Kaaba in Masjid-al-Haram in Makkah's Grand mosque

Hajj Series: Tiny Tips for Hajj Planning

The last post within the series really just shares a few little tips that don’t fall under any specific category. I may come back and update this as I recall things.

There are so many little tidbits to remember and this is only the PLANNING portion of this series. Still, to come are the actual days of Hajj and how to take on Madina during Hajj time.

Now here are the few things that are useful to know when planning for Hajj:

  • Do not plan to travel outside of the country at least 3-4 months before your departure date as your passport will be unavailable since it will be sent off to get a visa.

 

  • Some groups may provide you with certain things but this can change year-to-year. From our group, we got a full set of luggage with the company’s name and info, a backpack, a string bag (though we found our Nike one to be much stronger and noticed that the one provided by the group had broken for a lot of people), a very, very useful side bag/fanny pack, travel adapters and bags for our shoes as well as our stones that we would collect in Muzdalifah.

 

  • Load the Quran onto your phone. While waiting, traveling and during the days of Hajj, it can be difficult to carry your Quraan safely. This makes it a lot easier to get more reading done and not worry about accidentally taking your bag into the bathroom or placing it on the floor. To make this easier, pack a portable charger as well!

 

  • When leaving to come home, you can get a gift of a new Quraan from the airport. Once you go through security, there is someone sitting on the side handing them out. Pay attention to the version you get so that it is actually legible for you.

 

  • Make Friends! You’re going to need a support system as the days get tougher. You will naturally find people you will get along with who think the same way you do. Be there for others and others will be there for you as well!

 

  • Not everyone will be a happy camper but positively will take you a long way. If something doesn’t work – that’s okay. There are people who are in a much more difficult position than you are in.

 

  • Take care of your health – try to eat well when you can, practice walking before you go and prepare for being very tired – all the time!

 

  • There is lots of food handed out during the Hajj season – the Saudi Government is very generous to Hajj pilgrims. Sometimes, it is a little too much. Keep in mind that there are a lot of people outside that may not have enough money for food. Try sharing first so that there are packaged leftovers to give to those who might need it.

 

  • Shop in Madina – it’s much calmer and this way, it is already taken care of before you get to Makkah

 

  • If you are ordering a large number of dates – you have the option to ship it home. This keeps it safe from going bad but if you don’t have that option, be sure to keep it in an air-conditioned space for the entire time.

Keep in mind, this list will likely be updated every so often so check back closer to when you leave. I actually can’t believe I finished this!

I will be sharing this on my Instagram and on Facebook. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below or on either platform. I will try to share direct messages and questions as a highlight on my page as well so that I can share as much info as possible.

Quran on black background

Hajj Series: Research & Study Resources

One thing that really surprised me was how many people I had spoken to who had not studied ahead of time. Once you sign up with your group you are given resources to read and refer to while you are performing your Hajj. Read this in advance and read anything you can get your hands on. This is a big trip and if you were going to any other trip, you would be all over the researching and building an itinerary. The one benefit of going in a group is that you don’t have to plan your transportation accommodation or food so use that to your advantage and study what your steps are for when you are performing the Hajj. You won’t remember everything and though the group leader will have lectures every day on what to expect the next day, it is always beneficial to know what to expect and use these lectures as refreshers. There were many people who were hearing what they would be doing for the very first time during these lectures and simply were not as mentally prepared as those who had done some reading and researching ahead of time. Again, something that I cannot stress enough!

If reading many books isn’t your thing, watch vlogs and YouTube videos. My favourite online hajj resource was recommended by a few of my friends and I would listen to this on my commutes and drives as well. Although you may be listening to many different leaders and reading from a variety of books, keep in mind that everyone’s programs are a little different and that the details will vary from group to group. The main rites are always the same and learning what you will do and why you will do them so will bring much more value and benefit to your Hajj.

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I listened to lectures, watched YouTube videos and did a bit of high-level reading. Below are some resources I found very helpful.

At a minimum – digest these over the next few months as you prepare for your trip. They take time but I tried to listen to the lectures during my commute and watch the videos during Ramadan and the few weeks leading to our departure.

Questions? Ask me below or on my Instagram page! As always, keep up with me on socials via Facebook and Instagram!

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Hajj Series: What to Pack for Hajj

Now there are a ton of lists and YouTube videos out there on what to pack for your trip and what to take with you so I won’t go into too much detail but certainly leave a comment or DM me on Instagram to ask me if you need any help or further suggestions.  

I will share a few things that I found really, really useful:

  • Command Hooks
    • These are really handy for Mina since there isn’t anywhere to put your things. They are also great if you will be moving into an apartment building as they may not have enough hooks. I used this right above my bed to hang my bag as well as my clothing/PJs.
    • Carabiners
      • These were so useful for so many things. We kept them on our water bottles if we didn’t feel like carrying them. If a bag strap broke, it was an easy thing to use to hold it together, etc.
    • Swimming shoes
      • We used these only IN the haram while doing tawaaf. Once we got to the gates, we would pop on our other shoes into our bags and switch into these. Now when in ihram, men cannot use them but once out of ihram, they made it much easier as the floor can get pretty hard to walk on and it also keeps your feet clean!
      • A small note on shoes – I found that waterproof Birkenstock was the best during this trip.
    • Spray water bottle
      • You will find many spray fans and/or bottles with a spray and fan but these are bulky and require a battery for the fan. This is a 2-in-1 and trust me, you want to carry less! I got mine from mountain warehouse and it was a lifesaver!
    • Phone fan
      • I cannot tell you how ideal this little fan was! The fact that it could fit into my pocket and didn’t need any batteries was such a blessing. It is plugged into your phone and doesn’t use much of your battery.
    • Rubber gloves
      • I will go into this a bit further on my next post where I explain what to know for the days of Hajj but this is something I am so happy I took. With millions of people performing their hajj and a few thousand people sharing a few bathrooms in Mina, this made the bathroom experience just a TAD easier. It may seem like a lot but it’s better to have more than less – take my word for it.

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Hajj Series: What does it really cost?

Now the cost of Hajj will always vary and every year there is generally a slight price increase but this post should give you an overall idea of what to expect. When we went in 2018, the cost per person for Hajj was approx. CAD $10,500 for a 19-day package.

Outside of this base cost, there are other costs you need to consider. These are:

  • The Hajj Draft (approx. CAD $150 each) A Hajj draft is a fee by the Ministry of Hajj on each person that goes for Hajj. A portion of this fee is used to maintain the sites where you will stay and perform the Hajj – Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifa while the other portion is used to cover a portion of the Transportation in Saudi Arabia. This Draft is required in order to obtain a Hajj visa from Canada. Your group will pay this for you ahead of time when they process your passports to get a visa. Once the visa has been confirmed, you make that payment to your group. This may vary from group-to-group.
  • Sacrifice/Qurbani fee (Approx. $450 each)At the end of your Hajj, you must ensure you complete the rites with the sacrifice or Qurbani. Being from a Canadian group, you don’t have to do this yourself (yes, some pilgrims from other places may have to do this on our own). The group leader arranges to have this done and he will let you know once it has been done. Only then can you remove your ihram, cut your hair/shave your head and complete your Hajj. Keep this in mind – you need to ensure this is done in order to come out of Ihram.
  • Costs of purchasing items for the trip (approx. $150) Before you leave for Hajj, you will go through many articles, videos and hopefully this blog series that recommend that you take things with you for your trip. All of this adds up and though this cost can vary, I spoke to a few people who agreed that for them it also came in and around this price. Now I won’t give you details on what exactly these items are since I will have a post dedicated on what to pack for hajj next week! The gist of it is mainly medication, food, and other handy items to make your trip a little easier or comfortable!
  • Spending money while you are there. This can vary but it would include:
    • Lunch – many groups include both breakfast and dinner buffets at the hotels you stay at but tend not to include lunch. During the days of Hajj, you will get lunch and snacks too – you will have more food than you can eat during these days!
    • Snacks
    • Dates
    • Bottles to fill extra water to take home. You can fill and take home as much Zam Zam water as you’d like from the Haram. Before you leave for home, you will also be able to purchase one 5L bottle per person from the airport. Some people were able to buy more but this might be risky if the attendant at the time does not allow for it. Many stores sell bottles that are made to transport water so you will generally buy a few of these. They don’t cost much but just to give you an idea on something you may end up spending money on!
    • Gifts – We did not buy much as we did not want to spend the few days we had in markets and malls but many others in our group that were there for longer bought a lot of things. Obviously, this includes prayer mats, clothing and smaller things to give to family back home and keep for yourself as well. This bucket can range but you can imagine that if you do choose to bring something back – your list may be quite long!
Abraj Al-Bait,

Abraj Al-Bait, Clock Tower. Home to the epicentre of shopping in the Haram, Grand Mosque of Makkah, Saudi Arabia

This brings the total close to approx. $22,500 per couple without spending money. We spent about $400 or so but this will vary for everyone and therefore I have not included it in the total listed above. Now, this is a big amount of money – you can’t deny that BUT the earlier you decide to go, the easier it becomes to start putting money aside. You also don’t pay it all in one chunk. Generally, there is a 50% deposit earlier in the year – around 7 to 8 months ahead. You then pay the remaining balance closer to the date – may be about 4-5 months ahead.

This is the one thing that will help you determine which group to go to Hajj with. Everyone has different budgets but the biggest thing to keep in mind is that you are doing a significant thing and in every difficulty, there is a reward.

Other things to consider that will increase your costs: Continue reading

Kaaba in Makkah Mataf

Hajj Series: How to choose a Hajj Group

The most common question that you usually get once you’ve shared that you will be going to Hajj is generally who you are going with. Going to Hajj requires you to travel with a group. You cannot go on your own and everything from your flights, accommodation, food, and transportation is a part of the package. This is a big decision – it determines where you will stay, what you will eat, your itinerary, the length of your stay and the language the lectures will be in and the ‘star-rating’ of your entire experience.

At the start, you will find lots of groups with lots of amenities and package offers. Generally, you can choose between an ‘express-type’ 2-weekish stay up-to a full one-month stay. This again varies from group to group. It’s best to sit down with whoever you are going with, create a chart to compare the different options. This will also easily help you determine right up front what your ‘must-haves’ are and what your budget is.

There are many Canadian Hajj groups that take pilgrims to perform and complete their Hajj. If you do a quick google search, you’ll be able to pull up the different companies and see what options they are offering in terms of the items listed above as well as the cost.

Kaaba in Masjid-al-haram_Grand mosque of Makkah

Kaaba in Masjid-al-haram_Grand mosque of Makkah

Our Experience
We chose to go with Toronto-based Al-Falah Hajj & Umrah Services. We determined this by looking at all of the points above as well as reviews from many of our friends. We had a great experience with Al-Falah and certainly recommend it to others if they are looking for an affordable 5-star (note that there are 7-star rated groups out there as well as well as 3-star groups) experience.

Traveling with Al-Falah meant being a part of a group that is invested in your Hajj experience with a dedicated leader who has been in the business for over 25 years. One note to take in for this group is that the leader of this group tends to communicate in Urdu and English – not just in english simply due to the general makeup of the group. The group leader does speaks English and does have a translator at the sessions he leads but it’s just something to take note of if you don’t speak/understand this language. Our group consisted of many people from all over the country of all ages and backgrounds and on the last day we were all extremely satisfied and happy with our experience. Alhamdulillah, our hajj was complete!

We chose to go with this group because it met all of our requirements in terms of budget, offering a 5-star package and the number of days we were able to travel for. If you take a look on their website, you will see that their package offers a split stay in Makkah between a very convenient 5-star hotel and a few days in the Hajj buildings. Not all groups do this but it is something that allows pilgrims to have a 5-star experience for the whole trip – Madina, Makkah and the days of Hajj for a reasonable cost.

Kaaba in Masjid-al-Haram in Makkah's Grand mosque

Kaaba in Masjid-al-Haram in Makkah’s Grand mosque

With this split accommodation, based on the 19-day package we were in a 5-star hotel (Al-Safwa), two mins to the Haram for 3 nights and then moved to the Hajj building (about a 10-15 min. away). Other group members who were there for longer were in the hotel for a few more days than we were and moved to the apartment buildings with us, once we arrived.

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Masjid Al Nabawi

5 things I wish I knew before going to Hajj

Brace yourselves – this is a going to be a big series but it certainly deserves to be. I hope it makes up for me not posting for ONE YEAR!
This is a series of posts that were basically done in my head – I’ve been telling anyone that has asked me – and discussing it with anyone that has been through it. It’s not exactly what I wish I knew because I eventually got all this info from friends who shared it with me BUT everyone may not have that option and that’s where I come in! And trust me if you don’t get this info you will wish you did!
Crowds in the haram in front of the gates during the hajj season in Makkah Saudi Arabia

Gates leading to the Masjid-al-Haram (Great Mosque of Mecca) during Hajj in Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Last year, Alhamdulillah we were given the opportunity to perform our Hajj. Now, we knew this was something we wanted to prioritize for ourselves and we’re lucky to be joined by our friends as well which made a huge difference!
There is so much I can talk about and I will certainly do a Q + A on my Instagram stories when this goes up but below are my top 5 things to consider when preparing for your upcoming Hajj 2019 trip.
Each week I will release one blog post per category listed below and update this post to hyperlink each article. The top 5 things I wish I knew before going to Hajj are:
Kaaba in Makkah after Maghreb Salah in the Masjid-al-Haram (Great Mosque of Mecca)

Kaaba in Makkah after Maghreb Salah in the Masjid-al-Haram (Great Mosque of Mecca), Makkah, Saudi Arabia

In all honesty, I can’t believe I actually finished this! I will be sharing when new posts go up on my Instagram as well as Facebook so be sure to follow along for updates. As of right now, I plan to release the first hajj blog post on tomorrow (Sunday!) and after this, every Friday until they are all posted. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below or on either social media platform. I will try to share direct messages and questions as a highlight on my page as well so that I can share as much info as possible.

I hope this will be helpful! You can follow on Instagram here and on Facebook here. Continue reading