Apr 30

My Hajj journey and experiences

All praises are due to the Almighty that I was able to perform my mandatory pilgrimage (Hajj) along with my wife in the year 2012. Hajj is INDEED a magical journey that should be experienced by every able believer. Reflecting back on this magical journey, there are countless lessons to be learnt and shared.


Makkah Masjid Rush - 1 Crowds - General

Through a series of pilgrimage related posts I shall share my experiences with the intent to:

  • Document my journey in great detail before it fades away
  • Encourage people to make the Hajj intention if they haven’t already
  • Better prepare individuals embarking on this trip
  • Set expectations
  • Motivate people to go for the repeat Hajj if done already
  • Bring back Hajj memories for those who have already been
  • Get in touch with my Hajj mates
  • Bring a smile to your face :)


January 2011

  • My wife & I made an intent to perform Hajj in 2011.
  • We applied for leaves from our employers and had them approved


April 2011

  • As my wife hadn’t performed Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) before, we thought that it would be best to perform Umrah prior to Hajj. As this would help her in
    • Mentally preparing on what to expect, albeit at a very low scale
    • Rituals involved in performing Umrah (which is a subset of Hajj)
    • Familiarity with the area – including shopping zones :)


June 2011

  • Identified over dozen of hajj agents (courtesy online search engines) and sent a mass email out seeking Hajj package details
  • Maintained an excel register for each package for ease of comparison (Refer to Hajj Package Comparison Template)


July 2011

  • Shortlisted three packages which was eventually brought down to the last one standing based on:
    • their history,
    • their repute,
    • being accessible,
    • being approachable,
    • our requirements of having train journey, proximity to mosques, and of course
    • package costs & details
  • Hajj package payment made


August – October 2011

  • Preparation / Shopping (refer to dedicated post on shopping list preparation)
  • Attending Hajj lectures
  • Reading Hajj material
  • Preparing short notes for Hajj (refer to dedicated post on Hajj notes)
  • Got the vaccinations and health related requirements sorted


October 2011

  • Submitted passport to Agent
  • Approved leave commenced, bags packed and waiting for the passports to arrive
  • Relatives and friends meet us before the anticipated departure date
  • FLASH NEWS: Agent unable to procure visas due to unforeseen circumstances
  • Agent returns passport and payment in full.
  • We resume work

Needless to say, we were disappointed as we spent a lot of time and effort behind this. We didn’t lose hope and renewed our intention for Hajj in 2012. Looking back, we think that it was for our good that Hajj 2011 didn’t work out.

May – July 2012

  • Identified over dozen of hajj agents and sent a mass email out seeking Hajj package details
  • Maintained an excel register for each package for ease of comparison (feel free to use this template)


August 2012

  • Shortlisted one package based on:
    • their history
    • their repute
    • being accessible
    • being approachable
    • our requirements of having train journey, proximity to mosques, and of course
    • package costs & details
    • Details of Agent: Sadaf Hajj & Umrah – UAE based. Highly recommended!
  • Hajj package payment made
  • Leave Request to employer sent

September 2012

  • Preparation / Shopping (refer to dedicated post on shopping list)
  • Educational preparation by attending Hajj lectures, reading Hajj material and watching online videos
  • Prepared short notes for Hajj (refer to dedicated post on Hajj notes)
  • Got the vaccinations and health related requirements sorted


October 2012

  • Passports submitted to Agent
  • Approved leave commenced, bags packed and waiting for the passports to arrive
  • Relatives and friends meet us (again :)) before the anticipated departure date
  • Agent hands over passport with Hajj visa affixed and my boarding card!!!! This was an emotional moment especially since last year it didn’t work out!

Hajj Visa

  • The agent provided me with a  trolley bag with goodies inside (Ihram + first aid kit from Ministry of Health + umbrella + Hajj material)
  • The boarding card made me a bit suspicious but the agent explained to me that the flight was a chartered one and during Hajj rush, it is normal to handover boarding cards days before the departure date.
  • While we were traveling light, I asked the agent for baggage weight restrictions and he said 30kgs per person should be OK.


17th October 2012

  • Reached Dubai International Airport T1 for my flight to Madinah via Saudi Airlines
  • There was a dedicated zone for Hajj pilgrims with ample attendees.
  • Handed over my boarding card to the counter and got my luggage stickers. It was an open seating!
  • I asked if there were any baggage weight restrictions and they said – no weight restrictions as it was a chartered flight. Despite this, I’ll reiterate that it is best to travel light!
  • Our agent greeted us at nearby kiosk wishing us well. We were also handed over a copy of Quran along with another set of Hajj documentation from a UAE government department.
  • We cleared through the passport control & other formalities through the dedicated zone for Hajj pilgrims! We felt special – pampered feeling may I add :)
  • Just when I thought that it would be a difficult for an on-time departure by accommodating all Hajj pilgrims with an open seating plan on a chartered aircraft– an announcement was made that all female pilgrims were to board first. My wife was a bit nervous at first, but saw the advantage of trying to minimize hassles inside the aircraft.
  • After some time, an announcement was made for the male pilgrims to board and the guys did. It was the gigantic A380 aircraft!!!!
  • Never boarded an A380 prior to this. It did cross my mind to occupy the spacious empty First & Business Class seats, but the cabin crew and Hajj group leaders were very organized trying to fill the aircraft starting from its tail to nose.
  • I was proven wrong and we magically departed on time! The aircraft was playing a video on Hajj rituals. As we had been through the educational preparation, I took this opportunity to test my limited Arabic language skills with my fellow neighbors. I spoke to Mr. Majid (from Ras Al Khaimah) the most. He had come with his mother and wife. We spoke about our work, our family, our background, exchanged contact numbers, Hajj package costs (we were both surprised in learning each other’s cost), etc… I also asked him if his parents had a thought behind his name – referring to the famous local soccer cartoon Captain Majid!
  • It was really nice striking a casual conversation with an Emarati in his local language. I must complement his listening and patience as I communicated with my poor Arabic language skills for hours during our journey and at no point did he feel bored or cut me short.
  • Our flight landed at Madinah international airport and slowly we were all off the aircraft. In the absence of an aerobridge, I walked down the stairs. With every step, I was trying to locate my wife. May I add that it was difficult task due to a sea of black :) – Picture trying to find your sister, mother, daughter in black Sample Sea of Black
  • Hurray – I located my wife! It didn’t take that long – courtesy her new backpack! She had made some friends along her flight journey too.
  • We entered the PACKED immigration hall and entered the queue which we “thought” would be the quickest only to be one of the last ones to be attended.
  • Midway through the queue, I felt dizzy and alerted my wife to give me some water and/or sugar. I lay on a bench nearby for few minutes, had sweat running few minutes and felt perfect the next minute. Perhaps something that I had onboard? No clue, but I was back on my feet and yes, back to the queue again!
  • Our turn finally arrived! Guess what? The officer queried my wife if the passport really had her photo, and if the Hajj visa was fake, and few others. He then said that he cannot stamp entry and that she would have to go back! Upon arguing with the officer, he finally admitted that he was joking and just pulling our leg as we looked super stressed and tired. We did get scared and flashback of another failed Hajj attempt.
  • The joke can be construed as positive or negative, we chose to take the positive that the officer despite working long hours with hundreds and thousands of pilgrims – he found us approachable to share a light moment!
  • Upon cleared the immigration, we got our luggage without any further wait.
  • I think it took close to 4 hours to clear the immigration – people say that this is still good and one can anticipate up to 12 hours.
  • As we exited the baggage claim area, our passports were taken by some appointed officials. We were expecting this so readily handed over our passports. It was so rushed that I couldn’t even check if the people who took my passports were really the authorized officials or not. All wear the same dress, so it was hard to differentiate. We took a gamble – well, not that we had a choice!
  • Upon exiting the airport building, we found over 20 buses. Crowds Bird
  • And we had no clue which bus we were expected to be in. Upon looking around, I located an individual who was holding a banner having the name of our agent – somewhat similar to this Sadaf Banner - Noaman Holding
  • He pointed out the bus that we had to get on, I took our luggage bags along and requested the helper to store them on the bus’ roof [where the birds had found rest in one of the previous pictures]. We sat on the bus and after 15minutes, there was an announcement that there has been a change and pilgrims representing such and such Agent have to move to another bus.
  • This time I climbed onto the roof and identified my baggage to get it to the ground. Identification was fairly easy as we had tied bright coloured handkerchief to the baggage handle (remember the kit we received from the agent? So, 90% of baggage pieces looked the same –Pros and cons!).
  • Off we walked across to the other bus and repeated the luggage storage process. Enroute there were people distributing water and face masks.
  • We picked a couple of face masks. There were few who took the entire box with them. I don’t know what is acceptable, but take what you would need and do not waste. It would certainly come handy later!
  • After another 15-20 minutes of wait inside the bus, the bus finally moved! There were several announcements enroute of which the most important ones were:
    • Gents would be separated from women unless prior arrangements were made
    • 3 – 4 people would be sharing in a single room unless prior arrangements were made for single or double share
    • Room allocations have been done based on group booking and/or nationality.
    • They revealed the roommate names and handed over room keys to each one of us.
  • Mohammed Izhar (MI), Arshad Chishti (AC) and I were clubbed together as the strangers who didn’t know each other and would now spend the next couple of important weeks together!
  • My wife had the company of MI’s wife and two other sisters.


18th October 2012

  • We reached our hotel around 1am. We were given welcome drinks and a local Saudi SIM card on behalf of the hotel!
  • The baggage were lined up outside the hotel and were given stickers to affix against our baggage with our room #s as the bellboys would deliver the baggage to the room based on this.
  • My wife and their group entered their room without any issues.
  • Our keys (MI+AC+mine) didn’t work! We knocked on the door only to find out that it was already occupied – ouch we spoilt their sleep! We rushed to our group leaders (Mr. Shakeel and Mr. Abdullah) and informed them about the situation. He said he’ll look into it and get back. He mentioned that few other groups had the same issue and he’s trying to resolve it. Apparently the hotel allocated our booked rooms to someone else.
  • Fast forward 2.30am and still same situation, we were sitting on the floor next to our room which was already occupied. We used this time to know each other better. MI was performing Hajj for his mother (Mashallah) while AC was doing his first (just as me). We got to know more about each other – where we came from, our livelihood, our Hajj preparations, and so on… In between our wives had mentioned to us that their baggage hadn’t arrived. We realized that ours hadn’t come too. Along we want to the hotel reception and got our baggage upstairs ourselves.
  • The hotels are busy this time of the year – so lower any service expectations that you may have even if it is a 5 star property! Even better, don’t have any expectations – it will make your journey much more enjoyable and productive.
  • It took us over 30 minutes to get our baggage upstairs as the lifts are busy too :)
  • Around 3.30am Shakeel comes over and apologises for the situation. He hands us over another set of SIM cards on behalf of the Group along with the keys to another room. It worked BUT it was locked from inside. Mohammed Azhar (MA) woke up and opened the door for us. Shakeel told us that this room is currently occupied by MA and that we could join him. Close to 4am, we only wanted a bed to crash and we did!
  • 10 minutes later it was the call for azaan and we were all confused and dazed. We knew that the azaan is only after 5am and we hadn’t slept so much to hear the azaan so early. MA informed that it was the call for Tahajjud. Needless to say, MI, AC and I continued sleeping to catch up on some brief sleep before Fajr prayers. MA however had started getting ready and left the room.
  • Fast forward 45 minutes of sleep that felt like 45 hours, we were getting ready for prayers at the Prophet’s mosque.
  • Magically, neither MI nor AC took ages during their toilet errands. That was a big relief as it could have resulted in potential conflicts and delay in reaching for prayers.
  • After Fajr prayers, my wife and I entered the “packed” telecom shop to find out how to we can activate BB package in our mobiles. Got this sorted as it was more cost effective to communicate with each other and our family back home.
  • You’ll find a number of street vendors selling clothing, artificial jewelry, fruits, toys and so on. As they are unlicensed by the government, we refrained from purchasing anything from them.
  • All communication from the agent is done through notices affixed to the walls near the elevators. Announcement Sample
  • Sample communication include:
    • Meal times and location – this can differ from Agent to Agent to manage rush
    • Lectures times and venues
    • Contact numbers for emergency
    • Other general communication
  • We used remainder of the day to catch up on sleep and getting to know our roommates.
  • We found out that MA was appointed by the AWQAF as the dedicated scholar to answer queries from select groups. We were excited to share the room with him and began picking his brains on our religious queries relating to Hajj and otherwise too. There was a lot of humour involved in getting to know each other. We also learnt that the room was to be occupied by the Hajj group leaders and they opted giving it to us while they looked for alternate accommodation at a nearby hotel. May they be rewarded for their sacrifice and efforts.
  • There was a religious lecture on Hajj after dinner on the same day which was well attended and needless to say MA was the speaker!
  • We also offered prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah which needless to say was also packed with worshipers. You’ll also witness some nice symmetry and designs!
Madinah Masjid - Rush 1 Madinah Masjid Symmetry
  • Our meals at the hotel restaurants were sometimes solo, or with strangers, or with our wives, or with our roommates, or all combined. While they encouraged gender segregation, they weren’t strict in its enforcement.


19th October 2012

  • We were taken for a visit to the historic sites and mosques – such as Masjid Quba and Qiblatain. On our return journey we stopped for some dates shopping.
  • My brother, Nihal had also come for Hajj via another agent and my uncle (MJA) who resides in Oman had come for pilgrimage with his family too.
  • I met up with MJA and my brother couple of times in between as we didn’t know if we would be able to meet later and hence used this as an opportunity to catch up on family stories and humour.


20th October 2012

  • Road trip from Madinah to Makkah
  • We wore our Ihram garment and were with our packaged baggage at the lobby by 10am (Remember the notices? That’s how the information is shared).

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]رَّبِّ زِدْنِى عِلْمًا [Chapter Ta-Ha; 20:114 – O my Lord! Advance me in Knowledge][/pullquote]

  • Earlier during the day, a brother requested entry to our room to use the toilet as his roommates took longer than usual. He had difficulties wearing the Ihram garment and requested if we could help & teach him wear it. It wasn’t rocket science but surely there are smarter ways to wear the garment. It was really nice to see him ask such a simple question without even hesitating. May he be rewarded for this.
  • Lot of times, we do not ask questions due to our ego or we feel ashamed to ask questions once we have reached a certain age. We might be in our 20s, 30s or even 90s – education never stops. Imagine that you are 40 years of age and have been performing  wudhu (abulution) incorrectly for all those years which is a prerequisite to performing our daily prayers. Don’t we want to attain the reward for our actions? Let’s not be ashamed to ask any question as we have been instructed to seek knowledge.
  • Here is the beautiful supplication you can ask the Almighty for knowledge in any beneficial domain – be it religious or otherwise.
  • Yes, we went through the usual routine of getting baggage to ground floor with the busy lifts. Few of us took the stairs (another reason to travel light).
  • Again, don’t keep any expectations that the hotel staff would bring your luggage down even if the hotel is a five star rated. They are extremely busy and it’s best not to depend on others but yourself!
  • We stopped at Masjid Dhul Hulaifa for saying our intent. We spend 30 minutes there and off we were back on the road.
  • As we cruised Makkah through couple of checkpoints with wait time of 15 – 30 minutes each, we were once again given our room keys and room allocation details.
  • The rooms this time were 3-share and not 4-share which meant MA would not be staying with us.
  • Cops play a vital role in managing the traffic and vehicle movement during Hajj days. During prayer times vehicles are now allowed  within a certain radius to allow free flowing movement of pilgrims by foot. As we reached Makkah during prayer times, we weren’t allowed to enter until pilgrim rush eases out following the prayer. We were parked on the side. The group leaders were trying other means to see if we can gain access via an alternate road. We were allowed entry after approx 90 minutes.
SAUDI ARABIA HAJJ This helps deadlock of buses that used to be rampant earlier. Be patient and let the cops do their job!
  • We reached the hotel and instead of placing stickers on the baggage, we simply took them with us. Oh yes, another 30 – 40 minutes for getting a lift and getting our baggage across.
  • With my mobile battery running out, I left it for charge only to find out that it wouldn’t charge for some reason. Fortunately, my roommate AC had the 10 in 1 USB charger that charged all our phones at the same time.Sample 10 in 1 USB Charger
  • The group leaders provided us the option to do Umrah either with the group combined or solo. After a rest of 30minutes, my wife and I took off for our Umrah independently while our roommates went with the group. My wife and I wanted to perform the Umrah at our pace and comfort levels without being influenced by the bigger group.
  • We did the Tawaaf on the roof as it was less crowded. More importantly, it is a lot more open and you may feel lot more sincere during your supplications.

Crowds Mataf - 3

  • Our Sa’ee was done in one of the upper floors for the same reason as Tawaaf.
  • Alhumdulillah we finished all the Umrah steps and reached back at our hotel rooms.
  • AC & MI had also only reached few moments ago and they mentioned that sticking together in a group was short-lived due to the rush with everyone splitting within few rounds of the Tawaaf.


21st – 23rd October 2012

  • Attended additional lectures conducted by MA
  • Bonded with other Hajj pilgrims from other rooms, few of whom include Naeem Ali (NA), Fahimuddin (FD), Dr. Farrukh, Mohammed Jamil (MJ). It super nice to know all of them!
  • Packed a miniature bag for the subsequent Mina trip.
  • Our Hajj agent offered to buy Hady / Qurbani / Sacrifice coupons on our behalf if needed. Few preferred visiting the abattoir themselves with most preferring to paying the agent to purchase the coupons from the dedicated bank counters facilitating this.
  • The agent provided the individuals with coupons from the bank which indicated the date and time of intended sacrifice (10th Dhul Hajj @ 10am).
  • Note that this is the time of Hajj and there is no time where you’ll find “lesser” rush!
 Makkah Masjid Rush - 2 Makkah Masjid Rush - 3
 Crowds Makkah 5  Crowds Makkah - 3
 Crowds Makkah - 2  Crowds Makkah - 1
Crowds Haram - 1


24th October 2012 (8th Dhul Hajj)

  • Wore the Ihram and off to Mina by our bus!
  • I must confess it was a nervous time with goosebumps all over me with the fear of unknown.
  • The Talbiyah subconsciously got louder and more sincere. We were passing by the Mina tents and spotted tents containing flags from various countries.
 Mina Tents 2 Mina Tents 1
  • My brother called me and said that we might be living in adjacent tents as he spotted several UAE flags. I told him that I’ve been seeing flags since 30 minutes and while I’d love to live in adjacent tents, it would be unlikely!
  • We were dropped off by the bus near our tent and were given name tags to be pinned against our “sofa cum bed” so that it isn’t take over by other pilgrims.
  • AC, MI and I once again decided to stay together and looked for a spot for all of us to squeeze. And we did J
 Mina Accommodation SofaBed 1 Roomie 1
 Mina Accommodation SofaBed 2
  • We were pleasantly surprised to find pillows and blankets for each of us. May I add that these were unused as we had to tear open its plastic covering!
  • Looking at the layout of the tent, I said to myself that even the small backpack is big!
  • And yes, my brother’s tent and mine were nearby – A 20minutes walk separated us :)
  • Our camp housed several tents. This camp had a dedicated tent for conducting prayers during our stay in Mina.
  • Our tent had regular flow of dates, fruits, laban, arabic coffee throughout the Mina stay. We didn’t expect this!
  • Unfortunately the charge points at our tent were non-functional. My wife volunteered to charge it at her tent which I conveniently declined (silly me). In situations like these, spare batteries may come handy (which I didn’t have)! Due to minimal number of charge points, it’s best to carry an Power Extension Cord which can also benefit your fellow mates. The sisters tent and mosque tent were loaded with such cords.



25th October 2012 (9th Dhul Hajj)

  • We were scheduled to leave for Arafat from Mina by Metro!
  • This day was extremely important as it’s the day of Arafat.
  • We had to pack yet another miniature bag for our onward night stay at Muzdalifa. (refer to dedicated post on Shopping List for guidance)
  • It was a 2 minute walk between our Mina tent and the nearest Metro station, however it took us around an hour to get inside the platform.
  • To a large extent, the movement of pilgrims were well organized with groups lining up and proceeding to the platform on a sequential basis.

Crowds Mina - 1

  • During the packed metro journey from Mina to Arafat, I started feeling dizzy (again) and I mumbled to my wife to give me some water and sweets. In no time without realizing I was on my knees. [My wife mentioned that I puked a little bit which till date I cannot recall!] The sweets and water didn’t appear to do any good either. I recall another hajj pilgrim trying to feed me dates. That was some energy booster and I was immediately up on my feet. That single date gave me the boost out of nowhere. His elderly mother stood up from the seat and offered me a seat. While I sat, the same pilgrim offered me few more dates which I consumed and by the time we reached Arafat – I was 90% OK. He gave another packet of dates to my wife hoping it would allow me to complete the Hajj rituals with ease. May his entire family be rewarded for their efforts and my apologies for the inconveniences I caused people around me.
  • It is optional to go via Namirah & Uranah; however most Agents don’t follow this route as it is not a requirement of Hajj. My brother who was determined to follow this route went on foot and was received by another unimaginable rush
 Namirah Masjid Arafat - 1 Namirah Masjid Arafat - 2
  • We reached Arafat station and my wife had informed this episode to AC through his wife. Our Arafat tent was about a short 10 minute walk from train station. AC carried my miniature bag with my wife continuously feeding me water and dates.
  • We reached our tent around 9/10am, and as we reached early – I took this opportunity to catch up with some sleep and rest. Yes, mattresses, pillows and blankets were again provided. Each one of us received a breakfast box. The trio of AC, MI and I were neighbors again :) This time with an extended circle including NA, FS and MJ!
  • With mobile charging issues, my wife was getting in touch with me through NA every 30 minutes or so (to follow up on my health. She was more concerned than me!)
  • We were told that as our tent falls within the Arafat boundary, we could supplicate and pray within the air conditioned tents.
  • After the afternoon prayers and lunch, we stayed within our tents and started supplicating. After an hour of supplication, we could see few people around us chatting away to glory, playing games on their tablets and phones. Clearly, we didn’t want to get influenced and I contacted my wife who shared similar experience at her tent. We stepped outside our tent and took a spot nearby which had people supplicating in the open. We camped there until late and messaged our roommates and other friends to join us if they wished to.
 Jabal Al Rahma Rush - 1 Jabal Al Rahma Rush - 2

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]Reflection: The entire time at Arafat was simply magical. There was something about this day that my heart felt at peace with every supplication. This made me feel so much closer to Allah![/pullquote]

  • You are free to supplicate anywhere within the boundary, few people choose the masses like the picture above. Pick the comfort based on the premise that you’ll maximise this time to make as many supplications as you can without being disturbed by external factors.
  • An announcement was made that we had to leave and head to the train station for our onward journey to Muzdalifa. Note: The supplication time is key between Dhuhr and Maghrib. It is very likely that your agent/group would ask you to start packing your bags much before Maghrib. If this is the case, don’t worry as by the time you leave and wait to enter the train station – it would inshallah be post Maghrib! So, continue supplicating wherever you are!
  • We packed our bags and joined the organized queue to the train station. This was a not as organized as our first train journey. There were lot more people and very rushed. At one instant I couldn’t feel my feet on the ground – I was merely moved by people around me without them intending to. Few pilgrims had bags that were school bag sized and even that we felt was a bit too big for this particular spot. It took almost two hours for us to get onto the train.
  • Finally we reached Muzdalifa station around 11.30pm. Our camp was 5 minute walk away – but our group leaders got lost with the directions despite having GPS. We were asked to wait in a vacant spot and after 20minutes or so we were called and we headed to our camp.
  • We were under the impression that it would be an open camp. Well, it was open but access was limited strictly to pilgrims from UAE quota. Again we were pleasantly surprised to find mattresses, pillows and blankets. None of which were expected! We were told that the UAE AWQAF made these arrangements!
  • Advice – Be content with the toilets available to you throughout your stay. If you thought your Mina tent toilets were substandard, expect Arafat to be worse. And, if you think you’ll pass and wait until your next stop Muzdalifa – don’t even think about it could get even worse. The queues get only longer! The toilets not being dry should not even cross as a requirement during Hajj days. I don’t know about the toilets at Jamaraat as I didn’t visit them.
  • Let’s be practical – The Hajj days attract millions of pilgrims all over the world and you cannot expect toilets to be clean and dry at all times. There are individuals appointed for cleanliness of the toilets but they are often pushed away sighting an “emergency” by another pilgrim. While our toilets were a lot cleaner due to it being a controlled area, I’ve been told that the public toilets for the general public are a lot cleaner than few of the public toilets in other countries. That said, you may need a face mask to bear the foul smell!
  • We got our dinner boxes and we weren’t hungry a single bit. It would be worth mentioning that since my train episode – I was having dates every hour! My friends also started the habit of having dates regularly. I guess this was one of the reason for us not feeling hungry :)


26th October 2012 (10th Dhul Hajj)

  • After a short nap at Muzdalifa, we were woken up by our Hajj leaders for our onward journey to Jamaraat.
  • By this time, the security guarding the gate had disappeared which resulted in outsiders entering our camp. This meant the end of any thought we had for entering the toilets (due to crowds).
  • We renewed our Wudhu and started collecting stones for the onward stoning ritual. Advice for sisters – expect difficulty in performing wudhu at Muzdalifa as it is an open area.
  • Many people used their empty bottled water to store the stones, I just picked a seal-able sandwich bag from my home for this purpose. There are millions (if not more) stones available, so there is no need to fight over stones with other pilgrims. We experienced an incident where a lady (not from our group) looked at us with disgust when she saw us collecting stones from a spot which according to her wasn’t right. Another incident which we laughed at and continued our journey.

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]Reflection: While my minimal difficulties doesn’t even equate to what others face, it certainly made me feel so much more grateful to Allah for all the blessings he has bestowed upon me unconditionally.[/pullquote]

  • We reached the Muzdalifa train station only to find out that they would commence the operation later (due to crowd control), After a wait of 30-45 minutes, the agent asked us if we would like to continue waiting or prefer walking towards the next train station which was few kms away.
  • We all opted to walk and the same story. Another 30-45 min wait at the next station (called as Mina 1). We again opted to walk further and reached the next train station (Mina 2). We were allowed entry into the platform!!! Sigh of relief. This was short-lived as trains were either not stopping at this station or didn’t have enough space for pilgrims to join at this station. During this wait, my flight neighbor – Majid’s mother fell unwell. Fortunately my wife pointed out and asked me to pull out the portable fan from my bag. Out it came and we handed over it to them and as it turns out my wife had already formed a rapport with Majid’s wife earlier during the trip. Small world even in midst of 5-6 million odd pilgrims :). Alhumdulillah Majid’s mother recovered well and after around 2 hours of wait at the platform (yes – we all practically had a power nap at the platform), we managed to squeeze ourselves into the train.
  • We reached Jamaraat!
  • It was a sight which I only saw in newspapers and having heard so many horror stories regarding this spotJamaraat Rush - 5
  • My wife had requested that I do the stoning on her behalf. The agent/group and scholar mentioned that it is going to be full of ease and that there wouldn’t be an issue. So we went ahead. An excellent one-way layout to enter and exit. This floor is dedicated only for the pilgrims who came by metro. Apparently, there are other floors for people who come by foot, vehicles, etc…  While I only speak for this floor – it was indeed very easy and well organised!
Crowds Jamarat - 1 Crowds Jamarat - 2
  • There were volunteers who ensured people walked in only one direction and picked up rubbish as they were sighted. There were ample water coolers along to way to refill your bottles! Don’t be surprised if someone requests or snatches your bottle off your hand. Have patience and don’t let small incidents like these spoil your Hajj.
Crowds Jamarat - 3 Crowds Jamarat - 4
Crowds Jamarat - 7
  • The stoning at the Jamaraat was super easy. Don’t get excited when you sight the Jamaraat and want to try your shot put / throwing / cricket / footy / rugby skills. You may unintentionally hurt someone else in front of you. Proceed further ahead where you’ll find much lesser rush (attach pic for less rush). We were in the first row and could easily throw the stones. Lot calmer and stress free. My wife did the stoning with total ease and so did individuals who came with wheelchairs.
Crowds Jamarat - 5 Crowds Jamarat - 6
  • From here on, the agent gave us an option to either take our own transport to head to the Grand Mosque or walk another 1.5-2km where the bus was parked. Majority of us opted to walk. Those who took own transport were charged SAR100 one way per person on a bike / buggy! Passenger vans were available for lot lesser price but be prepared to wait until the van is filled with pilgrims.
  • Upon reaching the bus, pretty much all of us went into power nap mode without even attempting to.
  • Enroute you’ll find interesting sights!

Hady in Car - 1

  • 10 minutes later, same story. Roads blocked due to crowd control of people offering Eid prayers. We were dropped off around 2 kms away from the Grand Mosque; and back we were on foot dodging people and few vehicles within that perimeter. That was a long long long walk and we finally reached our hotel. Few of us chose to take a short nap, while few went to shave their head and few continued with the Tawaaf & Saee. I got my hair shaved which cost me SAR 20 and then again home for a much needed shower. This shower was longer than usual and I could literally sleep in there. Fortunately, I didn’t as its best to exit the toilets as soon as you can.
  • As most of the group decided to sleep, I joined Mr. Shakeel for breakfast. It was nice to know more about him and his family.
  • My wife got her strands of hair cut and refreshed herself too and off we went to the Grand Mosque. We once again headed to the roof to do our Tawaaf as the Mataf area was packed. Well, even the roof was but we weren’t rubbing shoulders to every other person. Zam Zam water & dates kept us energized through the entire Tawaaf and Saee. In between we offered our Dhuhr and Asr prayers at the Grand Mosque itself. Headed back to the hotel room and an announcement that the bus would leave for Mina before Maghrib.
  • As with most planned initiatives, there was a delay. Few of the pilgrims had not finished their Tawaaf and Saee. We offered Maghrib on the footpath itself and immediately hopped onto the bus to get moving.
Makkah Masjid Rush - 3 (Street) One of the many umpteen number of streets that have packed worshipers for all five daily prayers during Hajj season. This can stretch beyond a km in each direction!Now you can perhaps agree why cops block entries into the Grand Mosque at certain times.
  • Pilgrims that couldn’t make it and they had to manage their own way of getting back to Mina. MI was one of them and said that he preferred pacing his rituals at his comfort levels without being rushed by set times even if it meant paying extra for own transportation. So, be prepared for decisions that you take and don’t take your stress out on the Agent for leaving you behind. If the Agent were to listen to everyone in their group – I doubt if the Hajj rituals would be completed as per the Sunnah. If you have an individual in your group who wants to do the rituals at self-paced and/or is confined to a wheelchair and/or needs timely intervals to sit in your portable chair – mentally prepare for these situations that you may be left behind. The Agents would take their best efforts to get you onboard as per their planned itinerary but they would have onward issues to resolve like getting buses out of the perimeter before lock-down and so on.
  • We reached our Mina tent, had dinner and took our well deserved sleep!


27th October 2012 (11th Dhul Hajj)

  • Following our breakfast AC, MI and I walked around and explored Mina on foot. We collected stones for subsequent stoning too. Enroute, we saw several people who were living outside tent areas. Perhaps these people were people who sneaked in without Hajj visa? No idea but this again reiterated that we have been blessed on several fronts.
  • We saw police, medical facilities and ambulances at every block to attend to any emergencies. There were volunteers and ample signage in English & Arabic language to assist people if they were lost. Garbage collectors worked round the clock to clear trash – an increase in frequency would do no harm. I was really impressed by the year on year improvements that I hear from Hajj pilgrims!
  • Off to Mina for stoning and surprisingly the crowds at the train station somehow disappeared.
  • We reached the Jamaraat station, performed the stoning and then back on the train again to our Mina accommodation.
  • I caught up with my brother later this evening. He came over to my tent and we exchanged our experiences. Alhumdulillah he managed to do most parts of the Hajj rituals on feet (he wanted it that way). He did suffer from dehydration on the Day of Arafat. He took some relief by taking a power nap under a parked truck! Well, don’t exert yourself. It is meant to be easy – so, have plenty of water and dates. Don’t over exert yourself by staying out in the open when you have a choice to stay under a shade! If you want to stay outdoors, carry an umbrella! It helps.
  • My brother offered Isha prayers at our tent. MI and I wanted to sight my brother’s tent arrangements, so off we went to drop him. Their food was very elaborate in comparison to ours. It was nice catching up with his Hajj mates of which many were in their teenage years that reminded me of my nephew and my younger days.
  • MI and I headed back to our tent and witnessed long queues at the public cafeterias. Indeed we were blessed to have food & beverage arrangements at our tents.


28th October 2012 (12th Dhul Hajj)

  • In order to streamline logistics, early this morning we took all our Mina baggage with us on the Metro and dropped it off at our bus which was parked near Jamaraat station.
  • Usual meal routine; off to Mina for stoning and surprisingly the crowds were even lesser this time. So much so, that we even managed to get a seat inside the cabins!!!
Sadaf Banner Holder - Roomie  Trains - Empty
  • After completing the stoning, we walked towards our bus that was parked near the Jamaraat station. The bus took us straight to the Grand Mosque (this way we avoided going back to Mina to collect our luggage as this was placed earlier during the day).
  • Once again, the bus was not allowed access within a certain radius and we volunteered to walk it up to the hotel with our luggage. It was a very busy street and tiresome as most of us men were carrying baggage of our ladies too. Dodging cars and two wheelers with baggage was not a good idea. Another reason to travel light!
  • We reached our hotel and rested our legs


29th October 2012 (13th Dhul Hajj)

  • We used this free day for last minute shopping. Also to have much needed Karak tea as most of us weren’t used to a weeklong tea bag culture.
  • Packed our bags with recently purchased items.


30th October 2012

  • Our last day in Makkah before heading home.
  • Usual elevator issues and it took around 1 hour to get the luggage down. Hint: Start very early unless you want to use the stairs.
  • Luggage were stored in the bus. We headed to the Grand Mosque for the Farewell Tawaaf and back on the bus for onward journey.
  • The bus stopped midway to collect our passports from a designated office. The agent handed over our passports thereafter.
  • We reached Jeddah Hajj terminal and our luggage were stocked by helpers in a trolley (see attached pic). Very different operation to a typical passenger flight. As this was again chartered, the entire group’s baggage was stitched with luggage stickers under the agent’s name (Note that this was happening outdoor and not inside the air-conditioned premises of the airport. The ladies were waiting in the indoor area while the men were outdoors ensuring that our baggage is loaded and not left out). There were 8-10 aisles and each aisle was dedicated for a particular flight. Needless to say, priority was given for earlier flights.
Noaman Trolley Fun - 1  Noaman Trolley Fun - 2
  • We entered the terminal building, cleared passport control and met up with our better halves. All of us headed to the food court for lunch.
  • After a long wait to get vacant table and chairs, we managed to source the required number of tables and chairs with some difficulty. Each one treated the other in the form of pizza, tea, coffee, cakes, water, etc… It felt a very family affair with everyone contributing.
  • We reached Dubai International Airport and swiftly cleared all checks and immigration courtesy dedicated Hajj counters J
  • We were offered water, biscuits, chips and chocolates from Dubai Customs. Nice initiative (I’m not saying this because I’m their ex-employee :))
  • We all greeted our Hajj mates best wishes as we parted ways. My father received us at the arrival hall and I could see from his eyes that he was jubilant at our Hajj completion. I can still visualize this moment very clearly.
  • Reached home to find family members waiting to receive us. Like all moms, my Mom had tears of joy and was full of supplications.


We have been fortunate to have been showered with countless number of blessings without even asking! Yes, I did encounter hardships – but again, that in itself is an experience. I’m cent percent sure that my hardship wouldn’t even match to another pilgrim’s experience. May we all be rewarded for our patience. Don’t we all face hardships – with our family, employers, partners, friends, clients, etc…? These experiences help us grow strength to strength in order to make us better individuals. Of course, we should reflect on it constructively with the authentic guidance available to us. In it are signs to reflect. We’ve heard the saying “No pain – No gain”, so let’s keep zero expectations when we embark our Hajj journey to reap the maximum rewards with bags filled with patience.


May all the believers be granted an accepted Hajj!

1 comment

  1. Naveed

    Noaman, Also look at the work I have done for muslim bros and sisters for proper Hajj rituals. I went to Hajj on 2011 and saw Muslims doing lot of mistakes during their performance so i decided to develop http://www.hajjguide.pk

    it is both in English and in Urdu. (still in under construction)….. hope you will like it. Please spread the link to as many as you can ……may be Allah like our effort and call us again for Hajj :)


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