I have just completed my Umrah Allmadullilah. I would like to thank everyone for helping me prior to my trip.
I want to share my tips/observations for the journey from a male perspective. Please correct/forgive me for my mistakes and keep me in your duaas. I urge everyone else visiting to write their own experiences as there are less contributions on this forum.
Every guide has the main parts of Umrah covered, however do some research first. Watch a few YouTube videos. There is also a nice 3D Umrah app free to download. Thanks to Preston Guild I mainly used this guide www.makkahtour.co.uk/HowtoPerformUmrah.pdf.
Paste your initial findings in a word document by noting down the important duas/intentions/requirements of Umrah. Divide it into parts: ie one page for entering Ihram, one section for entering the Haram+tawaaf and page for Saee. Ask your other group members/elders to have a look at your document and ask for suggestions. If you wish I can share the one I did for myself, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Make print outs of this guide for yourself and others. Make each section in a different page. I used my mobile phone where I downloaded my document and used it during my Umrah.
I suggest everyone to invest in a praying book rather than a guide book. One that covers everything from doing Ghusl/Wudu to praying for a funeral.
Watch videos of wearing the ihram. I practised using the hotel large towels.
For other clothing, the main idea is to be modest but wear comfortable clothing. If you have a young son buy his Ihram at either of the 2 cities if you don’t find one in your own city (25 SAR). You can always use laundries which are quite efficient and reasonable.
Tops- You should get something comfortable and soft. I bought a couple of full cotton half sleeve shirts from TU Sainsbury which were extremely comfortable for this time of the year. You might want to buy some half sleeve plain t-shirts with a pocket. I also had a full cotton Punjabi/Kabli. Do try not have logos like Ralph Lauren's iconic pony or Armani's Eagle on your clothing. Many men wear their national dresses.
Bottoms- I took some khaki type trousers which were comfortable. Take an Asian cotton style pyjama.
Footwear- Buy comfortable but light sandals (padded) or slip ons shoes which are easy to put on and take off. I got some really comfy beach slip ons from Primark. You may bring trainers, but IMO it is difficult to carry and use.
Accessories- Try to get a carry on belt which acts as a belt for the Ihram and has compartments in it for storage. Do remember to get one for your young children they cost about 10 SAR.
Get a counter for counting tawaaf/saee. There are some small ones which you can wear on your fingers which cost 2-3 SAR (also available in Bin Dawood).
Get a string bag to carry your footwear inside the mosque. Also carry a small polythene bag in case you store religious book in your string bag.
Do get lip cream as it will get dry (but you may not want to use after Ihram). Good foot moisturizer is essential along with sun cream.
Keep a good shaving set, nail cutter, scissor, travel adapter and tooth pick ;)
Be careful of the SAR riyals, as some of them look the same with different denominations.
Foreign exchanges are always busy but the busiest times are right after any Salah prayers.
Get your sim card sorted out. You do need a passport for this. Best time to buy is after Fajr prayer or right after any Farz prayer, but you need to try and pray near these shops.
Learn some important Arabic phrases and numbers.
Umrah/Praying in Mecca
- In your hotel at Mecca, ask if you have been allocated a Haraam view. If so it is advisable not to look at it before you have completed your Umrah. This may not be important to many, but also you may want to ask that if the beds are arranged in a way where your feet face towards the Qibla when in the sleeping position.
- If you have a child/elderly, you may try using a wheel chair. Many hotels provide this for free. Trying booking it at the reception. You also have dedicated wheelchair pushers to higher inside the Haraam but I think they try to do things quickly and less likely to speak anything other than Arabic.
- Best time to do the Umrah/Tawaf is right after Isha as it is cooler, less crowded and you may at least touch the Kabaah with much ease InshahAllah, find space to pray behind the Maqam Ibrahim and the Hatim. Also the more closer you are to the Kabaah, the less distance you have to cover. During busy times, the second floor is a good option. When you intend to do additional Tawaf's look at the live coverage to see the density of people before you leave your hotel.
- Allhamdullilah I managed to kiss the Black Stone. It took me more than 30 minutes. It is like being in a scrum and I did get injured a bit but nothing serious and I felt bad for the ladies in the midst of all of this. Please do remember this is not essential. However IMO, the best way is to stay right in line with the Black Stone and make your way forwards (slowly). After you kiss it, the tough part is getting out. Make sure you reach your hand out and someone InshahAllah will pull you out.
-If you don’t like being poked or pushed from the back, keep your bag right behind your shoulders as long it doesn’t have sharp objects.
-If your intention is to read Farz prayers inside the mosque, you need to start your journey 45 minutes prior to the Azaan if you stay near the main entrance of the mosque. For Jummah its 2 hours before Azaan.
-Carry a bottle of non ZamZam water to do wudu just in case. Always carry some small snacks as all this religious activities may make you hungry. We got chocolate crepe from the UK for my son.
-Get a good haircut in your Ihram at the barbers in the basement of the Clock Tower for 10 SAR.
- Take some small and quiet toys and food for your young ones. The M&M fans are quite nice for 30 SAR in Bin Dawood.
- Zamzam. Buy it from Jeddah airport before you check in. 9 SAR for 5 litres and boxed up. Write your names on the boxes before you check them in.
- Tasbee and Attar are better quality and price in Medina. The best one I found was under the Hilton Medina complex ground floor. Do remember to haggle. For Attar try Janatul Maula or Janatul Medina which can both be used by men and females.
- Praying hats: Got some good ones are 10 SAR in Mecca but in Medina you can buy them as cheap as 2 SAR on the streets but not of the same quality.
We booked ours through the hotel concierge for 1.5 hours for four locations costing 150 SAR for a sedan where 4 adults and one child on lap could sit ok. The large GMC/Ford vans cost 250 SAR. You might get this at a cheaper price if negotiating by yourself with the taxi driver.
Best time to visit is right after Zuhur prayers. Before booking tell the concierge you want an Asian driver who can give some commentary and drops you right in front of your hotel. 3/4 locations are usually covered but we stepped out at Mount Ohud and prayed at Mosuqe Quba and Mosque Qiblatain.
Make sure you eat a good and healthy breakfast at the hotel, a light lunch and a feast at dinner. Try to avoid oily stuff at breakfast and lunch.
-Mecca: The clock tower food court area is good, clean, and spacious and has lots of options. There is KFC, Baskins and Robbins among the international brands.
There is one shop that sells Pakistani food and is great. Do remember to have the chicken curry and dhaal.
Other shops sells variety of food items but the best ones are the busy ones.
Among our top list of food items:
- Shrimp BBQ and white rice
- Grilled fish and white rice
- Kabsa Mutton Pilaf
Don’t forget to have a Whopper from Burger King!
In between Mecca and Medina if you have your own transport ask the driver to stop at a nice place with a proper restaurant. Have the Mandy Pilaf.
-Medina: If you are after cheap and cheerful desi food, there is a parade of restaurants not too far from the Prophet’s (pbuh) mosque. If you walk out of the Hilton and then head towards the STC office and go through a small alley beside it you are right there. The best is the one right under the sign Kudu. They guys (dressed in blue) are friendly and efficient and can speak Bangla/Hindi/Indonesian and Arabic. Try the meat curry and dhal. For 80 SAR you can feed 4 people for a meal very easily with meat curries.
Best time to order food is an hour after Farz prayers as the queues get long, especially for KFC and Hardees. Hardees is overrated IMO. One disappointing thing is these franchises refuse to serve Diet Colas. However if you order combos do take the Cokes as they are free and give it to the cleaners or poor.
Also if you have any lunch/food left I suggest you pack it nicely and give it to the poor and needy rather than throwing it away.
Unfortunately thieves and pickpockets do enter the Haraam. They usually try to steal when you are squashed somewhere. Some even are adept enough to slice through your clothing and steal your wallet. Don’t take much money when going to pray.
If you are approached by someone who has lost their money, say you will buy them food. When I did buy food for some people, they left the area where I asked them to wait. But do use your judgement as some might actually be needy as Allah knows best.
In Jeddah/Medina, luggage carriers will demand 20 SAR for pushing your trolleys. We gave 10 SAR each. Apparently you need to hire your own trolleys (this could be a con) but it costs 3 SAR for each trolley.
In any airport before you reach the security point put your wallet/belongings in your bag and not in the box.
Please get in touch with me if you have further queries. May Allah accept your prayers and keep you safe.