1) When you arrive at the airport (most probably Madinah airport or Jeddah airport), pick up your own luggage. Don’t ever let the porters do it for you. They will charge unreasonably high fee for it.
2) After stamping your passport and picking up your luggage, you will be asked to surrender your passport to the authority. They will keep it until the day you leave the country. Pilgrims are not allowed to keep their own passports.
3) If you wish to donate Quran to Masjid Nabawi or Masjidil Haram, be sure that you buy Quran that is published Madinah. This is important because there are a lot of Quran publishers, but only Quran by Madinah publication are accepted by the two mosques. Those published elsewhere (i.e. Jordan, Egypt) are not accepted.
4) How to donate Quran? Buy it at any bookstore opposite the mosque. The price is usually SAR 55 and above. If it’s cheaper, chances are it’s not published in Madinah, so be careful. Ask the shopkeeper to show you the page that says it is indeed by Madinah publication. Once you are sure, make the payment and ask the shopkeeper to stamp it to make it eligible for donation. The shopkeeper will help you to submit the Quran to the mosque.
5) No need to bring your own Quran to read at the mosque, there are a lot of donated Quran there. Use them so that the donors will get hasanah too. Just bring a pen and a notepad to jot down where you stop reading, so that you know where to continue later.
6) At both Masjid Nabawi and Masjidil Haram, wudhu areas are far from solat areas. Bring a spray bottle, fill it with water and use it to perform wudhu. If you need to top-up the water, zamzam water dispensers are everywhere in both mosques.
7) Learn how to do solat jenazah, because the imam will call for it after almost every solat fardhu.
8) There are several notable differences in solat jamaah at the two holy mosques as compared to at home. First, there’s no time gap after takbiratul ihram to recite doa iftitah. Second, there’s no doa qunut. Third, the imam doesn’t lead makmum to recite doa after solat, you have to recite your own doa. All these can be strange initially, but very easy to adapt.
9) When buying meals, there are separate counters for men and women. Counters for men are labeled “single order”. For women they are labeled “family order”. Some are clear cut “ladies only”.
10) The hotel’s service can be a major test of your patience. It may boast 3 stars yet feels like a cheap rundown motel – no daily housekeeping, no change of sheets, no iron in the room. When you call for service, the staffs take forever to respond, if they respond at all. The person at reception is hardly helpful and don’t speak any English, so don’t bother asking for assistance. Just treat the hotel as a place where you have a bed to sleep and food to eat, nothing more than that, otherwise you’ll be sorely disappointed.
11) You may have to share a room with people you don’t know and the hotel provides only one room key. The person who goes out last must always leave the key at the reception. Nobody takes the key with him or her. Staying with strangers may pose other challenges too – lights on or off, tv volume loud or low, turn to use the bathroom, phone ringing while you are sleeping – all those little things need to be handled with tolerance and patience.
12) A niqab is very useful to protect the face from sunlight, heat and dust. It’s like sunglasses, sun block and face mask combined into one. Just remember not to wear it during ihram stage.
13) Read the article by Imam Muda Hassan on his experience dealing with Arabs here or here. It provides a very good insight on their behavior and what to expect when you go there.
1) If you are looking for ajwa dates (the Prophet’s dates) produced in Madinah, buy them at date farm. The price is a bit expensive, about SAR 100 per kg, but you can be sure of the authenticity.
2) If you are looking for cheap dates, buy them at date market. Over there you can get ajwa dates for SAR 75 per kg. However they are not produced in Madinah, most probably they are imported from neighboring countries like Egypt and Iran.
3) Some tips that the mutawwif told me about dates:
- Ubana dates (“milk” dates) are good for women
- Sukra dates (“sugar” dates) are good for men
- Rutab dates (pre-ripe ambar dates) are good for pregnant mums
- Date powder is good for couples who want to have babies
4) Be careful when you leave your shoes on small racks at the base of pillars inside Masjid Nabawi. People tend to move the racks and make it their seats. Searching for one rack amongst the many can be tough because all racks look the same. The only difference is the number on the side. So if you choose to put your shoes on the small rack, remember the number. Or just leave your shoes on the big permanent shoe cabinet near the door, which surely doesn’t move.
5) Ladies, don’t bring cameras or mobile phones with camera function to Masjid Nabawi. Security officers at the doors will check your bags thoroughly and grope you from head to waist. If you bring those items, you won’t be allowed to go in. The rule is different for men, they are allowed to bring those items into the mosque. So if you don’t want to leave them at the hotel, give them to the men.
6) Raudhah is located in men’s prayer area and ladies can only visit it at certain times. Morning slot has lots of visitors because pilgrims usually come in groups with their mutawwif, therefore the crowd is more organized. Night slot has less visitors as pilgrims come on their own, therefore the crowd is less organized. A lot of pushing, running and even fighting can be seen at this time. More people with less chaos or less people with more chaos, the choice yours.
1) It is advisable to wear white attire when performing umrah because Rasulullah loved the color white.
2) During tawaf, use a ring or a hair clip to count your rounds. Every time you complete a round, move it to the next finger. This is especially useful for those who wish to read their own doa. If you read the usual doa from umrah guidebook, it’s easier to count because the doa is round by round.
3) Ladies, if your wudhu expires and you don’t have a spray bottle, go to women’s basement solat area. At the back, there are taps supplying chilled zamzam water. It’s a wet section and there are no men, so you can safely perform wudhu.
4) If you are expecting your period to come soon but you still want to perform umrah, recite “niat bersyarat” (conditional niat). This way, you will be automatically released from ihram stage if you suddenly get your period. If you recite normal niat, you will have to remain in ihram stage until your period dries, which can be a very long wait, especially because you need to adhere to ihram restrictions all the time.
5) Having your period doesn’t mean that you’ll miss everything. You can still go the mosque, but you need to stick to the saie area. Kaabah is visible from there. Sit facing it, recite zikir and make doa. Be sure to leave the area when solat time approaches, as it will be filled with makmum for solat jamaah.
|My postcard from Makkah. This postcard has its own story to tell. I mailed two postcards – one for me and one for Jeet. Guess what happened? Both postcards arrived in a big plastic bag at Jeet’s office, together with a bunch of other mails for other people all over Malaysia!|