The journey to Canada was quite long and some of the scenery as we drove through the Appalachian mountains was very beautiful.
After a few hours of driving, the Qafila cars pulled off the main highway and headed into a small town and entered a Pizza Hut car park. After thinking we were about to stop for lunch there the cars started moving again and drove about another half mile before stopping at another well‐known American restaurant called ‘Applebees’. This time the cars parked and we were told that we were stopping for lunch.
In my previous visits to America some relatives had recommended Applebees but I had never had the opportunity to visit and so I was pleased and also somewhat shocked that my first opportunity to eat there would be in the presence of Hazur‐Aqdas!
Hazur‐Aqdas and his family sat at one side of the restaurant, whilst the rest of us Qafila members sat on another side.
There were a lot of us and obviously giving orders would have taken a long time and so I heard someone say to the waiter that they should bring ‘fish’ for all of us. As I looked at the menu and saw some delicious dishes, I was a little disappointed as I did not feel like the fried fish that much. At first I was going to keep quiet but then instead I asked the Private Secretary as politely as I could if it would be ok if I chose my own order to which he readily agreed.
After quickly scrolling through the menu I found a rice dish with prawns that looked really appetising and so I ordered that.
After a few minutes everyone’s ‘fish dish’ started to arrive and everyone was eating. I now felt embarrassed that I had made a separate order and it was taking longer and was worried in case I delayed the Qafila due to my desire for my own order!
Just as I was beginning to get really worried, my order finally arrived. I ate extremely fast to make sure I caught up with everyone and despite the haste I really, really enjoyed the food!
After lunch it was time for Zuhr and Asr Namaz. There was a patch of grass outside the restaurant where the plan was to do Namaz and indeed we even went and laid out the prayer mats. However just as Hazur‐Aqdas was about to come and lead the prayers there was a sudden heavy rainstorm. I was outside only for a few seconds and even in that time I was soaked!
It was clear that it would not be possible to do Namaz outside and so members of the USA Jamaat went and talked to restaurant staff. After a couple minutes of light negotiations they kindly agreed that we could use the front part of the restaurant to offer our prayers and that they would switch off the music CD that was playing in the background.
And so the prayer mats were quickly laid and we assembled in rows before
Hazur led the prayers.
It was a very surreal experience, as to the right of us were some diners happily still eating their meals, whilst adjacent our beloved Khalifa was leading the prayers.
I kept thinking that whilst those people did not realise that they were in the presence of Allah’s Chosen representative, nevertheless I was sure that they would be positively influenced by the beauty and grace of the Khalifa‐tul Masih.
When the Namaz finished, I found myself thinking that even though many bigger events had taken part during the tour, this one of praying behind Hazur in Applebees was actually one of my favourite and certainly one that I would long remember.