Sunday, 21 September 2014

Umrah tips part 2: Performing Umrah & Shopping/travelling

Try to perform Umrah after Isha. I found this to be the 'least busiest' time. Others say after or before fajr.
Do tawaf upstairs as it is less packed. We did tawaf in the normal place once before fajr, it was packed. The men don't care they are pushing women less than half their size and we nearly got crushed. Yes. By men. Astaghfirallah. Some people have no manners even when right in front of Allah's house. I'm pretty sure a 6 foot 5, 10 tonne Arab man tried tripping me up from behind so he could push in and touch the black stone. Even in April, before Fajr we were not able to touch hajr aswad. That's how packed it was. I can not even imagine Hajj or Umrah during Ramadan.

Khaleejis (sorry, really trying not to generalise but it is mainly the gulf Arabs) do not comprehend the notion of queuing or waiting patiently for their turn. You will find this out when exchanging money, queuing at bin Dawood or queuing up for food. They ignore you or simply push or elbow you out the way without a care.

NOT ALL WATER IS ZAMZAM - look at the signs. Some say drinking water some say zamzam. The water tankers inside the Masjid al haram say zamzam so I would fill my bottles from there.

Madina has zamzam too! I never knew this, I thought you could only get zamzam from Makkah and was sad that we never got big bottles to bring back before going to Madinah,  but Alhamdulillah Masjid Nabi has zamzam water tanks inside YAY! You can also purchase 10litre zamzam bottles (packed in cardboard boxes) to bring back home. Make sure you write your name on all sides of the box when returning home as people may just take yours at the airport.

Wash your fruit with bottled water and make tea/hot drinks with bottled water.

Fill up on the hotels breakfast buffet. If you can, take a roll with cheese and salad and a yogurt to have for lunch as you may not feel up to walking about looking for a place to eat especially if you're fussy like me and don't want junk food broast chicken (which is everywhere!) or curry.

Make sure to fill up on breakfast and perhaps take a roll with cheese&tomato and a yogurt back with you for lunch to keep you going.

Shopping in Makkah & Madinah.

Bin Dawood is the main supermarket there. In Makkah there is one under the clock tower buildings and another branch to the right of the clock building, I think it's part of the Hilton shopping complex just after kfc. Let me know if I'm wrong. Bin Dawood sells everything from shampoo, juice, ice cream, chocolate dates, cheese, lassi, tea bags pots and pans, and fresh fruit. Defo go there for ice ream to cool yourself down after dhuhr or asr. And to stock up on fresh fruit and juices. I recommend fresh mango.

We stayed in the clock building - Movenpick hotel, hajar towers so alhamdulillah it was easy finding our way back compared to if we stayed in a hotel elsewhere. Mainly because my sense of direction is not one of my strong points. There are shops selling kids clothes, prayer mats, stands with ice cream and much more in the tower.

If you see something you like in Makkah, purchase it!. Everyone says Madina is cheaper-yes mostly true. But sometimes the quality is not as good. For example my sister purchased a beautiful prayer mat that comes with a matching bag for 35 rials (don't pay anymore than this price though, I'm sure other shops sell them for 30) it was really good quality. I got mine from Madinah for 20 rials but mine is thinner and of less quality.

Prayer mat from Makkah - Clock Tower. Thick material

Prayer mat from Madina - thin material

Buy abayas from Madinah. They were selling farashas in different colours for 50 riyal. I got a really nice button abaya with gold diamantes for 110 rial.

Gold and black abaya from Madina Taiba Centre.

Make use of Madinah market stalls for gifts - hijabs, tasbihs, Qur'an, perfumes, jewelry, kids clothing and sometimes abayas/jalabiyyas for under 20 rials! Yes under £4. Obviously they are factory rejects or may be slightly old in design or have a few threads sticking out or are an inch shorter than you'd like but they are an absolute bargain!!  Enjoy the stall holders shouting prices in Urdu - DAS RIAL lol

Cheap gifts for friends and family such as 12 tasbih for 10 rials, 12 itr for 5 rial, and a pack for men with a cap, tasbih and itr for around 2 rial.
You can buy gorgeous costume jewelry such as these rings for 5 rials each. The bangles/bracelets were from one of the many nearby shops.

The main shopping centre in Madina is the Taiba centre. Visit malik al oud for incense accessories. Alhamdulillah the Burmese worker is really fair and honest in his prices.

Travel by SAPTCO between Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah ( doesnt matter if its to and from Makkah and Jeddah as this is only 1.5 hours max) get tickets to a VIP SAPTCO bus if you can. They serve you a small meal and tea/coffee. It's nonstop and has a toilet. Maximum 30 people allowed and quite spacious. Costs about 90 rial or £15/person. Taxi drivers will charge you much more than this and some are known to be crazy or pervy so save yourself the hassle and use SAPTCO.

Air conditioned VIP bus with comfortable seating.
VIP bus breakfast meal from Makkah to Madina: Egg sub, water, fizzy drink.
VIP bus lunch meal box from Madina to Jeddah: Rice, Chicken nuggets, salad, apple, orange juice

That's all I can think of. InshaAllah this is of help to anyone traveling to Saudi. If you have anymore tips or questions please leave a comment!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Umrah/Hajj Tips Part One: What To pack

Salaams all,
as the Hajj season is upon us I thought it would be useful to post my tips as I went for Umrah a few months ago. I did initially have a post typed up in draft but accidentally deleted it :( sooo, inshaAllah, time permitting, I will type something again with pictures :)

I have compiled a list of what to pack as a general guide if any of you are thinking of going soon or in the future.

3 pairs loose trousers i.e harem pants or linen trousers.

3 abayas including the one you will wear to the airport. The abayas don't have to be black, there are people from all over the world wearing their own modest versions of traditional clothing including long skirts, shalwar kameez, maxi dresses etc. A good idea I found was a really long tunic or loose dress, 3 quarter in length (in between ankle and knee length) with loose trousers underneath. Why? Abayas are usually long and the bottom gets dusty and dirty real quick. Saudi is a desert country so lots of sand and dust about; plus you will no doubt be going to get zamzam water and the floors will be wet. Not only that but another good reason not to wear an abaya that's TOO long is to save from tripping up or people stepping on it.

3-4 light material hijabs. Nothing too thick. Not those maxi hijabs you get everywhere unless you will be wearing it in the evening. Choose any colour or print you like. Doesn't have to be limited to black.

Canvas bag/over shoulder drawstring bag to carry your shoes in. Don't leave your shoes on one of the racks in masjid al haram or masjib nabi - you won't be able to find them! Keep them in a bag on you at all times and place to your side on the floor when praying. Everyone does this.

Prayer mat - you can either take one or buy from Makkah or Madina. You won't always get inside the masjids to pray and if you do it doesn't guarantee a carpeted space i.e. you will be praying on marble so a prayer mat will make it easier/more comfortable.

Snacks: take crisps, biscuits, sweets. I wouldn't recommend chocolate as it melts. Keep some snacks in your bag at all times even when flying to the airport,  in Saudi as all the stories about Saudi airport workers/visa patrol are true. They are extremely S L O W and the queue won't move for at least an hour while they take their sweet time. Not only that but you may find yourself switching queues a few times and back. Organised they are not! The airport is not air conditioned so you may feel faint as my sister did, this is where snacks and some water will come in handy. Try to get some water from the plane - a bottle or small plastic pot.

2 pair flat comfy shoes/sandals with a good grip. Don't choose something with a completely flat sole as your feet will feel it with all the walking.

Sunglasses and sunscreen

Vaseline and mini first aid kit - plasters, sudocream, safety pins, bandage

Norethisterone - If that time of the month will fall around the time you go for Umrah or Hajj, see your GP for some medication to delay it.

Scissors and nail clippers - Ladies, you will need to cut a bit of your hair after performing sa'ee. We did this back at the hotel, there were many ladies who did it right after performing umrah but hair was on the floor which I didn't find hygienic.

Wipes - to clean your hands as well as shoes when they get dusty, and just for general quick cleaning on the go.

Toilet paper

Notebook to write down duas of those you are leaving behind as well as to keep a memoir of your time there.

Small travel spray bottle - fill with water (I filled mine with zamzam :D) keep in fridge and take out with you to spritz on face/hands/wrists to keep cool. If you can't manage to pack one, Bin Dawood sell some from 6 riyals.

Tasbih or u can buy it from there. Madinah has PELNTY. You can get a bundle for 10 riyals (under £1.50)

Take a couple empty water bottles to fill with zamzam. Your hotel may provide you with complimentary bottles of water - Movenpick did alhamdulillah.

Stay tuned for tips part 2!