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!