Welcome to my page

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.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Mina - what do you need?

So Mina is 5 days long. If you are like me - then the temptation is to pack the kitchen sink....oh yes. I have been known to take a large suitcase for a weekend away.

I have to admit - I thought I was bad until the lady 2 beds down from me opened her case (yes she took a case to Mina!) and revealed, a hotplate, teapot, cups AND saucers. I laughed til I cried. Thankfully she saw the funny side of my laughter.

We were told the night before: take very little.

Oh the panic that caused me.

But lets be rational ladies: this is how much space you will have in a tent:
I kid you not. Space is a premium bought only by the rich. Chances are if you are reading my blog and making your research you are not in that minority!
Please for the sake of your tent mates keep it to a minimum. I was hemmed in by bags and bags of crap that were not opened. Why? Because there are no power points for hotplates. You want hot water off to the kitchen you go - every camp is assigned one. Or you can buy a cup of tea/coffee from people selling such things in the camp.  I was also hemmed in by my own over packing! Guilty as charged!
So from my own experience I have compiled a list of what you need for Mina/Muzdalifah.
1) A sleeping bag for Muzdalifah: this is the bulkiest item you will need. I would say its not actually essential. Truth be told - you won't sleep much at Muzdalifah, I did - but then I sleep anywhere! I would find out from your guide whether you will complete the sunnah and stay til fajr. Me and a few others from our group did but the agent left at 2am - which is permissable for the elderly, and ill.
2) A medical kit. I thanked God for this when I stupidly twisted/sprained my foot in Arafat. i would like to say I did it on the mount...but no....it was me falling on my face outside the loos and having to be be helped up by several brothers....and yes I was embarrassed! I was able to strap my foot up which was needed as I had to walk 12 hours the following day. In my kit I put a few extras in such as pain killers, paracetamol, and antiseptic spray. The antiseptic spray was a great idea - you will get cuts and abrasions on your feet - and I recommend the spray for after using the loos etc.  Pop sudocrem in - I promise if you chafe then this will sort you out asap.
3) Flip flops for the loos. Seriously just bring them.
4) One plain abaya. You can wash this and it will dry in about 10 minutes in the heat.
5) A housedress (long sleeved). A lot of time will be spent chilling in the tent - a housedress is a comfy and modest solution. Also u can get away wearing it to the showers by popping a khimar over it.
6) Khimar. Buy it out there. The one I bought in the Uk was cotton and was horrifically heavy and hot. The nasty cheapy one I got in Jeddah was very very comfortable and everyone....and I mean everyone wears them out there
7) 5 pairs of knickers....lol. I don't need to explain this ;-)
8) 1 outfit for under the abaya. I personally wore leggings and a vest top. Light and comfy and cover my legs. These again can be washed easily and dried easily.
9) Soap (unscented). Bring regular shampoo and conditioner as on Eid day after you have completed your tawaaf and sa'ee you can wash in normal scented shampoos. This can also double up to clean your clothes.
For Arafat and Muzdalifah, you need your sleeping bag, a Quran/ duaa book. I would take the first aid kit and thats it really. You will be fed, and trust me you won't shower either at Arafat or Muzdalifah.



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.


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.


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Mina - day 1

I admit to not writing in my diary in Mina. Why? well for starters space was at a serious premium and these were the serious days of Hajj....so time was spent doing our hajj rites and being sick - as you will see.

Mina Day 1

We were advised that we would be leaving for Mina after fajr. So after fajr we packed our bags for Mina. Umming and ahhh'ing over what to take. Take too little and be annoyed, take too much and well you will find out what happens! I managed to pack quite lightly (for me) and went with a backpack and a small drawstring bag. The backpack was mostly taken up by the sleeping bag I was to use in Muzdalifah.

Umm Yacine did better, one backpack!

I felt like crap. Oh yes, the sore throat that hassled me all night along with the tooting all night was still there.

We had our morning cup of tea and went to the lobby to see about the coach. Not there. A theme for my hajj was 'rubbish transport'. Indeed our coach was not there. We had been warned the night before were we to miss the coach we would have to walk to Mina as its a coach arranged by our local Mutawiff.

So back to the room we went - I suspected the coach was going to be hours late.

An hour later we trudged back down. The lobby was full of the older ladies in our party with all their luggage around them looking very stoic. No sign of the coach. 

We chilled in our room and I decided to nap. Fajr was at roughly 5am and not much sleep was sinking in. I passed out to hear the door being banged. Mr was saying the coach was here. So up we got and trudged down to the lobby. Lots of people and no coach. Not happy, I turned tail and went back to my room. I was sleeping end of.

Well later on about 12pm we were summoned again, but this time the coach was here.

But we had paid for staying in our room - unlike the stoic ladies of the lobby. There were no seats left. Seriously we had been provided with one coach and it wasn't enough for our group.  We struggled onto the coach which was boiling (no air con) and the first thing I noticed were loads of men sat down. Us later ladies were stood and not one got up to offer their seat. I was furious.  It had been pointed out in the meeting the night before that travel arrangements were for the infirm/elderly and ladies first. This was certainly not the case. I wasn't well - it was 36-38 degrees and there was no air con.

I immediately started to complain loudly - lol. Umm Yacine was a little embarrassed until she realised the men were not moving and then started to be angry - in a very quiet stoic way. My husband then squeezed onto the coach by the second door and I loudly told him 'look at this' and gestured round the coach. My husband did not look impressed  - he agreed with me - it wasn't on. Thankfully two guys got up letting me and Umm yacine sit. I immediately passed out.

The coach journey took three hours. I kid you not.

Mina is a 15 minute drive from our hotel and yes we did arrive in Mina after 15-20 minutes. But we then got horrifically lost. I felt like hell and kept passing out - I thank God those men gave their seats to us. It was so hot and I fel sicker and sicker.  Despite how awful I felt seeing Mina was a sight like no other. I was amazed and shocked at the same time. People - so so so many people from all over the world. And the tents. Miles and miles of tents.

We drove round, and round, and round. Between bouts of sleep/unconsciousness and feeling like I was being slowly roasted - I was fascinated by what I saw. I was also nervous. From my research into hajj I knew Mina would test me.....in fact Mina was what I personally dreaded. 

We finally arrived - at camp 32, our home for the next five days.

We were led to our tent along an astro-turfed 'corridor'. I couldn't believe how packed and how many tents were in our camp. Our tent was ok - it had sofa beds that were able to be made into chairs or beds. We were given a pillow and a blanket each.  I didn't take any pictures in Mina, simply because I was either making hajj rites or in the tent where women were not in hijab etc.

Pics from web but this is pretty much how our tent was.
We were lucky. I later heard that people who had gone on earlier hajjs did not get sofa beds, or carpeted floors.
We had air conditioning which was good - nearly 40 degrees and stuck in a tent with 30 women you need it!  I found a spot in the corner which was perfect for me. I get claustraphobic - hence why I dreaded Mina so much. Not that I was bothered. I was soaked with sweat and feeling even worse. I went to sleep - I couldn't even be bothered to unpack (theres no storage anyways).
That day was awful. I descended into fever. I was going hot and cold and having delusions. At one point I was believing I was sat with my dad having a cup of tea in his house. My poor father is dead and I was on hajj. The other ladies noticed I was unwell and one thing I have to hand to Algerian women they are walking pharmacies! One lady had some tablets which helped me feel better. I was able to get up and change into my housedress as my clothes were soaked. I got to check the toilet facilities out (this is another blog post - I promise!) and sit up and have a few cold drinks. 
We were lucky to have a plastic barrel with water and ice in, filled with cold drinks. I later learned other camps didn't have this facility. We were given two meals a day. I didn't eat my first meal, I was too poorly - and the women just left it at the end of my bed but I threw it out as any food kept in that heat would not be good to eat hours later.
This first day in Mina was spent settling in and fulfilling our prayers.