As a recap, read the Ultimate Hajj and Umrah packing checklist (divided into must-haves, better to have and extra nice to have). You will also find some tips in the description of different items. After you’re done packing, you should have an idea about what kind of challenges you’d be facing. And what can help you make this journey fruitful and as easy as it can get. If you are travelling with kids, then you can refer to THIS article for tips, resources, and packing checklist.
Hope the following tips help in shaa Allah.
1: Avoid all forms of shirk and innovation. When you are going for the first time, emotions are very high and you tend to accept anything anyone tells you to do to achieve a certain amount of rewards. Since you want to make the best of your journey, you say might as well give it a try. But be very careful because little things can sometimes render your larger deeds useless. Ask the knowledgeable people instead. In haram (sacred mosque in Makkah), there is a booth outside the entrance where scholars are present to answer your fiqh issues. While in Madinah, different scholars from almost every corner of the world answer your questions in your language. They are the ones who lead the groups for the visit of Riyadul Jannah. Don’t shy away from asking them, they welcome your queries. Though they may be strict towards you if you are found violating certain rules.
2: Still, it’s good to learn some basic Arabic survival phrases: not everyone in the security or so will have a good grasp on English. Even sign-boards are in Arabic and it becomes difficult to understand them. So at least a few words and phrases will be helpful, like:
*Where is the bathroom: اين الحمام (click on the arabic words to listen to the audios from Google Translate)
The word ‘where’ (اين) is crucial. Then you can put any other noun with it. Like Where is food (طعام), water (ماء), bus (حافلة), pharmacy (صيدلية), hotel (فندق), tent (خيمة), Mina, Jamarah, al-Haram etc.
And when they are telling you the directions, you should be able to pick out the main words like:
If you are Completely clueless then just go to the security and hand over your ID and say,
*help me: ساعدني (google translate isn’t perfectly accurate – the pronunciation is SAA’IDNI not saa’adani)
They will inshaaAllah guide you through or find someone who can speak your language to assist you better.
*My name is ____: (for eg: Osama) اسمي أسامة
*I don’t understand Arabic: أنا لا أفهم العربية
*Thank you: (shukran) شكرا
3: If you have kids who haven’t hit puberty yet, then try to leave kids with your loved ones back home. Hajj is quite difficult for people over 65 years old and children under 10 or 12 years old. Or perhaps more than kids, it gets hard for you to handle them while trying to concentrate on your rituals. If you have kids with you, the packing list and list of tips will eventually be way more complex. You can refer to THIS ARTICLE if you are going with kids.
4: Start hydrating yourself so your bladder is used to taking in a lot of water, because hydrating yourself during umrah means many bath turns, the luxury of which you may not have 24/7. Bathrooms are far far away from the Ka’ba. Plus it’s super crowded (not to mention the overwhelming heat). Start walking daily from now onwards too because it may seem very cumbersome if you aren’t used to it and you don’t have a stamina for it.
5: Label everything clearly. That includes your luggage and any Zamzam you bring back with you. Yes, you are allowed 5 liters per person (before it used to be 10 litres) in a unique box (which is the only one you’re permitted to use). You can buy them from Makkah and Jeddah. If you do not label it correctly you may not get your water at the end because somebody can mistakenly think it’s their Zamzam (if they failed to check the baggage tag).
People suggest keeping your ihram [and items you need for Mena] in your carry-on if in case you lose your luggage (bi iznillah), you still have your most important items with you.
6: Take enough clothes (especially undergarments) so you don’t have to hand wash some of the smelly, dirty ones while you’re there and hope they dry in time. So don’t pack light in this regard, that you would have to shop there or wash them constantly. You could spend this time worshipping or resting instead. Nonetheless, keep some cash (in riyal) with you for ; fidyah – for missing any obligation or any other violation, for Sadaqah, for People you may want to buy presents for (make a list of their names before going – though try not to waste so much time shopping. It’s best to take dates and Zamzam for everyone) and Spending money – for general items, food etc.
7: All the bags are checked at the entrance of the mosque. In Madina and Makkah both. So don’t pack your cameras (especially big ones) or Knife etc. They may confiscate them.
8: Don’t stand in the middle for no good reason or to offer prayer – instead choose corners, so you can pray with khushoo and not disturb people by holding off their path and you wouldn’t have to worry about people passing in front of you during prayer. This is a very common practice over there. People stand in the middle of Tawaf area to take a picture /selfie, holding off the Tawaf of other pilgrims.
Many pilgrims set up small portable tents (those who can’t afford Mina tents) and sleep in each and every walkway which shrinks the possibility of using that up to 50%. Corners are best here as well. As far from the path one can be. So people have open space to move about (which decreases the possibility of stampedes by 50% as well).
9: Don’t throw garbage on roads/paths/corridors etc. even if everyone else has done so. Especially food. This is rampant in Muzdalfa. Think before you buy food. Don’t buy so much that you have to dispose off afterward. This happens in Mina as well, where there is free food. People hoard so much of eatables, thinking they may not get it afterward, then waste it all because they do get it anyway. If you see others doing wrong, don’t stoop to their level. Try to stop them too. Don’t hurt others just for your temporary comfort because your litter increases the possibility of tripping (especially when it’s on pathways).
10: Don’t eat a lot of junk food during the journey (keep the count absolute zero if you can but ALBAIK is just mandatory *I keed I keed*). Though, don’t stuff yourself with too much food/drink when you plan to walk a lot.
11: Don’t push/abuse/curse/beat others just to get ahead in some rewarding deed – because this way, you gain a lot more bad deeds to do one good deed. Allah is forgiving! but people aren’t, all the time. (mostly people push and shove to kiss the hajra-e-aswad (the black stone in Ka’ba). Oh the horrors I have seen. People almost fainting amidst the crowd. Women pushing men and vice versa. Clothes being pulled. Security guy shouting. Ain’t nobody listening. This all is enough for your U-turn) so unless the place is really spacey (which is possible either at the time when the sun is shooting scorching heat or 2-3 hours before Fajr), try to avoid this whole scenario.
Rather help people in any way you can. Be kind. Give way instead of fighting for it. This won’t make you any smaller – would only elevate your status. Never consider any apparently-small deed as small. Make the most of this journey. Such moments don’t come every now and then. Know that strong is the one who can control his anger. The one who can be patient in a frustrating moment. Trust me, there are many moments like those because of a massive crowd (who move just a little even after a few hours of waiting sometimes) – one of the reasons why you hear of people dying of stampedes year after year. So please don’t push and shove thinking it will buy you more time. What if you cause a domino effect and many die because of one push from you? Yes, a small action can become a very big one in such jammed places.
12: Please don’t use/take other’s belongings without permission (even if you think that the other won’t mind). That also means not wearing anyone else’s slippers if you are unable to find yours. Still, as a precaution, Don’t keep expensive things with you that would keep your attention more towards them and less towards your rituals/ibaadah. And yes, theft happens. Yes! even in such sacred places.
13: Know how to perform congregational prayer (Salaat-al-Jamaa’ah) or how to do Tayammum (dry ablution) – when you may not have access to water (know its rulings), Funeral prayer (there are a lot of funeral prayers in both the Holy Mosques), the rulings to the traveller’s prayer (Qasr) etc. as well. Know the rulings like guys are supposed to uncover their right shoulders during tawaf, but cover it afterward (especially during the prayer). Once there is the time for prayer, you are to stop your tawaf and pray congregational instead. Or know things like – Don’t leave Arafah before Maghrib call for prayer (azaan). After the call for prayer, leave Arafah and offer Maghrib and Isha in Muzdalifah.
14: Get a Saudi Sim card – for around 100 riyals, you can get a phone line in Saudi Arabia. Constant connections are a must for your safety and security if you lose your way or get lost in the crowd, which is really common. Outgoing calls are charged while incoming is free. Get phones for all members of the family. Because most of the time, women and men would be segregated. For eg: in Mina tents, in mosques etc. So in such big crowds, it gets hard to spot your family members so save yourself some frustration by buying the SIM card/basic phone for all.
15: The Qur’an Arabs use have fewer harakaat (signs) on them so if you don’t know how to read the Qur’an without some of the signs over the alphabets, then use blue Qur’an (available at al-Haram, which is more common in South Asia (India, Pakistan etc.))
16: Try exchanging your money at the exchange center instead of the hotel lobby. There are money exchangers everywhere (called Sarf). But like I said, It’s better to keep the cash with you beforehand than having to stand in long lines. Talking about money, If you are leaving your family members behind when going for Hajj then leave them enough money for at least the period of time you’d be away.
17: Sometimes in crowded places, you are just struggling to protect yourself, your loved ones and figuring out how to keep moving forward. If some guy mistakenly bumps into your wife/daughter/mother etc., stay calm. This isn’t the place to fight because most of these people don’t even know who they are bumping into. So your best option is to put ladies in the middle and have the men (mahrams) around them. If there is just one man (mahram) then it’s good to stay at the back and let the ladies be in the front. And also, try to be in the less crowded areas (farther from Ka’ba) because the closer you are, the more the crowd and the more the bumping. If you have someone on the wheelchair then please choose the second floor. Having those wheels ride your bare feet is the absolute worsssttttt.
P.S. Get a wheelchair if walking becomes really difficult. Especially for an elderly person and because of that you will be able to do Tawaf in upper area where there is less crowd. Though it makes the circumambulation longer.
18: The entire King Fahd gate area of al-Haram is air conditioned while other areas just have fans. I would recommend this area for Jumu’ah (Friday prayer) especially, or in the middle of the day when the sun is burning hot. And the sooner you come, the better place you get. If you come really late, you’ll probably be praying with the pigeons outside. Yes, sometimes people are spread far across till the roads outside the whole vicinity.
19: If you are going with a group then your passport may be with the group coordinator. So you need some sort of identification on you in case you pass out or fall unconscious (many people even die amidst stampedes) Or you get lost and cannot find your way back (easy to be in this situation, specially in the middle of such massive crowd plus new place, new people). That’s why do not go alone; always be in pairs or a small group. Jamarah (pelting stones) after Dhuhr is optimum as it’s not crowded. Avoid the ground floor in Jamarah; it’s very crowded and stampedes can occur.
My father would repeat this advice to us multiple times. Do NOT try to retrieve anything from the ground if you lose it. Not even a gold ring. Yepp, it’s that intense. When you are out in those crushing crowds, it’s easy to get trampled on and suffocate to death. Try to avoid the crowded areas but once you’re in that situation, nothing is more important than your life. Everything else is replaceable.
20: Last but not least, learn to be patient. Take one bag of provisions and 10 bags of Taqwa! You will find many situations that would frustrate you or bring you to the edge of your anger, but PATIENCE IS THE BEST LUGGAGE you can carry with you in this epic journey. Hajj truly tests your ability to patiently withstand hardships while consciously working on your spirituality and worship at the same time.