Hajj is an extremely rewarding religious obligation, but it can also take a lot of time, frustrate you and confuse you. Yet, through all this, it can be an enlightening experience for you as a person.
Keeping in mind that over 3 million pilgrims attend Hajj in a small place, it sounds logical that it could be both dangerous and frustrating, as some things that could take a few minutes, take hours and that can make someone impatient. Many people who embark on this journey are not prepared for the experience and what to expect. So, in order to make the whole process a little bit easier, I have put a list of 10 essential things you should know before starting this beautiful journey.
1. Have extra Copies of Important documents
Make sure you make extra copies of your documents as they could get lost. It’s always a good idea to keep extra copies in different places while on Hajj, for example, one in your luggage and one with you, in case you lose the one, you will have a backup copy.
2. Check for obligatory vaccinations
Saudi officials require some obligatory vaccinations, so it will be for your own good if you make sure that you have made all the obligatory ones and have the certificates to prove it, as they can be requested by the authorities.
3. Keep Fit
The fact that during Hajj someone could walk up to 20 miles, skips a lot of people’s mind and they start their Hajj journey without considering their physical state. It is extremely important to exercise before Hajj, as it will be easier for you, not only to perform your religious obligations but also in order to enjoy more of your Hajj experience without tiredness. As being fit is vital, it is recommended that you start exercising up to 6 months before Hajj.
4. Pack essentials for a comfortable stay
There are essentials that could make your stay in Mina much more comfortable, such as towels, a small backpack, tissues, slippers, plastic cups, travel toiletries and for the sister’s abayas that are comfortable and breathable. Create a small amenity kit for your Mina stay to have everything on hand. One piece hijabs for Umrah and Hajj could save sisters a lot of worrying, as they stay put and cover your hair. Furthermore, for a more comfortable stay you can consider extra sheets, a travel pillow and a camping mattress which are easy to carry.
5. What you have in your carry on is very important
Having in mind that many people could wait 4 or more hours to be processed, what you have in your carry-on is extremely important for that hours. Some snacks for the long wait could be useful. One extra abaya, Ihram, and some hygienic products could prove life-savers in case your bag gets lost. Also, as the hajj terminal doesn’t have any facilities you should definitely bring extra water, fruits, and snacks. A pillow and a travel mat should be useful in this case too, as well as a pocket-sized dua book in order to get the maximum of every moment.
6. Know that toilet facilities are limited
Knowing that toilets in Mina and the Hajj terminal are few and basic, you should limit your water and food consumption before entering the plane to Jeddah and during Hajj. You can get dehydrated during your flight, so try and balance your water intake, because you might feel the need to use the bathroom often, which could give you problems when arriving. You should use the bathroom before you leave the plane, as it’s it might be cleaner and more comfortable than the ones in the Hajj terminal.
7. Don’t expect too much
If you don’t want to get disappointed you should keep your expectations low. Though Hajj can be extremely expensive, even with a VIP package, the service that is given might not be a 5-star. So, the best you could do is to have low expectations of your Hajj providers and ground services. This way you will avoid disappointment and enjoy your Hajj more.
8. Expect to be pushed
Pushing – the unpleasant part of Hajj and Umrah. I could never understand why people keep pushing each other, as there is no apparent reason. Whether they want to go faster or want to finish as soon as possible or just because they want to be in the front row, embrace yourself with patience as it’s something expected. As there is not gender segregation in pushing, if you’re a woman you should stay close to your mahram.
9. Patience is your best friend
Having in mind that there are over 3 million people that have come to perform Hajj and everyone is different, you should be patient and tolerant, especially when things don’t go as you wanted them to. Remember that Allah SWT is the best of planners and you are a guest in this house. It is all part of the journey.
10. Get Yourself the Hajj Journal
Hajj is once in a lifetime experience and you will learn things about yourself and others on this journey. You don’t want to miss all the lessons you have learned. When I travel I always have with me a small notepad to record my thoughts. I highly recommend this. This year I came across the new Stori Dori Hajj Journal which is amazing. The graphic design is done by an extremely talented lady (I have worked with her as well) and the couple behind the Stori Dori Journals are inspirational. If you know someone who is leaving for Hajj or if you are going then make sure you have a Hajj Journal. It has helpful resources for the Hajji as well as plenty of space to record your amazing life-changing experience.
All the aforementioned tips should not scare you or make you put off your trip, but prepare you for what to expect and recommend a few good practical tips. As Hajj is one of the most transformational journeys in your life, it is worth the hardship that comes with it. As Allah SWT says with hardship comes ease. Enjoy every moment of this journey as you get the chance to connect with your Lord in a unique way.
Elena is an international speaker, HuffingtonPost contributor and the brains behind MuslimTravelGirl.com, a leading western travel blog for Muslim Millennials. She loves helping Muslim travellers explore the world in style without breaking the bank. She thrives on finding the best deals possible to the most desirable and Muslim friendly destinations.