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Salaam and welcome. I made my pilgrimage in 2012. I wanted to share my experiences and advice - so that those going in future know what to expect, or those who just want to know how I got on!

This blog is a mix of advice and diary excerpts.

Sometimes I was so caught up in the experience I didn't write, other times I was compelled to write. Some pieces will have been written from memory.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The post you have all been waiting for: 'Facilities'!!!

A lot of people have asked the same questions, and indeed I asked the same myself before setting off to Hajj.
  • What are the toilets like?
  • Where do you wash?
  • Is it clean?
  • Is it true there are no toilets in Muzdalifah?
I did wonder all of the above.

First of all I have to point out I am familiar with the state of toilets abroad. Not everyone is - I remember some tourists in Egypt being horrified by the 'hole in floor' toilets - despite them being absolutely clean and well looked after. I found that funny. If you are like those tourists then prepare yourself ;-)

If like me, you have a general expectation then you will be pleasantly surprised to know its really not that bad.  I shall answer the questions above:

What are the toilets like?
Well in Makkah they vary.  Generally you are going to be using public toilets. There are quite a few (thankfully) mostly located underground. The ones on the mall are European standard in design and cleanliness. The public toilets - are fine....depending what day you are using them!

The first time I used them was the night before Mina. They were clean, the cleaners were scary though - do NOT ever mess with the cleaners. Not that I did but someone did outside the Jamarat on Eid night and they then locked loads of furious women (and desperate for a pee) out and refused to open the doors - no matter how much the women banged on the doors and screamed! That was a sight I tell you. I thank God I wasn't desperate but some women were in tears :(

The toilets are hole in the floor. You will learn to love these - or appreciate them. I have always preferred them when abroad. They are convenient, you don't have to touch anything and are easier to clean for the cleaners.

You will probably never have seen public toilets as vast, but let me tell you on Eid day you will still find yourself queuing! Its quite common for people to bang on the door. I was annoyed by that at first and then I soon became a door banger! Sometimes you just have to go with the flow!

The public toilets also double as showers. This is where queuing for the loo becomes totally part and parcel of hajj.  In Mina people will shower before EVERY prayer. My husband did (he only had to unwrap the ihram and away he went), but women do as well.  There was another blog where the lady was bemoaning the 'showering princesses' in her camp - and related it to her country. Well - I am from the UK, and trust me it was happening in every camp! Its annoying but this is Hajj.....its all a test. You soon learn which loos are used quicker, which will be cleaner (as the days go by in Mina) and which times are best to go. Hardest thing I think for everyone was waking up to use the loo before fajr. Everyone wakes up needing the loo. The pushing and shoving as fajr gets nearer and nearer is not fun.  I was lucky (I think!) my tent companions liked to be up an hour before fajr. Lights on and chattering. This meant I woke before the toilets went mental.

where do you wash?

Showers are combined with the loo. Again something that did not shock me. Its quite common in the Mediterranean, North Africa etc to have a shower hose in the same place where you toilet. Logistically there is nowhere else to put the showers. Its 5 days - and boiling hot, you will shower whatever you may think!  I did think I would avoid showering in Mina. But the heat makes you sweat and I also was running a fever for 2 days in Mina - feeling clean becomes worth waiting in that queue.

The shower heads/hoses end up breaking very soon. The sheer amount of people leads to breakages.  You end up using the hose to clean your bits. Let me tell you whatever standards you have before you go to Hajj they go.....totally go!

I have to confess here that I used the men's loos to wash in. A few people were shocked by this and some conceded it was a fantastic idea. Mens facilities doubled the amount of women's in our camp. That again is down to logistics. Women can't travel without maharam and men can travel to Hajj alone. Ladies - we are outnumbered!  Mens loos were twice the amount of ours. Yes their queues were crazy at prayer time aswell.  However between prayers. Particularly when Isha was past the men's loos were dead.  No queuing....and a LOT cleaner.

Is it clean?

Logistics thats all I can say. Whenever something grinds you down on Hajj just think logistically and you realise why things are the way they are. People come from all over the world - we all have our own ways, and then there is simply the sheer VOLUME of people. You will never see so many people in your life.

My first night in Makkah was fine. Toilets were clean etc. Mina was where it went downhill. women are not as clean as men. I am half tempted to hold back - but quite frankly if you have been reading this blog or know me personally then you know I tell it as it is.  Women leave more 'waste' products. Some women even brought toddlers, so nappies were left. Washing etc in these conditions is a bit off. This is why I started using the men's. The men's had none of this 'litter'.  Thankfully after a day at Arafat, the litter was cleared. But still - I preferred the mens loos for showering in. 

On Eid day when everyone back home is chilling, celebrating etc we are doing the toughest day of Hajj which releases us from ihram. This means people washing and men will shed their towels for their regular clothes - which I am sure they were thrilled to do! The more affluent hujjaj will have booked hotels in Makkah and before making their tawaaf will have gone to shower, nap etc. The rest of us mere mortals have to use the public loos or wait until we reach Mina.   I have never wanted a wash so much in my life. I have never stank so much in my life. But fear not! Every single person stinks so you literally can only smell yourself, its bizarre but heartening.  The public toilets become something else.

Everyone is showering. There are Hajjis who don't even have Mina accomodation - they HAVE to shower in Makkah.  The sights. I have never seen anything like it. If the toilet was not being used guaranteed it was filthy.  Because everyone was showering you had to wait aaaaaaages. Patience is a virtue on Hajj and boy do you learn it. One lady decided to make her shower in the ablution area. SubhanAllah. But you know what? You become very understanding. I felt sorry for her, if I felt stinky but not enough to do what she did - imagine how she felt. Who knows what happened. Accidents do happen on Hajj.....

The underground passageway to the toilets becomes a beauty parlour/laundrette.  Because men do not pass the stairs, women unveil and make themselves at home. This was on Eid day though. Many wash their clothes, hair is washed and some women make a bit of a 'day' of it. Settling on blankets, hanging dresses, scarves and abayas along the corridor.

Is it true there are no toilets in Muzdalifah?

This is a funny one. My personal experience was that yes there were loos in Muzdalifah but it all depends upon where you are sleeping.  My friend's husband warned us there would be none and that terrified me. I have since heard there were none in certain parts of Muzadalifah.

We were lucky. Again bear in mind the whole fajr time craziness. We went an hour beforehand before the queues were 20 deep. No joke. 

My advice for Muzdalifah is that its only a few hours. Its not too bad. I would say its the need to make wudhu thats an issue.

Wudhu

Major major factor ladies (and gents if there are any reading) is the wu'dhu factor.

There are simply not enough taps for wudhu....LOGISTICS! ;-)

A lot of people made wudhu within the toilet cubicle. Personally I didn't like this. The toilets were not clean enough. And at home would you make wudhu on top of your loo? The water sometimes did not drain down the loo and if someone missed the target then this meant the flooring around the loo was not clean for wudhu.

I was gifted a wudhu water bottle. However you can use a regular water bottle, or even a spray bottle (even better as it distributes water evenly).  A lot of women were surprised to see me make my wudhu over the drains. I like to think they appreciated the fact I didn't hog the toilet to do it perhaps ;-) 

At Muzdalifah it becomes even more imperative to use a bottle. The queues for toilets and taps are 20 deep. I felt it far far easier to use my bottle than fight my way to the taps 5 times a day.

So that concludes the facilities - if you want to know anymore please ask! I am of the opinion to be prepared means you can cope with hajj.





 

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