If you are planning to go Umrah for the first time and you are slightly unsure what to expect, then we hope this quick guide will help you out based on our personal experiences.
Where to Start?
Read up about Umrah!
Before you set off on this blessed journey please take your time to study and understand the rituals of Umrah. In addition read up a little on both Mecca and Medina so that when you see the historic sites you can appreciate it more. Don’t rely on just the tour guides to tell you about the history as many are just taxi drivers doubling up and possessing only basic knowledge.
You can download apps on your mobile phone or print of a guide via the internet. Prep yourself on this so that you maximise your Umrah. You don’t want to be learning prayers whilst doing your Umrah. See below link for further help on this.
Write a List of who to pray for
Note down all the people u want to pray for so you don’t forget when you are there. You will no doubt have many people who will request for prayers so rather then just paying them lip service and saying you will, make sure you do. There is no better gift for them to know there names where mentioned to Allah in both Mecca and Medina
Recording your experience
Take a notepad and write down your thoughts while you are there. If you are not a writer take a video diary using your phone. Its great to be able to note your thoughts during this blessed journey so you can reflect on them when you are back home and share your experience.
How much money to take
Take about £300 cash/per Adult for your food, shopping and taxi costs. That’s more then enough really for a 7 day stay. However all depends on what your shopping plans are!
Safety for Ladies going in Taxis
When you are in the taxi, for safety reasons women should always get out the car before their male partner/family member. You hear of scare stories on how drivers have driven away with just the girl in the car. No doubt it is a very rare occurrence, but don’t take chances.
Discipline in Saudi
‘Biddah’ which relates to anything seen as Islamic innovation in the eyes of the Saudi authorities is a big No No! This mainly revolves around worshipping at graves. Some may have the desire to pray towards the grave of the Holy Prophet (pbuh); this will be stopped. Simply read Durood and convey your Salams without going through the motions of prayer facing the grave of the Prophet (Pbuh).
Prayer Discipline for Ladies
Sisters, before Salat don’t argue with the on-duty Hijabi security (not sure what they are officially called) if they ask you to move. They will take you out! I have seen them get physical and even take your possessions if you do not listen. Respect there position as they have to uphold a system of segregation in amongst 1000’s of people. Hence don’t get upset if they shout at you to move from your current location to where they want you to move. Make sure you pick a meeting point before Salat as you could be moved where you don’t want to be.
Zam Zam Water
If you are brining back bottles of Zam Zam, go for the 20 litre bottles and make sure they are boxed when you buy it. Two 20 litre bottles are generally enough to bring back and distribute out with the use of smaller bottles.
When you get to the airport these bottled containers will need to be shrink wrapped and labelled for delivery and collection at the airport. You can not pack these in your suitcase as it will exceed your luggage limit. In addition you don’t want to risk water damage in your suitcase!
Taking pictures is frowned upon in the sacred places and worst case your camera can be confiscated. That said and done I did not see this happen and plenty were using their phones for pictures with just the odd warning from the Saudi security teams.
Customs at Jeddah
If you are travelling first time to Saudi then expect long queues at the customs. Annoyingly people can try and cut in meaning it seems its not even moving. If you have a connecting flight to Medina then make sure you let any guards know so they can get you into a quicker queue.
Where to fly first, Mecca or Medina?
I suggest you go to Medina first – This means flying to Jeddah and then a connecting flight to Medina. Once your in Medina u can relax and recover from your journey and then soak up the vibe before you prepare for Umrah.
The other option is to fly to Mecca first and complete your Umrah on the same day you set off. For something so important I personally feel it will be nice to be mentally relaxed as opposed to exhausted from the journey. Especially if this is the first time you are going.
How many days to stay in Medina?
3/4 days will be sufficient. This will give you time to recover, absorb the historical city and prepare for Umrah.
Going for a Tour (Ziarat)
For Non Arab speaking Brothers and Sisters, my recommendation is book it via hotel and ask for a driver who can speak English. Many don’t speak English so as a back up check they speak your native language ie Urdu/Hindi/Bengali.
When it comes to wearing the white cloth for ihram make sure you got your system locked down as you don’t want it slipping off in anyway. There are youtube videos to show how to wear this and it is very easy.
Heres a very useful guide
This place has a presence as its steeped in history. Allows you to switch of from the world and take you back to where it all started. Find the green dome to visit the final resting place of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).
Meeting Points in Al-Masjid al-Nabawi
Just look for a gate number and use that as your meeting point.
Note, if you have small children I suggest you label them with a contact name and phone number in case they wonder of during Salat or in any rush. Kids rarely get lost but when it happens there is nothing worse then a frantic father or mother shouting there childs name amongst the massive crowds.
Market in Medina
Walking around and hitting the markets is fun and you can haggle down to get gifts and souvenirs.
Medina is famous for its dates. There is a vast variety of which the most popular would be the Ajwa Dates. These dates where the favourite of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Beware of imitation versions.
Hotels in Medina
Ensure you get a hotel near the Masjid so its walking distance. Most of the hotels around Masjid al-Nabawi are 5 star.
Food in Medina
Mostly Arab and Indian sub continent type eating places. For any western brothers or sisters missing home, never fear, there is a KFC and Hardees.
Places you must visit in Medina
Book a tour of Medina and see Masjid Quba (1st mosque), Masjid Qibalateen,(Prayer direction changed to Kaaba), Uhad (where Muslims lost their 1st battle), 7 mosques (where the battle of the Trench took place).
Expect to pay upto £50 for this if you are booking via Hotel. Other option is to find a taxi driver and haggle a price.
How many days to stay in Mecca
4/5 days minimum so you can complete Umrah and utilise your remaining time in supplication and reflecting on life. Who knows if this time will come again so make the most of it.
This is where the Kaaba is situated and also encompasses Al-Safah and Al-Marwa as part of your Umrah. Currently going through a massive construction project so don’t be startled by the beauty of the Kaaba amongst a backdrop of cranes and the eye opening Clock Tower.
Massive tip is to carry a bag for any sandals or take some spare with you. Don’t risk your Versace sandals, keep it simple.
Expect hustle and bustle but do not get agitated. I have seen people get frustrated whilst doing Tawaf due to the momentum of people pushing forward or trying to cut across to get closer to Kaaba. Don’t get frustrated, expect a little hustle and just enjoy this moment by absorbing yourself in prayer.
Salat Timings in Masjid al-Haram
If you wish to pray inside the mosque or anywhere close to the Kaaba you need to plan your time well in advance. Simply walking down 5 minutes after adhan means you will probably end up praying inside Fairmount shopping center!
Meeting Points in Masjid al-Haram
Plenty of meeting points inside and outside of the mosque. Inside I would use the shoe racks as they were numbered. Outside it was Zam Zam water point or just the entrance gate number.
Hotels in Mecca
Make sure you book a hotel near the Haram so its all walking distance.
Food in Mecca
You got a shopping centre there with a food court, but recommend you eat a big breakfast in your hotel and skip lunch to save a bit of money. Perhaps stock up on some water and those Pringles you packed before you left UK.
What to visit in Mecca
Must goto Jabal al-Nour and climb upto the Cave Hira. This is where The Holy Prophet (pbuh) used to retreat and Islam was first revealed. It’s a good climb so put them trainers on! You will find beggars on route to the climb so depending on how you feel, you may want to keep some dollars handy.
Note, don’t get upset when you see an old man with a walking stick climbing up with more ease then you! I was amazed to see the energy levels of our Muslim elders knowing they were tracing the steps of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).
If you still have strength to climb then goto Ghar Thor, the cave where the Holy Prophet (pbuh) escaped and hid during Migration.
Finally please goto Mount Arafat which is part of the Hajj ritual and is where you pray for forgiveness. It’s also the site where The Holy Prophet (pbuh) read his farewell sermon.
This is a personal view so if you have been to Umrah before and notice any errors in this article then appreciate if you can send a comment with what needs to be corrected.
Feedback with any of your personal experiences or questions.
Follow us on @thevoicetodayuk