Fight It

Photo by Mokhtar Chahine

Edited by Nessreen Tamano

With Strength, Sport, and Faith.

“My Cancer Retreat” is how Mohammad Al Dakhil, 36-year-old Saudi athlete and banker, describes the period during his cancer treatment. In 2017, on a Friday morning, Mohammad woke up with excruciating pain in his lower back. At first he thought it was muscle tension, but the pain became unbearable and he went to the hospital.

After a first round of medical tests, there seemed to be nothing wrong, but the pain continuously increased for Mohammad. The doctors decided to make further tests and put him under a pain management program. After further checkups, they found a sudden inflammation in the lymph node in Mohammad’s chest, it was later identified as a rare type of cancer called Germ Cell Tumor.

Mohammad decided to pursue his treatment in Jeddah, choosing to stay close to family and friends despite the option of receiving treatment in the US where he was born and raised.

Photo by Mokhtar Chahine

Photo by Mokhtar Chahine

In the US, after graduating in 2006 from Maryland University with a degree in hospitality, he and his wife Lojain Rifai decided to pursue a healthy lifestyle, both of them getting certified as personal fitness trainers before moving back to Saudi Arabia. Working hard to make healthy choices as part of their daily routine and way of life, it was definitely a shock for the couple to receive news of Mohammad’s diagnosis.

While receiving treatment, Mohammad made it his goal to push himself and cross his mental and physical limits as part of his coping mechanism with his disease. He continued to work out and exercise, even on the days when he didn’t feel at his one hundred percent.

Doctors warned Muhammad of the effects of over-exercising, especially in his condition, but he equipped himself by getting to know his cancer and his body. “Many cancer patients don’t have enough knowledge about their cases and are scared to push themselves and their bodies to the limit,” he says. “You have a choice – work hard to overcome your challenges, or fail. I decided to work hard.”
Engaging in sports and physical activity helped Muhammad overcome his chemotherapy symptoms, and gave him strength to fight his cancer. “Faith above all doubt is important,” he says, “and my belief that my body heals itself to function better, both mentally and physically.”

Throughout this difficult time, he worked to improve his relationship with Allah and with his family and friends, to reflect on his life, to focus on what’s important, to spread positive energy, and to use healthy and active choices to battle cancer. This was his Cancer Retreat.


Explore Makkah & Madinah


By Mustafa Al Hafi
Edited by Nessreen Tamano

Ramadan season is upon us, and if you’re like the locals, you’re probably planning on visiting the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah to complete your spiritual journey. Here are some things to do while you’re there, to get the full experience.

48 Hours in Makkah

1- First and foremost, take your pick from any one of the amazing hotels that surround the Holy Mosque, all of which provide easy access to the Haram and the surrounding traditional markets. Some of them have rooms with a breathtaking view of the Holy Mosque, especially during prayer times.

MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA - MAY 02 2018: Abraj Al Bait or Clock Tower is the tallest building in Saudi Arabia. This is a hotel and shopping center near Al-Haram and Kaaba. Distance view; Shutterstock ID 1099368293; Purchase Order: -

2- Plan your 48 hours so you have ample time to perform Umrah and visit the areas around the Haram. Depending on how crowded it is, your Umrah will take an average of two to three hours. Make sure to pass by the Fairmont Makkah Clock Tower, considered to be one of the tallest buildings in the world with its 120 floors!3988676774_d422cdea8a_z

3- Hit the road early in the morning towards Jabal Al Nour (Mountain of Lights), which houses the cave where the Prophet Muhammad received the first message of Islam.

MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA - MAY 01 2018: The golden doors of the Holy Kaaba closeup, covered with Kiswah. Massive lock on the doors. Entrance to the Kaaba in Masjid al Haram; Shutterstock ID 1087638440; Purchase Order: -

4- In the afternoon, stop by the Kabba Kiswah Factory, where you can learn about the history of Kiswah and experience the process of making it. End the night with a shopping trip to some of the street shops for more souvenirs.

5- Try to head towards the local Miqat of Makkah, known as Masjid Al Taneem, before noon; this is the mosque built on the city’s boundaries – signaling where the pilgrimage starts.

6- For lunch, there are various restaurants serving different local and international cuisines in the city, but if you like, you can try the famous Al Baik fried chicken. Afterwards, head towards the Mina area, which has more than 100,000 air-conditioned tents prepared for pilgrims during the Hajj season. From Mina, you can go visit Arafat, also known as The Mountain of Mercy.

48 Hours in Madinah

1- Start with a visit to the Prophet Muhammad Mosque; if you want to be able to enjoy the prayer in the “Rawdah Sharifah,” then try to get there an hour before noon midday prayer. You might also pass by the Al Baqia Cemetery, where most of the Prophet’s Companions and wives are buried.

MEDINA, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 11, 2017 : Inside Raudah or raudoh infront prophet muhammad s.a.w mihrab. this is among the most blessed places of prayer; Shutterstock ID 678579502; Purchase Order: -

2- Another important stop during your visit is the Madinah Museum, located by the Hijaz Railway Station. The museum features 21 halls with many synthetic and visual exhibitions of Madinah, in addition to historical objects belonging to Ottoman train and some old vehicles restored by the National Authority for Tourism and National Heritage.

3- On the morning of your second day, go on a trip to Mount Uhud, located 13km outside of Madinah, where one of the famous battles in Islamic history happened. On your way back from the mountain, stop by Masjid Quba, one of the famous mosques in Madinah with its 62 domes, built by the original residents and the Companions of the Prophets who came from Makkah and settled in Madinah.

A peak of Mount Uhud in Saudi Arabia with sight of a shepard and his goats; Shutterstock ID 502209433; Purchase Order: -

4- Enjoy the famous “Zalabiah Al Madinah,” traditional fried food in Madinah, which is best to try at the Al Basha Traditional Food restaurant. Finish your first day in in the city at Al Noor Mall, one of the largest in Madinah, or, if you are looking to get souvenirs, head for the bustling street markets.

Luqaimat / Lugaimat is GCC Locals traditional dessert in the Middle East, deep fried dumplings, therefore, honey, regular syrup, or date syrup must be poured on top of the dumplings.; Shutterstock ID 1083314684; Purchase Order: -

5- Masjid Al Qiblatayn is where Prophet Muhammad received the command from Allah to change the Qiblah, where all Muslims face during prayer, from Jerusalem to Makkah. Afterwards, visit the Dar Al Madinah Museum, the first to be dedicated to Madinah’s urban heritage, telling the story of the city and Islamic civilization. It also has a large collection of antiquities and old photographs of Madinah.

Qiblatain Mosque, one of popular Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Masjid Qiblatain; Shutterstock ID 1212357253; Purchase Order: -

There is a Makkah-Madinah Train, so don’t forget to book your tickets!