While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause uncertainties for international travel, you may still be lucky enough to make it to Hajj or Umrah this year. Given the significance of the journey, you must be excited about traveling to the house of Allah. To help you prepare spiritually, physically, and mentally for the sacred journey, we’ll offer some insights and tips into what to expect at Umrah and Hajj.
One of the biggest concerns for those planning to pursue Hajj or Umrah is how they’re going to travel within Mecca and Madinah. During the period of Hajj, pilgrims are typically transported to important sites via state-appointed buses, the cost of which is incorporated in your Hajj package. Some hajj groups are provided with private buses too. You may even choose to hire a private taxi, which will require a separate payment.
Important Tip: Do your best to stay calm and patient during commutations to and from different sites. Depending on your location, the time of departure, and the amount of traffic, the duration of commutes can be lengthy. Delays in transport are common and it might be feasible to walk to the next site instead of traveling by bus.
A Lot of Walking
Due to our sedentary lifestyles, a large number of people are surprised by and face trouble with the amount of walking required during Hajj and Umrah. Although you’ll have buses to transport you to different sites and to and from your hotel, there’s still a lot of walking within Masjid Al-Haram and Masjid-e-Nabvi and other Hajj Sites such as Arafat, Mina, etc.
Due to the crowd, your bus won’t normally get you anywhere close to where you want to go. Hence, make sure you’re physically and mentally prepared to traverse.
While the COVID-19 crisis has significantly changed the scenario, an average of two million people used to perform Hajj every year. The approximate dates for Hajj in 2021 are 17th to 22nd July, but the outlook stays uncertain. We don’t exactly know how many people are expected to perform Hajj this year, yet, it’s best to stay on the safe side and know how to prepare yourself should you face heavy crowds.
In 2012, the number exceeded three million. If you account for the unregistered pilgrims, the actual number would be much higher. Thus, it’s no wonder that we’ve seen several fatal accidents involving stampedes in the past years, including the 2015 incident when 2,000 pilgrims martyred in Mina. The majority of these incidents resulted due to panic among large crowds as many individuals that aren’t used to crowded areas experience anxiety and nervousness at minor issues.
Therefore, it’s extremely important to stay mentally prepared and plan on how you’re going to adapt to the situation. One great strategy is to avoid performing certain Hajj rituals, such as stoning the Jamarat, during peak times. Likewise, don’t lose the opportunity to take breaks in between Hajj rituals when the crowd is overwhelming. This should be a great source of relief for you.
It’s important to understand that some shoving and pushing is inevitable in crowded areas, so be patient and maintain your composure while performing the rituals. Pushing and harming others kills the purpose of performing Hajj or Umrah. When you’ve invested so much time, money, and effort, why waste everything by losing it on people.
Equally important is to stay cautious of thieves in heavy crowds. No, your wallets and other valuables aren’t safe at Hajj too. Your emotions and spiritual feelings will certainly be high, but don’t let thieves exploit this. Stay extra vigilant about your possessions in areas packed with crowds.
You’ll stay in hotels in Mecca and the blessed city of Madinah but what about the accommodation at Arafat and Mina? Pilgrims are classified into groups and their accommodation is based pre-allocated based on the country they’re from. Men and women stay in different camps, and you’ll need to remember your street and camp number.
In Arafat, pilgrims stay in large and wide tents, some of which will have fans and air coolers. In Mina, you’ll find fireproof tents with proper electricity, electric plugs, air-conditioning, and lighting. How comfortable your accommodation will be will entirely depend on your Hajj package.
If you get to choose your tent, avoid the ones near entrances, cooking areas, or toilets because these are usually busy. Instead, look for a tent at the back or middle of the camp. When you enter your tent, you claim your position by covering your desired area in your mat and occupying it. We recommend choosing an area close to the back of the tent because the middle and front areas are typically used for lectures, Salah, and eating, so you may be required to move your possessions to accommodate these activities from time to time.
There aren’t any accommodation facilities in Muzdalifah and you’ll stay in the open sky.
Food is typically included in your Hajj or Umrah package. If it’s not, you’ll need to make arrangements on your own when you get there. To learn what type of food your Hajj package includes, get in touch with your agent. It might be cooked and served fresh or be pre-packed in a meal box. Plus, food may be served at irregular times so be prepared for it.
While there aren’t any food shops in Muzdalifah and Arafat, you’ll find numerous shops in Mina, but be prepared to pay extra because prices tend to double during Hajj days.
Be sure to keep yourself hydrated throughout the journey as it can get really hot. Keep water, dates, biscuits, and other snacks wherever you go.
The divine trip of Hajj and Umrah is full of setbacks, delays, and interruptions. Hajj, in particular, comes with a lot of hardships. As mentioned earlier, the key to having a successful Hajj is to stay endure the hardships with patience. Knowing what to expect at Hajj or Umrah should be of great help in this regard. We truly hope that this guide helps you prepare yourself for your sacred service to Allah.