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.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


The journey to Muzdalifah was typical - the coach broke down! Story of my hajj trip - dodgy transport! Thankfully it was sorted in about 15 minutes - and we soon arrived in Muzdalifah.

The purpose of us staying in Muzdalifah was to collect pebbles for the following three days of stoning the 'devil' at Mina. It's part of the hajj ritual to stay the night in Muzdalifah as the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) did. 

When reading about Muzdalifah it's referred to as a desert, but the reality is its a wasteland packed full of people- oh so many people - picking pebbles! Like in Arafat there were areas but space was so limited - you really just find an area with space and stick with it.

Once in Muzdalifah its tradition to combine isha and Maghrib prayers - dependent on the time you arrive there. So our first thing was to get a spot and pray, all well and good until the lady next to me stood on my foot (typical congregational prayer hazard) and I screamed out in the middle of the prayer - oops. My foot was on fire and once the prayer was over I burst into tears - the pain and the long day got the better of me.

Thankfully I snapped out of it quickly - and got on with picking my stones - my technique was to pick those closest to where I was sat! Other people took it to another level! It was like each stone had to be perfect and if they saw stones next to where you were lain down trying to sleep that didn't deter them!

I have some tips for Muzdalifah:
  • Bring cardboard or a sleeping mat (you can buy these dirt cheap in Mina/Makkah) as you will be sleeping on stones that WILL poke through your sleeping bag!
  • A sleeping bag is not essential. You will be lucky to get a couple of hours sleep at most. My research told me Muzdalifah would get cold at night and a sleeping bag was essential. However it only ever 'cooled' down to about 24 degrees. The bag was a lot of space to take to Mina....I would have preferred an extra outfit.
  • Don't be scared by the lack of facility stories. We were warned to not eat and drink too much as there would be no where to go (this is why I was running to the loo and fell haha). Funnily enough we ended up being 2 minutes from the toilets. Apparently years back there were far less facilities - or maybe the guide writers were up in the mountains - yes people slept up on the mountains in Muzdalifah.
  • REST! I cannot emphasize this more. The next day is going to be tough - and you need to be ready. Try and sleep where you can.
  • Don't take a tent - yes really. People had brought pop up tents to sleep in - for ONE night. This is seriously not necessary unless you have serious need to take one - don't bother. Some people take a long time to reach Muzdalifah - and in essence we are there only for some hours.
  • Get your wudhu done way before fajr! This is obvious...the facilities are there but so are zillions of people!
  • Leave AFTER fajr. There is a ruling that sick and elderly people can leave Muzdalifah early. My group did have elderly people in but 80% took this ruling and left. This is hajj - try to follow the sunnah as much as possible. 

pictures from the web

Monday, 16 September 2013

Mina Day 2 and Arafat

The night passed - I managed to sleep despite the lady next to me sticking her elbow in my side and no nudging would move her!

I woke at fajr time....along with the rest of the camp and this made for chaos as we all headed to the loos for wudhu and that first pee of the day. Oh yes....pushing and shoving and general yelling ensued - we all needed a pee! Sabr is definitely needed. We managed to work around this for the rest of hajj and wake 45 minutes before fajr so the queues were minimal.

We were given a breakfast pack which had instant noodles in - how odd - you might think but, you come to realise these instant noodles are a Godsend when you find the hot water urns in the camp kitchens - and therefore you have hygienic food ready when YOU want to eat - excellent! We were told to be ready to go at any time for the government bus to Arafat. Today was a big day....Arafat is essentially hajj. See the hadiths below regarding the serious barakah of attending hajj and being at Arafat.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘There is no day on which Allah frees people from the Fire more so than on the day of Arafah. He comes close to those (people standing on ’Arafah), and then He revels before His Angels saying, ‘What are these people seeking.” (Tirmidhee)

As for you staying till the evening in Arafah, then Allah descends to the sky of the Duniya and He boasts about you to the Angels, and says: ‘My slaves have come to Me, looking rough, from every deep valley hoping for My mercy, so if your sins were equivalent to the amount of sand or the drops of rain or like the foam on the sea I will forgive them. So go forth My slaves! Having forgiveness and for what or who you have interceded for.’
(Reported by at-Tabarani in his book “al-Kabeer” and by al-Bazaar. Shaykh Al-Albani graded it Hassan. Taken from ‘Saheeh al-Targheeb wa Tarheeb’. Volume 2, Page 9-10, hadeeth no. 1112)

pictures from the web

The standing and praying at Arafat is seriously important. The standing in such a huge crowd is to signify the day of resurrection and how we will all stand equally before Allah for judgement.

We had to pack a bag for Arafat and Muzdalifah - I packed light finding the sleeping bag to be the biggest thing I took alongside valuables - which you do NOT leave in Mina.

We made sure we were ready for the coach. The previous day's experience taught me that it was a free for all and first on first seated. I managed to get a seat this time - some guys had to stand and we were off. Singing 'labbayk'. 

Arriving at Arafat I was surprised by the layout. All the documentaries focused on the 'Mount' and never showed how it really is. The reality is that Arafat is a large area and is divided into sections. The sections corresponded to our camp numbers.... so we were deposited at section 32. I was gobsmacked by the entrance - it was like a classical country garden - complete with twee water fountain and gazebo.  I later found out this garden - although public for camp 32 was created for a special 'bit' of camp 32. 

Our group was segregated as usual and we were led to our allocated shady spot. It was a screened off area and the shade was created by draped material - see following pics.

my own pictures

There was no air con; but there were parts of Arafat with tents equipped with air con and sofas. I found this to be a bit sad. Hajj is about being equal - wearing ihram and standing together rich and poor to worship our creator. However there was so much inequality.....money really does talk. It buys aircon and comfort worship. 

Our tents had the same barrels of ice with soft drinks that we had back in Mina so I got quite creative with the ice cubes and pouring cold water over my scarf to cool off throughout the day.

Once we settled in I promptly fell asleep for a while. The early start and still being feverish took it out of me. I amused several of the ladies as I was apparently snoring my head off. My sleeping was to become a source of amusement, amazement and in some cases derision over the next few days.  When I woke up I went for a small walk to find the loo. The loos were more basic than Mina - no shower or hose pipe - just a small tap for water. 

I chose to spend my day situated in the shaded area. I spent the day making dhikr, duaa and completing my prayers. One of my friends made it to the actual mount and so did Mr. He said it was an amazing experience. It sounds really peaceful and spiritual - and there were parts of it that was. I loved it when one lady led the group in duaa and we were all crying. However with the sheer volume of people and the tannoys and the helicopters and so forth it was very noisy!

The food was again chicken.....but it was southern fried and came with chips - a huge portion and being paranoid of any bad tummy I ate all the chips and picked at the chicken a bit. 

As the day wore on Mr came to find me and see how I was doing health wise. Not brilliantly - however he had found out from a group member there was a free clinic in the camp and they were giving out meds to people who were poorly so he took me along. This is where I think that people don't give the Saudi's enough credit. The clinic was clean, modern (first world standard) and I was seen immediately. Within ten minutes of walking in to the clinic I had antibiotics and tablets for my fever - free of charge!

That was not to be my last visit of the day to the clinic. Once maghrib had passed we started the inevitable wait for the coach for Muzdalifah. I decided to panic and run to the loo in case I missed the coach (I never learnt - it was always hours of waiting) and fell flat on my face - as I fell I felt my foot turn out. I have notoriously weak ankles/feet and knew what had happened as I was still falling. As soon as I was helped up by several brothers - cringe - the pain kicked in. I knew it was a sprain and this did not bode well. Umm Yacine and her mr took me to the clinic and I was advised to have an x-ray if there was no improvement the next day  - that was just out of the question - the next day was going to be full on! I put ice on my foot and strapped it up as tight as I could. 

We finally got called to the coach and had a good giggle at the older ladies in our group. They were worse than us in their determination to be on the coach first. We were in a holding pen for the coach and slowly but surely they managed to edge themselves closer and closer to the exit. They were deadly serious - though I didn't blame them. 

Side note on beggars at Arafat

There are people who choose to target Hajj pilgrims for sadaqah (charity) as it's such a special day with so many blessings. My advice is to be very aware and not be pulled in. The beggars I encountered were professional - one lady had a top of the range mobile phone which rang as she was doing her 'speech' and she stopped to answer it!  We had a brother from the UK approach us in our tent in ihram claiming to be in dire need of money - bear in mind to get to hajj that year he must have paid a minimum of £2,500 and he had his son with him! My personal tactic was to offer food - I had left the main portion of my money at the hotel as its really not needed on the main hajj days.

Monday, 21 January 2013

What to wear on Hajj

Salaam alikoum all!

I haven't blogged in a while - so to ease myself back in I have decided to do a post on what to wear to hajj!

This post has been inspired by a Face Book friend (thanks Umm Merlin)

The temperature will range between 30 and 40 degrees. For a Brit like me that's HOT!

So us ladies not having too many restrictions on us with ihram we are free to pick and choose whats comfy to wear.

My first advice is: think about keeping it cool

Choose an abaya which is made of natural breathable materials. Don't make the same mistake as me and bring an abaya that was nylon based.....its like taking a constant shower!  Alternatively you could wear an overhead abaya, they are quite floaty and would avoid wearing a scarf.

Under the abaya I personally recommend leggings. They are practical, you will be using dirty public toilets and you want trousers that don't flap around or drag.  They are also very light. My friend wore ali baba trousers.

I would also recommend these - they are light and cool and don't drag on the floor!

My next recommendation is a vest top. Again its about wearing as little as possible to keep cool.

My favourite abaya I wore to death out there was very light and a cotton mix.  It was also not black! Black absorbs the sun - so not the best colour to wear. The majority of hajja's wore white. Me and white don't mix (I will spill something on my white clothes within 5 minutes of wearing the garment!). 

My next advice is regarding foot wear. Hajj is going to involve a LOT of walking. I mean a lot. 

Seriously consider what kind of footwear will best suit you. You will be mainly walking over concrete and pebbley ground (nightmare!). 

Cheap flip flops won't cut it. Really. Save them for the public toilets/Mina.

My personal recommendation are hiking sandals/trainers.

They are sturdy and provide a comfortable support for your feet.  I saw so many men wear out their flip flops, lose them etc. Men have little option for footwear due to the constrictions of ihram. Us ladies are lucky so take advantage!

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. 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Night Before Mina

So I woke up full of energy despite having been up till way past fajr.

One issue were my feet. They were elephantine. They reminded me of my father's feet before he passed away - swollen badly. I was worried. They also ached. In fact all the time I slept I felt my feet ache from my Umrah - LOL. Too much sitting down (days in fact), flying and then walking caused it.

My husband had the same issue but also knew the cure - exercise.  All I had to do was flex my feet and toes and apparently it would ease off. I hoped so - It was uncomfortable.

Mr decided to go on a trip to see the Cave of Hira. He did offer for me to go - but I was shattered and these feet were not up to a major walk.  Its a popular place for pilgrims to visit, should they arrive in Makkah at a reasonable time before we set off to Mina.

Information on the Cave of Hira

The Cave of Hira is situated two miles away from the holy city of Mecca in Jabl al Nur. It is a small cave with about 3.5 meters long and 2 meters wide. The cave was Allah’s apostle (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) most adorable place for mediation. It was in this cave that the archangel Gabriel revealed the prophet's the first divine revelation.

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was in this cave when Gabriel appeared for the first time to order him to read. However, his reply at that time was “ I cannot read” .

“Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who created, created man from a clot. Read! and your Lord is the Most bountiful, (he who taught) the use of pen taught man which he knew not.” (Al-Qur'an 96:1-3) ;

These were the Qur’anic verses that Muhammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) received in the Cave of Hira.

The Cave of Hira has got a significant history and it faces the Ka’abah. It is accessible just for Muslims.

Visiting the Cave of Hira has nothing to do with any form of worship. The cave is located on the way to Mina ; about 3.5 kilometers away from Mecca on the Nur Mount.

Cave of Hira (web pic)
So I took it easy - sat reading, went to the local shop for an icecream and nearly boiled to death in the 5 minutes me and Umm Yacine took to get there and back. It was worth it for a chocolate ice cream. We had lunch which was exactly the same as dinner the night before....the BBQ chicken Umm Yacine had been excited about. This was to become a recurring theme. It was also what we had for lunch the previous day. Hmmmm chicken and rice three meals running.
Generally it was a lazy day. Reading, chatting and staying in the air conditioned room. I was desperate to go to Makkah and see the Kaba again but Mr did not seem to appear. I was getting peed off but then finally he turned up bearing gifts. A huge bottle of strawberry Fanta, a new hijab and a ring (nothing flash....it later turned green!).
He went off to shower and we then went to Makkah.
We made it into Makkah as the adhan went off for maghrib. Everyone outside the Masjid Haram were in perfect lines for prayer. Only we didn't have wudhu. We couldn't pray. We tried to squeeze through to get to the wudhu stations but as prayer was secomds away people started nudging us away or not letting us pass through. I started panicking.....Imagine thousands of people all lined up to pray and you running round like a headless chicken....not fun.
people praying outside masjid Haram (web pic)
We started running around - desperately but the prayers started.....I was in meltdown mode!
The we spotted a door.....oooh a door we both thought and ran towards it. However at the door was a guard complete with gun. He yapped in Arabic at us.....basically no entry. We explained we needed wudhu and he said no. Looking uninterested.Don't ask why I did what I did next. I decided to attempt to run through the door....I randomly thought if I went through the guard would let my husband through!
The guard grabbed my arm and flung me away from the door! Mr looked horrified and started yelling leave her alone. I held my hands up and said no no its my fault...lets go.
So we had to wait by the guard's barrier - yes with him glaring at us before we could go make wudhu....it then took us forever to get to the top floor - and it was rammed with people. Literally there was no space to pray - on the top floor! And it was not even prayer time! Finally we found a space for 2 of us and off we went....to then be stood on and walked in front of. Hmmm. Well Alhamdulilah we finally managed our maghrib. As soon as we finished a man started yelling at us. What now?! Apparently women are meant to leave their husband's side - yes in a mosque that can take millions of people and pray separately. But there was no space - mr told the man this and we decided to go.
We were glad to be out. We hadn't even spotted the Kaba. So we decided to go eat. We didn't fancy chicken and rice a fourth time. So we picked our way across the crowded courtyard to the mall. as we reached the outside of the mall - this took a while as there were so many people and I needed a toilet stop, as did Mr - it was time for Isha prayer. so we prayed outside a row of shops just outside the mall. A nice Turkish lady let me share her prayer mat. We prayed and then it was time to go shopping!
We had a walk around and I was amazed by how many abaya shops there were. There were some beautiful abayas, but Mr kept saying - hold on until Medinah....its cheaper there. I was overwhelmed with choice. There was one I fell for instantly - and to this day I kick myself for not buying it! It was simple; plain black with a multicoloured zip detail with Chanel zip pulls. Its simplicity is what made me like it - it was unique as well - I have never seen an abaya like it.
We were starving by now and knew there would be food somewhere so we went up a few escalators and arrived at a floor with lots of chairs and tables and people eating happily. Great we thought we are here. Five minutes later we had not spotted one food outlet. So we circled the area and stopped several staff who didn't understand what we were after; despite my husband speaking Arabic.  I was so annoyed and snapped 'whats that then? magic food?' pointing at people eating. Finally we realised the food courts were on the next floor below.
We got to eat!
After eating we had a walk around and as we were walking someone grabbed my waist. Horrifed I whipped around to give the perpetrator what for when I saw Umm Yacine laughing her head off.  We were glad to see each other (despite having spent all day together) and we went to find her husband's neighbour from back home who was also making hajj. We then bumped into some men also staying at our hotel and we all were ready to go back.
Well what happened next I can only claim came from the madness of waiting for nonexistent taxis.
Everyone had to head back to their hotel - we were all due in Mina the next day - yep all 6 million of us.
Now remember what I said about our hotel being right at the edge of Aziziyah. The cabs that did stop and these were very few were charging a lot of money. Of course we refused. We will get another cab. Of course we will. Ages later and about half a miles walk through crowds of people all trying to hail cabs we realised this was not going to be as easy as we thought.
Entering into the hajj spirit of patience me and Umm Yacine started singing  - 'we gotta get out of this place' and laughing at the sights that passed us by.
piling on (personal pic)
yes these cars were really this overloaded (personal pic)
The amount of people hanging off roof tops of cars, mini vans etc was hilarious. I couldn't resist taking a few pictures. I even have a video which I will put on the Facebook page for this blog as I don't seem to be able to upload videos here.
We eventually got a taxi and accepted the inflated price.....we were too tired to care. Some of the men who had been with us had given up and decided to walk back to the hotel (crazy!) and we actually passed them as we drove back. But we were so fast we couldn't stop the driver. Those poor men had miles to walk.
We got to our hotel and decided to get some sleep in as we suspected that Mina was not going to be restful nor the actual 'Hajj' itself.
I started tossing and turning. My throat felt like I had swallowed a razor blade. Umm Yacine reckoned it was the air con that I couldn't seem to live without so I turned it off in the vain hope of appeasing my sore throat. We opened the window for air and noticed immediately the crazy amount of beeping going on. It was roughly 1am and the traffic going towards Mina was already crazy. 
We tried to settle but the beeping was too much. We started joking. Why is it the beeping always seems to be at our hotel? I even suggested one of the guys who worked for the agency I disliked had put a sign up saying 'hoot your horn when you pass' outside the hotel. We were in hysterics over that. I stuck my head out the window and spotted the issue. A coach had broken down just past the hotel....and because the traffic was so dense people didn't realise it was broken down and were beeping at it to move! To befair the Saudis love to toot their horns but this was excessive!
Crazy traffic! (personal pic)

So between the noise and my throat driving me nuts - i was sucking pastille after pastille to no avail it was a sleepless night. Me and Umm Yacine had some giggles and a good chat - so I have quite fond memories of that night.