago, I can't really remember much. So I tried to google "Suede gig setlist" Guess what I found?
(I assume it was posted by my gig mate)

Wow, my vocab was really good back then. What happened to me? Anyway, I am so glad I wrote it and shared it with my gig mate. Because I don't remember anymore where I saved it. Heck, I don't even remember writing it :-p

OK anyway, here it is posted:

A review contributed by my fellow Suedehead.. Nurul Aida.. flashback to the year 1999..

30 September 1999, 8.30 p.m.
World Trade Centre- Harbour Pavilion
By Nurul Aida Mohd. Agil

Setlist (in order)

Can't Get Enough
Metal Mickey
Everything Will Flow
The Wild Ones
Beautiful Ones
Elephant Man
He's Gone
New Generation
Animal Nitrate
Electricity (Happy Birthday to Richard)
She's In Fashion


Savoir Faire
Saturday Night

I went with Ric ( Me & Ric are from Malaysia, just across the causeway, for those not in the know) & his friend Niven. The friend is just a casual fan & he bought the ticket that very same evening, just 2 hours before the gig. Unfortunately, this means the tickets weren't sold out. At least the standing room did. We arrived at WTC Harbour Pavilion very late- almost 7.30 p.m. Another good friend, Shahirah (who bought the tickets for me & Ric, how nice of her ) was already queueing up with other fellow Suedeheads (they're all members of Singaporean Suede Fan Club). They were wearing black tight t-shirts written with gold dust, the words to Suede's lyrics & they exactly resembles Brett's writing.

They did those on their own & I was deceived to think that those were SIS merchandise. How clever ! When we finally got through the doors, there were so many people already. I managed to sneak my camera in and Shahirah sneaked in her walkman to record the whole gig. (But the output was disappointing- we could only hear noise). We couldn't get to the front row, which was very disappointing for me 'cos I'm vertically challenged. Heh. We waited quite long , approximately 45 minutes for those stylemeisters to come out. They teased us with blast after blast of Sex Pistols' songs. The crowd was becoming very restless

When the lights finally went off, everybody just screamed and went mad. I couldn't hear a thing except for the piercing screams. The opening song was Can't Get Enough. Everybody just jumped (Oh yes Ric, including me !) and we could really feel the hall shaking like it was going to fall off into the sea or something. Man, if you don't have enough stamina, you might not survive this ! A few girls had to surrender because it was very stuffy and they couldn't breathe.

Poor them ! By this time I was really pushed, first to the left, then to the front and I ended up at the very back of the standing room, just beside the sound engineer. I climbed the railings to get a better view of the band. Why didn't I think of this earlier ? They continued with another fast number, Trash. Everyone was singing along because they were familiar with Coming Up. The next two numbers were rockin' good too- She and Metal Mickey. I was quite surprised they played Metal Mickey because we had read in the local articles that they won't be playing any materials from the two earlier albums.

I remember a new friend (he was at the front row ) telling us after the gig that he was shouting to Brett to play Killing Of A Flashboy. But they never did ! As usual, Brett always had his stunts to entertain us with. He tossed two of the press' cameras like they were rubber balls and threw them back safely to their rightful owners. He could have damaged them. Oh, he even did the same thing to a video camera ! And while singing at that ! He was very energetic and his voice was good. He didn't get off-key except for Filmstar, I think, which was hardly noticeable.

The dress code for the Suede lads that night was black, except for Mat who wore a pink shirt. Mat was really enjoying himself. I've read that nowadays, he just remained at the back compared to the earlier years , when he shaked his bits to the hits. Well, certainly that wasn't the case that night, he was really swinging his bass. Mat changed his bass guitar for a few songs, if I'm not mistaken, using his green Fender jazz and the yellow Fender precision. Richard looked fit and his face wasn't really that round. Sorry Oakesy fans. Just kidding there. He was really good too , and he changed a few guitar bits to experiment and break the monotony. He also changed his guitar, but mainly, he used his Gibson guitar.It was also Richard's birthday due in 2 days and Brett got us to sing him a Happy Birthday after Electricity. But we didn't sing Brett a Happy Birthday because, well, he didn't ask us to. He was also not really happy when fans wished him during the autograph session , the previous night.

Simon was as enthusiastic as ever. Even though he didn't shake his hips or anything ( how can he when he's using both his hands and legs ?!), he was all smiles. His drum beats were thundering and I think the rhythm section was excellent that night. (ahem, thundering might be a little bit exaggerated, but you just have to acknowledge this man's talent). He threw his drum sticks at the end of the gig and a friend of Shahirah's got them. Neil, well, Neil was right at the front. I could see him the most clearly and he looked very tired. He was sitting all through the gig with a big fan by his side. Oh, Simon got one by his side too.He was staring into space as usual but occasionally, he flashed a few smiles. He wasn't giving attention to the crowd nearer to him, but to the sitting section, but of course, no one was sitting ! After 4 fast numbers, they played the ballads, namely Everything Will Flow, Down (which is my favourite from Head Music), and The Wild Ones. The crowd was waving the light sticks. Romantic or what ? However, I noticed that not everyone sang along to The Wild Ones, maybe because it was an older track. Sweepingly beautiful.

The crowd went wild once again after hearing the familiar guitar attack intro of Beautiful Ones. It was massive ! I think at this point, I lost my voice. 'Nuff said. Everyone jumped again and according to Shahirah, someone even stage dived! The lalala singalong bit was great fun ! As if that wasn't enough of adrenaline rush, we were treated to Elephant Man and Filmstar. No, they didn't swap instruments. We calmed down a bit as they mesmerised us with the sad He's Gone. We didn't want Suede to be gone just yet. What a relief for us to hear New Generation. Another DMS material, yeah ! Then it was Animal Nitrate and again, I enjoyed myself a lot with this. Especially for the part that goes " You're over 21!" , I signalled the numbers two and one. Rocking to the not-loony tune of Electricity it was after that. It's refreshing to hear the stripped down to basics live version.

After that, we treated the birthday boy- with "electric cakes" coincidentally, after the song Electricity. (Cakes is a nickname given to Oakes by the band). The tune of the very popular She's In Fashion was the closing of tonight's gig. Everybody was in a big karaoke session and it looked like the band enjoyed this so much that they stretched it a wee bit. In split seconds, the band was gone. We could only see smoke around the stage. So we couldn't see who left first or last. All of us chanted Encore! Encore ! and demanded for more. We just can't get enough, can we ? Well, they did come back.

They played Savoir Faire. For most of the songs tonight, Brett stuck to the original lyrics. But not this one. The part which goes "harmony and ecstasy, yeah yeah yeah" and "painted toes and soft, soft soles yeah yeah yeah" were changed to "party girls" or something like that. I can't remember, sorry. And we all know that Asians got the sanitisied version of Savoir Faire on Head Music, right ? Ahem, that night Brett crooned f***ing machine (in Singapore, yeah). Next came Lazy.

Another singalong . The last song came in the shape of the romantic Saturday Night. Again, the crowd waved light sticks and their hands , synchronised to the tune. This time, the band disappeared and did not return. That is, after fans stayed on a few more minutes to make sure the lads weren't re-appearing We still can't get enough though. All of us just rushed out to buy drinks. We were so thirsty and tired like we'd run for a marathon.

Everone just sat on the floor and I was eyeing for my friends.We were separated from the very start. We didn't get to go to the aftershow party as we didn't have passes. Anyway, for the record, they stayed at a hotel in Sentosa Island. Meanwhile, at the Suede stall , the tour books were sold out and the t-shirts (with the Head Music cover art) were selling like hot cakes.

The autograph session The previous night (29 September 1999) the FC members had the chance to meet Suede at an autograph signing session at Tower Records. They even bought a special cake for them. Unfortunately though, fans were required to buy the CDs (Head Music) to get a pass. I'm sure most of them had to fork out extra money because they probably would have bought Head Music right after it was released. And even more unfortunate for me, because I didn't get to go as I'm still stuck in Malaysia. The fans got to rub shoulders with Suede (well, not exactly ) & of course, they took pictures. This is what I got from Shahirah.

You see, the fanclub members brought their black t-shirts (the same one they were wearing for the gig ). However, the organisers supplied the fans with black marker pens. So, Shahirah brought with her a silver ink pen, so they could ask Suede to sign their t-shirts. When it was Shahirah's turn, she got to chat first with Mat, then Brett and Simon . While chatting, she gave Mat the silver pen to sign her t-shirt . Then she took pictures with Mat, Brett, Simon and Neil, I think. As she was approaching her favourite member Richard, the officials told her it was the next person's turn. They only allow one autograph or rather a signature of each member to a fan. Poor her, she had to go and she didn't even get to speak with Richard ! And her silver pen is still with Mat, or somewhere. Other fans had to get their t-shirts signed on the ' Suede' logo which is yellow in colour as they had no choice but to use the black marker pens


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Everyday is like Sunday

Was stoked that Bfm 89.9 played The Smith's Everyday Is Like Sunday and Placebo's cover of Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill

Note: The Smiths are no more, but lead singer, Morrissey is still performing as a solo artiste


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gigography : Kasabian

MTV World Stage, Sunway Lagoon, 15 Aug 2009

More than a month ago yeah, but I didn't want to post this earlier.

So the story went something like this:
I was lucky to get a pass from fellow Muse boardie, Faz's fren - Zuha. I was already telling the other fellow boardies, Liz & Deb to have fun at World Stage. Then just 1 day before the show, Faz texted me saying her friend had an extra pass! (Red Pass). You cannot buy tickets, you have to win the passes by entering competitions.

So what's this World Stage thingy? Organized by MTV, it's the first time they have it in SEA. Read more here. The line up?
Boys Like Girls
Pixie Lott
All American Rejects

I was there to catch Kasabian actually. Read more about Kasabian here

They didn't announce the line up schedule, but I was hoping Kasabian would be the headliner. You can guess this from the promo posters ;-)

Before going on with the gig, here's a link to the press conference prior to the show.

And here's Kasabian press conference
Oh, drummer (Ian) & bassist (Chris) already arrived the week before, Tom & Serge were stuck in Australia (quarantined for suspected H1N1)

Also, The Star's 5 minute interview with Kasabian here

An interesting interview with Serge here

Here's the Photo call

So back to the story. We arrived at around 6.30pm when Boys Like Girls were playing. (We missed Estranged). It was also drizzling. We then moved into the crowd after eating, then it was Raygun next.

Quote from Liz (fellow gig mate) on Raygun:
Was ridiculously poppy (imagine flowers of all colours lined up by the lake, nodding and swaying to the wind, like catching sunlight in a jar) that's what you get (actually I think that sounded more like a compliment, I don't think I intended it to be though lol). It felt more ridiculous watching that music video of Raygun, Just Because, repeatedly (during intermissions) and that lead singer (found out later that his name is - brace yourself - Ray Gun) is totally frolicking around with his car...?

Me: I actually liked Raygun's songs :-)

Next was Pixie Lott. Again, quote from Liz:
Aww, she was so cute! All dolled up in a feathery dress

Hoobastank came up next. Liz:
A big boo boo to the sound system though, just when Doug was about to launch into the whole male/female crowd cheering part. When the mic wasn't working, I half expected them to stop immediately and start the song again since it's for recording purposes...but nope, they just carried on and pretended it didn't even happen. That should be the way!

How adorable was that cover of GHOSTBUSTERS!?
Doug calling us ridiculous for screaming out loudly to that song, which he apologized and took back his words.
So much energy though these guys. Crawlin' in the Dark was actually a lot more fun for me than The Reason haha. I guess it's because the girls next to me were SCREAMING so loudly to The Reason. I had to strain my ears very hard to listen to Doug's vocals in this number coz the crowd literally became one with his vocals. It was interesting to observe

Then came All American Rejects (AAR) - they were the main attraction for the majority of the crowd.
Deb on AAR:
I'm happy I finally got to see All American Rejects. Had a fun fun fun suuuper fun time singing along to all their songs haha!
The songs AAR played were
1. Dirty Little Secret
2. I Wanna
3. Swing Swing (super old skool. didnt think they'd play this )
4. The Wind Blows
5. Real World
6. It Ends Tonight
7. Gives You Hell

I'm surprised they didnt play Move Along! Tyson's voice was really squeeky in real life, and he was acting a bit crazy. like he was high or something. All adds up to the energy i guess. couldnt really listen to them because the people around me (myself included) were singing word for word to their songs!

And finally...the band I was there for!

Once AAR was done, thousands of people left, gotta thank them becos I was able to get into the mosh pit for Kasabian :D The bouncers opened the barricade of the Red Zone at the left side of the stage, then asked us (myself, Zuha & sis) to go to the Mosh Pit, it was ridiculous that people were sitting in the pit when Kasabian were on!

I was appalled when the crowd started leaving after AAR's set. I gave them all WTF looks lol. Do they not know they're in the running to win that Mercury Prize? But ... I owe them thank yous because we managed to get up front for Kasabian's gig too! Though only in the Red Zone area (and so was Deb)

Tom Meighan (Kasabian singer) looked sooooo different with his short hair! Could hardly recognize him to be honest. I had to ask my friend whether it was him or not lol. Before going for MTV World Stage, I had no idea what songs Kasabian sang, and now after going for the gig, oh man, they are soooo good! Practically every song was mosh-able and jump-able, though i didnt do anything as i was already damn exhausted by then, so i just head bopped. Quality live performance from Kasabian, especially if you compared them with the rest of the bands. They all fail in comparison IMHO.

Tom Meighan, omg, he's just so smooth isnt he? So comfortable on stage, its ridiculous. They make it look so effortless, and that they're just there to entertain with their music, not with their stage antics. I love that. Puts them so much higher on the so-called MTV World Stage "hierarchy".

Yeaaahh I noticed the short hair too! He...kinda reminded me of Rick Astley for one tiny moment, but then after he started singing... well I wouldn't call it singing actually he literally blew the crowd away! haha :S Phrase of the night is definitely, "I'm still alive!!!" in regards to his recent H1N1 quarantine!

Yeah, he does look like Rick Astley with hair slicked back & shades. But the neatness was gone by the middle of the set (by "Fire" actually), shirt already tucked out. (Unrelated trivia: He wore blue suede shoes)

Anyway, I thought the sound system was too loud, so it drowned down many of the electronica elements on Kasabian's set. But apart from that, I have no other complaints. The backdrop was brilliant though!

Liz thought the sound system was good though.
Here's her take:

Get Loose, Get loose! Kasabian is next! Imagine a hierarchy from the ancient [sunway] pyramid times. Kasabian sit at the TOP of that. Kasabian’s set was pure quality and trumped each and every other act for that night. They hardly broke a sweat too; these guys were smooth and looked super comfortable on stage. Tom effortlessly belted out “Vlad the Imapler” despite just being quarantined in Australia for H1N1.

The next few moments went pass in a blur almost in a trance (lol!), all I could remember was having a GREAT time despite how exhausted I was. The crowd showed no sign of slowing down though, despite the throng of AAR fans leaving before Kasabian went on stage. I cannot fathom how anyone could leave knowing Kasabian would be up next.

The lighting was amazing, backed up by the spot-on flashing images as a back drop, all I can do is laud MTV’s effort for a stunning stage set up along with crystal clear acoustics. The partial audio bootleg that I recorded turned out reasonably ok which goes to show the awesome sound quality from the show before being filtered through my recorder.

“Fire” dangerously licked and teased the crowd through a journey all the way to the climax of the song, before burning us all to the ground, literally. Tom was spot on that night, and he did not show a single sign of slowing down, even after performing 8 songs.

End it must, however, and so with a man-made volcano eruption blazing up the night, MTV World Stage Live in Malaysia came to an end. While the show and stage is still miles away from the standards of Pinkpop, this is certainly a step forward for the Malaysian music scene. Here’s hoping we managed to send the message across the world to other musicians, that Malaysia should not be lightly looked at (read: ignored)

For other reviews:
See here for The Star's review
Here for JunkOnline review
Here for The Sun review

Vlad The Impaler (Live video)
Underdog (Live video)
Empire -live audio .Live video
Where Did All the Love Go? Live video
Shoot the Runner (Live video)
Fire (My fave) -live audio. Live video
Club Foot -live audio. Live video
LSF (Lost Souls Forever) with long na-na-na chorus. Live video Also video here

Short set, only 8 songs, about 40 minutes.

All live bootlegs courtesy of Liz :D
All live videos are from MTV Asia site. To view all the videos, go here
Scroll to the right under "Live Performances"

After re-watching the live videos, I simply loved the starting of "Empire" and the guitar duel between Serge & Jay on "Empire" Also, the intense drumming of Ian, especially with the use of the giant gong on "Fire"

Arghh... cringe on the fact that Tom had to persuade the crowd to sing to the lalala tune on "LSF". Can't blame the crowd now can we, since there's no airplay for Kasabian on the local radio. (I like it that way actually, so that they won't become overly commercial)

So here are the pix: (Thanks to my Lumix!)

Err..accidentally caught Tom stretching? hehe

L-R: sessionist, Serge, Tom

Tom looking like Rick Astley. Now that someone mentioned it, he kinda looked like Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Beware of the road bully

We were on our way back (5km to Ayer Keroh, Plus highway) when a Naza MPV flashed us from behind to overtake.

Partly, it was my dad's fault for not giving way (despite me & mom's protests to just let the nincompoop pass)

That totally enraged the bugger so he pursued us really close from the left lane.

I totally lost it too, knocked some sense into my dad (sorry dad, it was for our own good!). So dad let the bugger pass.

But the bugger wouldn't let it go. He changed back to our lane, right in front of us and slowed down. Really slow, almost to a halt.

Bugger gave a signal, showed his finger, asking us to stop at the emergency lane.

Of course we're having none of this, so we overtook the bugger. Bugger pursued us again, from the left lane, window rolled down, shouted some obscenities & showed his finger to us.

I saw his face. Bulky, dark, Malay, bald, with steel bracelet, bouncer-like.

Panic-stricken, I called 999 (for the first time ever in my life). The operator passed me to the Ayer Keroh police. I told the cop that we were being pursued by a road bully & the plate no. was PGE 969, a Naza Ria MPV.

Cop put me off the line after that, without any further instructions. Then nothing happened. I guess the bugger saw me on the phone, so he decided to take flight.

Didn't see the bugger again after that. We didn't dare to stop at any of the R&R so we just kept on moving.

So all you out there, if u see someone really fast, flashing behind you, just let the bugger overtake. Don't be an egoistical maniac to want to race with the bugger. It's totally not worth it.

Be careful if you see this road bully bugger maniac moron nincompoop mangkuk tingkat lagi berayun also: PGE 969 Naza Ria MPV


Sunday, September 20, 2009


Salam Eid.Ul.Fitr!

Got to see my aunt from Brunei ^_^
An interesting note though: Brunei celebrated Eid a day later than us (on Monday instead)
Her son would be coming here later, so she celebrated earlier than her son :-p


Friday, September 11, 2009

Fuzzy logic (of a different kind)

Today was a very sweet day, brings me a warm & fuzzy feeling mmmm ^_^
We had a photo session, all was dressed in baju kebangsaan (very sporting of the guys) it was also pleasing to the eye :-)

Had a really nice iftar at Wong Solo Kg Baru with beloved friends. Never knew Kg Baru could be so happening

And we finished the day at the crazy Jln TAR on a weekend night (really crowded), but still worth it. You should go try wrestling with the crowd sometimes, a good exercise :-)


Before you were young

Click if you must :-p


Thursday, September 10, 2009

It rains in here

At the surau, I observed a Sudan woman make her ablution. She opened the tap as minimal as possible, letting water flowing gently. She cupped the water in her hands, then closed the tap. Washed her face thrice with the minimal cupped water. She opened again the tap, cupped the water, closed the tap, this time washing her right forearm thrice with the cupped water. Again she repeated the steps until she finished her ablution.

Her spot had no splash or puddles of water.
On the other sides, water gushed freely and there were splashes everywhere.

I cringe at the thought of the amount of water wasted. I have been guilty too.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Spaghetti tetrazzini

Left on my own on the first day of Ramadhan, I was forced to cook :-p
I actually could go to PaRam, but so lazy lah
So, browsed through Jamie Oliver's recipe, and found this:

Chicken and mushroom pasta bake (spaghetti tetrazzini)

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Put your porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour over just enough boiling water to cover them (approx. 150ml/5½fl oz). Put to one side to soak for a few minutes. Heat a saucepan big enough to hold all the ingredients, and pour in a splash of olive oil. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown them gently in the oil. Strain the porcini, reserving the soaking water, and add them to the pan with the garlic and fresh mushrooms. Add the wine (no need lah Jamie!), with the strained porcini soaking water, and turn the heat down. Simmer gently until the chicken pieces are cooked through and the wine has reduced a little.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions and drain well. Add the cream to the pan of chicken, then bring to the boil and turn the heat off. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the drained spaghetti to the creamy chicken sauce and toss well. Add three-quarters of the Parmesan and all of the basil and stir well. Transfer to an ovenproof baking dish or non-stick pan, sprinkle with half the remaining cheese and bake in the oven until golden brown, bubbling and crisp. Divide between your plates, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese before serving.

• 20g/a small handful of dried porcini mushrooms (or just use normal mushrooms)
• olive oil
• 4 chicken thighs, boned, skinned and cut into bite-sized pieces
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• 350g/2 handfuls of mixed fresh mushrooms, cleaned and torn
• 200ml oz white wine (no need lah)
• 455g dried spaghetti
• 500ml double cream (can use milk)
• 200g Parmesan cheese, grated (or use normal cheese)
• a sprig of fresh basil, leaves picked

Voila! (but it turned a bit salty...never mind, first attempt)


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Secret Alphabets (working title)

My biggest haul - think they weigh half of me (back pain)
Thanks to Zu for accompanying and helping me out.
Next (herculean) task: To finish reading them up!
All are non-fiction but mostly are pictorial books, so hopefully I'd be able to finish them (cheating) :-p


Monday, September 07, 2009

Qariah cun

Check her out : Sharifah Khasif Sy Badiuzzaman
(Muda lagi, baru 27 tahun woooot! Opss sorry, ahem.. Masyaallah)
She won the recent International Tilawah held at PWTC last month
Took a pix with her during mom's graduation


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Reminiscence of the Holy Land

Since it's Ramadhan, I think I'll write about my umrah experience (it was a few months ago)

Not wanting to sound preachy, I'll relate my observations based on the book I'm reading - The Hadj, An American's Pilgrimage to Mecca, by Michael Wolfe (1993)

Excerpts from the book are in Bold Italic.

The first thing I discovered about Mecca was that I'd been spelling the name wrong. No one here said MEH-ka. They said ma-KAH. "Do you spell Manhattan men-HET-en?" one of the English-speaking Makkans asked me.
-Yes, the English word Mecca is a corruption of the name Makkah. Same like mosque, it is a French corruption of the word "masjid"

It (Makkah) was also strictly off-limits to non-believers. Another sign, at a freeway exit, read :
Some Westerners think of Makkah as forbidden to foreigners. In fact, it exists to receive them and is largely composed of them.
-True. Most of the people there are foreigners. You can find blonde,blue eyed jamaah with curly, dark skinned or yellow skinned (or whatever coloured) people all congregating in the same house (Masjidil Haram), no difference in rank or class to separate them.

-The author also excerpted Malcom X's hadj experience:
During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug)- while praying to the same God - with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blonde, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the "white" Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.

At any other mosque on earth people prepared for this moment (prayer) by forming straight lines and facing Makkah. At Makkah the prayer is circular. Any way you face, you face the shrine (kaabah)
-I find this very amusing. At any spot in Masjidil Haram, you wouldn't need to wonder where is the direction of the kiblah. And while praying, just look up ahead at the kaabah (instead of focusing your eyes on the sajadah)

I scanned the crowds to locate the imam. He stood near the Ka'ba door.
-The whole time I was there, I failed to locate the imam. Better luck next time Insyaallah ;-)

After the last salaam, we came to our feet. This time the imam faced the shrouded bodies (janazah) on the biers.
-In Makkah & Madinah, all the 5 daily prayers are followed immediately by Solat Janazah, no du'a recital after prayers.

Today, the well (Zamzam) has been relocated to a wedge-shaped ampitheater underground. Hadjis not content merely to drink dumped buckets of the liquid on their bodies, and strangers towelled off each other's back. It was like a friendly bath house.
-The Zamzam underground ampitheater was closed during my visit. Zamzam water was placed in water dispensers all over the masjid instead (was also the case in Masjid Nabawi in Madinah)

I gave the boy riyals (the author wanted to buy robes). He passed the bills to the blind man (the seller), who put them into a box and handed back a small packet of Kleenex. "He owes you a half riyal" the boy explained. "But we don't use coins here. Coins make noise in the mosque. And the ihram towels don't have pockets. It's a nuisance"
-This is still true (the author went there in 1991 or 1992). I got chewing gums for change at a supermarket in Makkah. I'm not sure whether it's only in Makkah or the whole of Saudi Arabia do not use coins. I did not have small change that needed to be in coins in Madinah, they were all in riyal notes.

-However, on the "no pockets" note, people have become creative and invented ihram belts with a zipped compartment where you can keep some money / small pair of scissors in it. Why do you need scissors? Read on :-)

From what I could see, big cars were in demand here. During the last few years cheaper Japanese compacts had nosed them out of the US markets, but guzzlers were still favoured in the Gulf. Their weight and huge engines supplied the traction drivers needed in the desert and their egregious fuel consumption bothered no one.
-Very true! After all, Saudis drive on the left hand side. And they are big producers of oil. Petrol here costs 24 cent/litre (it is also really cheap in Iran - see my earlier post )

Alarm clocks were superflous in Makkah. The five calls to prayer were piped through speakers all over the city. I read until midnight,slept a few hours and woke to the adhan about 3.30am
-The Adhan in Makkah & Madinah are called twice, the first one about 30 minutes prior to the actual call to prayer, for preparation.

The night before I had washed a few thobes (robes) and hung them to dry on the balcony. The gowns weren't wet long. The desert air had done its work in minutes.
-The air there (same for Iran - true to Middle East countries I believe) is very dry. We needed lip balms as our lips have already cracked.

Profability flowed in both directions. Hadjis poorer and far richer than myself defrayed the cost of their pilgrimage by trading. Bukharans sold fine carpets on the sidewalks. Nigerians hawked kola nuts and beads.
- I loved the sight of different people from various nations trading. They just spread out their items on a piece of cloth on the road and the trade begins. People bargained in different languages. I heard shouts of murah! murah! Very enterprising indeed.

The author chances upon a shop that had a signage read:
Experimental Establishment
For pilgrims from Non-Muslim countries
Sacrificial coupons hear (sp.)

It was a gift shop. The government-coupon dispenser sold pilgrims sacrificial sheep.
-Although I went during the non-Haj season, I did see some similar signages.

I was browsing here (at the gift shop) one morning when a dozen Tadjik pilgrims came into the store. These men were among the first post-Soviet hadjis in 70 years (remember, it was the early 90s then).
The Qur'an had been forbidden by the Soviets so long that a copy in Tashkent currently (at that time) cost a hundred dollars. Here they cost five. The Tadjiks left the shop with a dozen copies.
-This intrigued me as there are/were people from other parts of the world who are/were inaccesible to the Qur'an due to government rulings.
Btw, you can buy the Qur'ans here and donate (wakaf) them to the Masjid.

In order to put aside the ihram clothes, a pilgrim who plans to return to them for the hadj is supposed to have a desacralizing haircut. Generally, this means a token snip of 3 or 4 haircuts.
-That's the use of the scissors :-) Or you could borrow from other pilgrims. Unfortunately, a member of our group accepted the scissors offer from "someone who was waiting there, conveniently having a pair of scissors in hand", later to be charged a sum of money for the scissors. So better to bring your own.

Wow it's quite a bit of text-only post already, eyes are straining, and I haven't finished reading the book. So another post then, if more reminiscents came out from the later chapters ;-)