|The gate through which I entered Masjid Nabawi every day. It was the nearest to Madinah Hilton, with a small clock tower in front of it.|
|In my all white umrah outfit. Check out the canopies at the courtyard – they were opened in the afternoon, creating a really nice backdrop.|
|After lunch, we left Madinah Al-Munawwarah for Makkah Al- Mukarramah.|
The journey from Madinah to Makkah took about 7 hours by bus, including 2 stops. The first stop was at the miqat in Zulhulaifah, which was a compulsory stop for us to recite our niat umrah. The next one was when we were halfway through our journey, for us to perform solat and have dinner.
|Masjid Bir Ali in Zulhulaifah, where we recited our niat. It was the miqat for umrah and hajj pilgrims coming from Madinah.|
Once the niat was read, we were officially in the stage of ihram, thus bounded by the rules. No plucking hair. No cutting fingernails. No killing animals. No perfumes. No sex. That would be until we finished all umrah rituals. Speaking of the rules, I almost smacked an annoying bug on the bus. Lucky I missed my hit!
|Arrived at the second stop. The orange building on the right was the restaurant...|
|...where we enjoyed dinner, Arabian style!|
We got back on the bus and traveled 4 hours more. The mutawwif told us to rest, because once we reached Makkah, we would be would be using a lot of energy to perform the rituals. Knowing that some (if not most) of us were quite nervous, he assured that he would lead us to perform our first umrah the same night *phew*. Therefore we wouldn’t be in ihram for long, perhaps only for 12 hours at most *double phew – though I didn’t plan to kill anymore bugs*.
|At about 10:30pm, we passed by Masjid Tanaim, which marked the border of the holy city. Welcome to Makkah!|
We reached our hotel, dropped our bags, freshened up a little and headed to Masjidil Haram. The first thing I noticed was the vast amount of construction that was going on along the way. The mutawwif explained that Masjidil Haram was undergoing major expansion. Most of the buildings surrounding it (especially the old ones) would be demolished to make room for the mosque to grow. How much bigger? About twice its current size!
We entered Masjidil Haram and headed towards the holy Kaabah to perform tawaf. There were so many people as it was already Friday according to Islamic calendar, thus everyone wanted to grab the opportunity to perform tawaf on the special night. Done with tawaf, we walked to the foot of Mount Safa to perform saie.
The saie lane (a straight stretch between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah) was within the compound of Masjidil Haram. It had three levels – the basement, the ground floor and the upper floor. Thus a lot more pilgrims could perform it at the same time as compared to the old days. Once we finished saie, we performed tahallul (cut a few strands of our hair) to wrap up the rituals.
As I looked at the fallen pieces of my hair, tears of gratefulness welled in my eyes. Our first umrah was complete. What made it more special was that we did it on Friday, the best day of the week. Needless to say, it was quite tiring as we just arrived from a long journey and we immediately performed the rituals from nighttime till the wee hours of morning. And with so many people doing tawaf that night, we had to do walk a bigger circle around the Kaabah.
Complaints? None at all. The bigger the circle, the greater the reward!