I am not sure how to break to you a shorter experience for first timers, but I try my best in making it as comprehensive and straight to the point as I can because I think that would help first timers, as I am one of those who had very little preparation done for my Umrah trip.
Not that I wasn’t excited, just that I didn’t know what to expect and what kind of preparations I should be making for a soulful journey to God’s house on Earth. I pray five times a day and fast in the month of Ramadan, so I guess when you’re accustomed to that, you’d think that is exactly the workout you’re going to execute when you visit the Two Holy Lands. But as I mentioned before, I actually missed out the biggest part of the journey, it is a soulful journey more than it is a physical journey, hence mental preparations were my biggest challenge.
Truth be told, sometimes I feel mental preparation is a fight with my own demons as we have been living our lives as how we were taught, and cultured, hence anything more than what we were taught and what is beyond our culture, is a bit of a fight between the mind and soul. These are just my thoughts and experience, not everyone faces this challenge, or you may be challenged differently according to your needs and iman. From what I gathered and learned this time around was we really need to face our demons and challenges and little by little sort and straighten things up (align) your soul with your physical being, especially when you are planning a trip to the Two Holy Lands.
This is definitely something I underestimated. My flight to Mecca was scheduled on 20th February 2017, but as we entered January 2017, 20th February seemed very far away. Dead wrong. I think that was the first time in a very long time I was dead wrong about my timing.
Going to Mecca and Medina is not a holiday as some view/treat it. It’s a trip for the body and soul, therefore both have to be prepped. Mental preparation is basically another term for soul preparation, and the only way to prep a soul ready for a Holy trip is to start praying the Sunnah prayers; Solat Sunat Taubat especially and to constantly remind the heart of God by daily Dhikir. This wasn’t mentioned in the Umrah crash course I attended twice. The travel agent we went with suggested first timers (to the Holy Land) go through the course three times, to familiarize with the technicalities I would call it; the process and sequence. If you don’t take the technicalities seriously you might just go on a holiday where the deed for Umrah isn’t there which would be such a waste. When we go for Umrah, our goal should be for us to strive and achieve a mabrur Umrah.
So besides breezing through the crash course (which was the easiest part of the whole trip), I basically had no time to prep the soul, on top of having to complete the items to bring. Which for a first timer, I had no clue what was to essential and not. Ugh throughout my years of having arranged my own travels this was one of the clueless moments I’ve had on what to pack. I mean, have you seen my Eid packing list? Oh they’re detailed alright
So on this clueless time of mine, I basically just brought everything my mom checklisted us to bring, and the last time I followed my mom’s checklist was probably in primary school back in Leiceter, England days -.-”
Oh the work out. Brief overview of the Umrah process: niat>tawaf 7 rounds>saie 7 rounds.
I am not going to further elaborate on the process as they’re in most of the books you can buy or get with your travel agent, but an overview of the process:
We entered the Holy Land through Medina. In the month of February, Medina was cool. I wouldn’t say cold, if you compare to winter coldness, but it was cool that I actually needed a light clothing/jacket on top of my outfit.
So from the airport we headed to Qarn-Manazil, a place of Miqat to prepare for the first step of Umrah: change of clothes to Ihram and Niat.
Miqat means “a stated place”. Miqats are the areas/locations at which pilgrims wear Ihram either for Hajj or Umrah. There are five locations, namely:
This miqat is about 9 kilometers from Medina and about 450 kilometers from Mecca. Dhu’l-Hulayfah is the miqat for those who live in Medina and for those who approach Mecca from that same direction.
This miqat is about 183 kilometers to the northwest of Mecca. This is the miqat for people who come from the direction of Syria.
This miqat is a hilly place about 75 kilometers to the east of Mecca. This is the miqat for the people of Najd and for those coming from that direction.
This miqat is about 94 kilometers towards the northeast side of Mecca. This is the miqat for the people of Iran, Iraq and for those coming from that direction.
This miqat is a hilly area about 92 kilometers to the southeast of Mecca. This is the miqat for the people of Yemen and all others coming from that direction. It is the miqat used by pilgrims coming from China, Japan, India, Pakistan, and those who come by ship.
Afterwards we headed to Makkah on a six-hour bus ride journey, which we slept throughout most of the way, and we reached Makkah at around 7 am. It is important that during the trip from Madinah to Makkah, we abide by the Ihram rules and stay away from the forbidden things during Ihram (which is bad habits really). Click HERE for a specific Forbidden guides/rules in Ihram, especially for ladies.
In Makkah, places of Miqat includes :
It is 6 kilometers away from Mecca in the way to Medina.
It is 41 kilometers away from Mecca in the north-east toward Iraq.
It is 16 kilometers east of Mecca.
It is 12 kilometers away from Mecca in the way to Yemen.
It is 15 kilometers away from Mecca to the west of Jeddah route. Now, it is called Al-Shumaisi.
So I only managed to do Umrah twice during my stay in Mecca as I was trying to squeeze in much rest in between as I was in my first trimester of my pregnancy, as well as baby-sitting Maia more so that other family members wouldn’t have to sacrifice their precious time in Mecca babysitting only. I went to both, Tanaim and Al-Hudaibiyah mosque, but I only prepared for Miqat at the Al-Hudaibiyah mosque.
In comparison with both mosques, Tanaim is bigger and has a bigger souq around the mosque. I refrained myself from buying too many things at the souq as I was sceptical if they were to raise their price as they were further away from the city of Mecca, where the streets are filled with tonnes of shops. But then I find that, there is nothing wrong with buying from the vendors outside of Mecca, even though their price may be slightly higher. Just niat that it’s for Sadaqah, and may they benefit and make good use of the spare change they get.
However, for perfume and attar, I wouldn’t recommend you to buy from the vendors outside of Mecca. We were warned of cases where they gave samples of the perfume which was truly a perfume/oil, but once you purchase, they give you a box of coloured water instead of the perfume/oil. More details on shopping in Part Mecca and Medina, which would be a separate and subsequent post to this one.
During our first Umrah Wajib we brought Maia along in the process because we wanted our family of three (and a half) all together experience Kaabah for the first time. Maia also received a candy, from a servant of Allah during our Tawaf, which I had no idea when it happened.
Best time for Tawaf is right after Fajr, where surprisingly is the least crowd. After Fajr and around Dhuha time was the time my husband and I had the rezq of going into Hijr Ismail on our second last day in Makkah. Other days we were alternating between joining the prayers congregation in Masjidil Haram and taking care of Maia in the hotel room and resting for my first trimester.
Closer to Dhuhr time, the Masjidil Haram will start to fill up, but right after Dhuhr prayers are when the crowd really start to pack up.
It would be a good experience to try do Tawaf (either for Umrah or Sunah) during all the five prayer times and the Dhuha time, to experience the difference. However, should you want to bring a child on your shoulders/carry, then after Fajr til Dhuhr is the best time.
The Saii, oh by half way I felt like my feet were just kembang. Never knew I could feel that way at such a young age. I wondered what the older, like really really older elderly’s physical conditions during the Umrah if even I felt that way. But SaiI I think is the biggest workout ever. Compared to Tawaf, which is less tiring as we make lots of dua’s while completing the the rounds, hence, our time is filled with all sorts of thing to ask for from Allah during the process, which in return makes it more bearable.
When we reach the top of the hills of Safa and Marwah (which is now three levels, so you can’t actually see the hill), the Mutawif will turn to a certain direction and read a duaa, which I found odd what we were turning to (told ya I was SO clueless!). for some weird reason, I actually thought we were facing the Zam Zam Well and making prayers or reflecting on the story of Hagar and Ishmael.
Dead wrong. We actually turned to face the Kiblah (duh) and make any form of duaa, asking forgiveness from Allah, making Dhikr to Allah and his Messenger as well as pray the Quran in between. Click HERE for basic guidelines for Sai. Click HERE for list of Sai duaa.
Our first Umrah (Umrah Wajib) my husband carried Maia, and boy was he was sweating and by the end shaking from head to toe because it was so energy draining. I think for us it became too tiresome because we wanted to end it as soon as we could (seven laps between the mountains non-stop equalled to 1-1.5 hours OK), compared to other nationals, where they really were taking their own sweet time and resting in between the laps. I guess at the end of the day it depends on your preference, hence you should really try to be fit before you plan your trip to the Holy Lands.
OH, last but not least, on the third level of Saii, they provide a scooter/buggy for elders or the needy who might find it difficult or challenging to complete their Saii on foot. I would totally have tried this one out, just for the sake of experiencing Saii in a different way, but due to poor budgeting and financial constraints, had to skip the experience out and went on foot all throughout.
Yes, if I hadn’t emphasized enough, proper and enough budget planning and funds is really crucial when you make a trip to the Holy Lands. There is nothing wrong too with coming here and not wanting to spend on what is deemed unnecessary to you, but you have to manage your expectations of what you can or cannot live without whilst you’re here.
The advice I got for this was probably like most first timers, the erm most inaccurate.
According to our travel agent, Saudi Riyal (SR) 300-400 per person is more than enough and it should cover a little bit of shopping and extra food/snackings as the main meals are already included in the package.
Dead inaccurate. So many things I think were missed out that I wish I had extra money for. I’ll just cut the story short and categorize the spending allocations:
Hope this helps you! More posts coming after! 🙂 Share with me your experience and let me know if I’ve missed anything out!