My husband doesn’t write for the site, but this month in November 2020 he performed Umrah when very few people could manage. MashaAllah he also completed another one yesterday (at time of writing).
So I could not pass and not ask him about the process of performing Umrah in the new covid area with the new Umrah restrictions and applications you need to complete.
Please note that small things change for example his first Umrah was at the beginning of November his second end of November. Some exits changed, and permits were checked more often, I assume due to the number of people and some trying to get in without one.
Also please note that he did not go with a group as he is in Saudi for work. So some of the processes will be different for Umrah pilgrims coming with agents and groups.
You can read the full article on the Umrah rules and regulations that are required from November 2020 / 2021
Experience of performing Umrah with the new Covid rules in 2020
There are only a few things in life as great as performing Umrah, especially more so when the majority of the World is in Lockdown.
So how did I manage to do Umrah?
Let me share the details with you.
There are a few must-have apps before you can go.
The first one is the Tawakalna app, and the second is the Eatmarna app.
You receive a notification to ensure you are registered on the Tawakalna app before you can sign up on the Eatmarna app.
To register and use the apps, the key info you need at hand are:
- Local Saudi sim to receive notifications
- Passport number
- Border number (This is the 10 digit number they write on your passport as you enter the Kingdom)
Note: You can check the border number here.
Once registered on the Tawakkalna app, you can book a Covid test if and when required (these are free). Suppose for any reason you have difficulties in signing up, and you need a test.
In that case, you can also book tests on the Sehaty app (make sure you use the same local Saudi number).
The only way to perform Umrah is to get a permit which is activated only in the Eatmarna app.
The Process of Performing Umrah with the new Restrictions and Eatmarna Application
Eatmarna translated means “let’s go for umrah”. I had many issues as I kept receiving an error message saying “error 101, please try again later”.
I didn’t have much luck in contacting anyone who could help, although I asked everyone I knew, apparently you just have to keep trying.
One day I tried, and I managed to register! I was over the moon; however, when I checked dates for umrah permits, nothing was available for me!
At least I was one step closer!
You may have many challenges/frustrations, but it is just part of the process so just keep going.
After many attempts and frustrations later I tried on an evening at 9.15 pm and there was one umrah slot available for the next day!
Without realising I have no ihram, and I will have work the next day I just booked it.
I will figure out how as I go along.
In the Eatmarna app, when you select the day, it gives you time slot options.
- 6 am to 9 am
- 9 am to 12 pm
- 12.30 pm to 3.30 pm
- 4.00 pm to 7.00 pm
- 9.00 pm to 11.59 pm
- 00.00 am to 03.00 am
Once selected you can then select the Assembly point, and select the obligation to see the instructions, here you can view instructions for entering the Haram and Umrah pilgrims transfer centre. Then click the issuing permit.
Now you will have a permit with a barcode in the Eatmarna app, this is what you will need to show at the entrance. There is an option for an assembly point and transport from there. (if you are in a group this will be part of it)
However you don’t need to book this, I simply checked into the hotel and went to King Fahad Gate (this is where all the permit holders were entering through on this side)
Before you get to the gate, there is a tent set up only for those entering to do Umrah; if you have a prayer permit, then there is a separate entrance further along.
Only umrah holders are allowed to enter the Kaaba area.
Update: On my second Umrah on the 25th Nov, they don’t allow to perform the two Rakat after tawaf in front of the Kaba, they direct you to Safa Marwa.
It is very well organised. I arrived 45 min earlier and was allowed entry. It is a swift process as they simply scan your permit.
Tip: You need to show your permit in the app and not on a screenshot, for an example, so make sure you have this ready.
The Procedure when entering to perform Umrah
Then you proceed to King Fahad Gate, keeping your distance from others and you MUST ALWAYS HAVE YOUR MASK ON.
There is usually a guy at the entrance giving out bags for your shoes, be prepared and take your own, as you enter King Fahad gate there is a temperature check (automated) as you walk in.
There are no stations for zam zam, there are people placed throughout who give you zam zam in a plastic cup, in the Kaaba area once you finish your Tawaaf and pray at the back there are a few people who give out zam zam bottles, this is great as you can keep these for later ;).
I didn’t see these guys in any other section so if you miss collecting the water, then the rest of the time it will only be in plastic cups.
The permit does last three hours, and no one will check your time, however, be respectful of others and move along.
Tip: They have changed this, and the app records your time now, and once you complete your exit, you can’t go back in. So if you have time on the app then make sure to use it.
It is a very unique and blessed experience as the current daily allowance is 60,000 people per day. There is plenty of opportunities to enjoy the tawaf and have plenty of time for duas.
During the tawaf the stewards will direct you to the line as you move around, please be respectful and listen to them (the majority do, always a few who don’t) as there aim is to make an enjoyable and seamless experience for all of us.
Once your tawaf is complete, and you have collected your zam zam bottles head towards Sae area.
Please note once you pass this part you will not be allowed to re-enter back into the Kaaba area. There are plenty of stations where you can use sanitiser, and it is advisable to do so. Always have your prayer mat with you too.
Just because you are performing Umrah, it doesn’t mean you are exempt from Covid!
Please do take the necessary precautions. Wear your mask all the time, keep a prayer mat and sanitiser with you (or use the ones provided) and maintain your distance from others.
Sae is straightforward and comfortable; however, it can get busy, so please do not block walk areas and be mindful of others. Do not ruin your Umrah by making it difficult for others. Zam Zam is available here too, on occasions it is limited, so this is where the bottled zam zam you have comes in handy.
Once you have completed Sae then as you exit, there is no clear indication if there are any barbers (for men to cut or shave their hair), however, there is one barbershop in the new Jabal Omar complex next to the Hilton hotel.
It is a beautiful food court area called Al Khalil square. The majority of the shops and food places are closed; it felt like a ghost town. In the centre next to the Hyatt hotel, only Al Baik was open, so this new area is very convenient if you want alternative food options, it has a mini supermarket too.
The Hyatt hotel is very convenient, even in Lockdown, as food court is nearby and the taxi pick up and drop off is nearby too. Also, the chef makes a fantastic cheesecake, which was a perfect treat for me after the Umrah.
Tip: If like me, you want to make the most of your time and want to book another umrah, when you initially go into the app, it will not allow you to request another permit.
All you have to do is wait approximately 6 to 8 hours and check the app and re-apply, which is what I did.
My Umrah finished midnight, and around 6 am I managed to get another permit 🙂
Performing more than one Umrah
I tried to book an Uber to go to Masjid Ayesha so that I can start my second Umrah. However, the area may be blocked, and no Uber can enter the central area.
So you have to go near the taxi drop off and pick up, and it is easy to flag a taxi down. Usually, people are arriving they exit for Umrah; you get in for masjid Ayesha.
It is always good to negotiate a price with the driver; a price from Makkah to Masjid Aysha is in the range of 50 to 60 Sar return.
The journey to masjid Ayesha took around 15-20 minutes or so, and you can pray and start your Umrah and be back to Makkah within the hour. I went just after Maghrib pray around 6.15 pm, and I was back and in the haram in time for Isha (around 7.20 pm).
This was perfect as I managed to get Isha prayer in and then managed to complete Umrah too.
Now as I am from Yorkshire, I wanted to get my money’s worth, so on Friday as it was my day to leave. I had one meeting in the morning, I tried my luck and checked to see if umrah permit was available during Jumuah time.
Alhamdulillah, unbelievably it was!
Off to masjid Ayesha again on a Friday morning!
I left around 11.15 am and managed to get back in time for Jumuah at about 12.15 pm.
Now on the way back, the taxi driver did say I could be delayed as there are 3 checkpoints!
Sometimes they ask to see your ID or Passport along with your Umrah permit. Unfortunately, I had left mine in the hotel, and no one checked before.
Perhaps it was Jumuah, and these were extra checks. I was a little anxious in case I couldn’t make it back in, and I would miss Jumuah. Alhamdulillah, I managed to get through with no difficulties and made it back in time.
As Jumuah is during a time when it is really hot, it was so nice to see the stewards handing out umbrella and water in a lovely carry pouch for every person doing Umrah. Trust me the umbrella was such a huge relief; it was so hot on a Friday I was sweating buckets!
Alhamdulillah, experiencing the Jumuah was amazing, the Sae area was busier than the previous days however the stewards managed it well.
So that was my adventure of 3 Umrahs in 48 hours!
And on Saturday I simply laid in bed all day.
I pray everyone who has the opportunity to perform Umrah to do so, as it is a once in a lifetime experience considering the unique current climate we are all going through. And performing Umrah puts everything into perspective.