Finally, my personal Hajj experience is here. It has taken me months to publish these, but better than never. This is my Hajj experience Day 1, including our welcome Tawaf and Umrah and arrival at our Mina camp.
I will be doing each day of Hajj separately because I feel this insha’Allah will provide more context on top of the posts about what to do before Hajj and what to wear or pack.
I searched for photos and experiences before I go so hopefully, this will be a good guide on what to expect. Though know no Hajj is same.
As a context, I did my Hajj in 2023 as a Saudi resident. My husband works in Saudi Arabia and one of the reasons we accepted the job was so we could do Hajj cheaper. If you are reading this blog often, you know I always plan way in advance to save money on travel and experiences, and Hajj was no different.
Also, as residents, we didn’t have to do a package for more than the days of the actual Hajj rituals. So, my Hajj experience was the six days of Hajj.
Booking your Hajj
Saudi Arabia is trying to streamline the Hajj process for everyone, and I know there are glitches with the system, but hopefully, it will be ironed out, and it will be easier and maybe slightly cheaper.
Everybody books their Hajj through the Nusuk application, whether from abroad or from Saudi. Your Nusuk (at least mine, which is associated with my ID) showed that I was eligible for Hajj.
We decided to look through the options, and we had 3-tier packages as locals.
A budget option, a middle option and a luxury option. Price-wise, each package was about 25% I believe, more expensive than the previous one. I won’t mention prices because every country is different, and I don’t want this to be a war of Hajj pricing.
No matter where you book it from, it is expensive. However, also note that yes, my package was cheaper than the one from the UK, but I only paid for 5 nights without flights. Where UK packages include flights and hotels for 2 weeks plus food. So, I feel it was comparable.
I might have hacked my way to DIY Umrah and the cheapest possible options, but there is no way to hack Hajj (yet!).
Still, Hajj was the best travel experience but also my most expensive to date. 🙂
I also didn’t know much about the process, and every communication we had was in Arabic. My husband took care of the majority of the camp choosing (which I didn’t know at the time) and everything that we were meant to have in terms of documents with us.
My Hajj Experience Day 1
I arrived on Saturday night, the 24th of June, at 12 am, and we left for our group meet-up on Sunday at 12 pm, the 25th of June.
I came from the UK since my daughter had to stay with family, so I tried to leave her for as little as possible.
This was the 7th of Dhul Hijra. As locals, we had the option to go on the 8th of Dhul Hijra but decided to do it a day earlier to settle in and not rush to do all the rituals of Umrah.
I bought most of the things at the last minute from Amazon, and I do have a list of all the things I took to Hajj with me. There is also a packing article for Hajj and a what to wear for Umrah and for ladies. I wore the same things I do generally for both occasions.
We had to meet the tour agency that organised our Hajj package in a wedding Hall, which was very interesting and massive. There were several companies there, and I have to say navigating this was funny because I don’t know Arabic, and everything was in Arabic. So it was a lot of pointing fingers. – Which set the tone for the rest of my Hajj experience.
We found our agents, received our lanyard with our camp details and names, etc and handed out our luggage.
The whole process, although it seemed chaotic, was very organised, and we were on a coach heading to Makkah within 1.5 hours.
Since we live in Jeddah, we only had to do the trip to Makkah which took around 2.5 hours due to the checkpoints.
There were several checkpoints, and they kept scanning our documents, so there was no way you could sneak and do Hajj.
Umrah in Makkah
We arrived by coach at a huge land parking area with hundreds of buses. We then got shuttled just next to the Elaf Kinda Hotel, where we had to perform Umrah before heading back to the coach for Mina.
They told us we have 4 hours, I believe. I really thought we wouldn’t be making it back on time and the coach would leave without us, but alas, we actually had to wait close to 2 hours extra for people after.
One thing during Hajj to know is that there is a lot of waiting and “wasting” time.
We did the welcome Tawaf and also the Sai on the same day, so we didn’t have to do it with the farewell tawaf.
Since we did this on the 7th of Dhul Hijra, it was not very busy, and we did it in the lower mataf area near the Kabah.
I am also very glad we did the Sai on the same day because of the rest of the days it was packed with people.
We also managed to grab a coffee before heading back to the bus and the coach parking lot.
The whole Umrah took us around 2.5 hours, with some time for coffee, but once we arrived and found our coach, we had to wait for hours.
Mina Camp Hajj
We were on the highest package option we had. I really wanted the hotel towers, but apparently, they were booked by some royals. I guess their staff stayed there because I could see the royal palace on the other side of my camp.
Now, I didn’t know what to expect from Mina camping. I had heard horror stories (I will get into that), and my expectations were very low. I knew we had a VIP package, but in my book, this meant nothing.
Also, as a person, I am very resilient, so I can deal with hard stuff.
I went with the mentality I was sleeping on the floor, so everything else was a bonus.
I got a lot of hate on socials about my luxury camp; however, I work for my money like everyone else. I made choices of saving and literally moving to a different country to experience luxury Hajj so no apologies there. I am grateful to Allah for providing it for me, but trust me; everyone gets their own test.
Arriving at the camp was an experience, and the staff were waiting around with smiles. It was very joyful, which I didn’t expect.
The camp was empty since many locals had decided to arrive on the 8th of Dhul Hijra.
My welcome pack had a lot of the things I had bought on Amazon, like a prayer mat, Quran, and umbrella, including unscented soaps and shampoo, which I didn’t know.
They had also given us stones already, so we didn’t have to collect any. A bonus in my books. I wanted to take pebbles from my garden, and I totally forgot. I wish I did and threw them there just for the sentiment.
My room had around 25 beds. I believe in all of them, of course, women.
There were sockets on each bed and a light to read. I had the bed next to the door, which was not ideal because it was always busy, and I hardly slept.
My tent actually had walls and a roof; I know some tents don’t in Mina, and they are just a tent with outside heat and AC. We did have a proper door and good functioning AC. So alhamdulillah for that blessing because it was nearly 45C outside.
Also, the AC was on top of my head, which had been an issue since I got sick. Again, different tests for different people. If you know Arabs, you know they love freezing temperatures in their rooms, whereas I like normal human body warmth.
Many didn’t speak English, but after the second day they opened up, I made friends with a few girls on the third day because I felt like the only foreigner.
Everything was in Arabic, and I was totally lost without Google Translate. (you definitely need this)
My favourite part was the view outside my room door. We had a very steep hill to climb during Hajj days and I hated it after walking 50,000 steps. But every time I looked at the view I thanked Allah swt.
I could see the Mina tent city for miles on end.
The negative on that was the fact that it was also the hottest part and during the day the sun was heating the area. Since we didn’t have a lunch hall, we only ate in our beds.
My Mina Camp Facilities
On my day of arrival, it was night and empty, and it was amazing. I had a shower, and it was OK. No luxury, but it was clean, and the shower and toilet were together – which is a problem for women. I did enjoy my shower and slept.
However, the next day, we realised we had only 20 showers/toilets for almost 2,000+ women.
Arab women also love taking their time in the shower and many had a proper routine they kept. Some for like 30min +.
Considering that the shower and the toilet are together, if you queue and you need only the toilet, you could easily wait 1.5 hours.
Also, it was outside, so it was super hot and combined with the hot water, it was my worst nightmare. I ended up dehydrated and almost fainting because I stopped eating and drinking and did not need the facilities much. Not smart, but I was desperate.
In typical male fashion, the guys had way more toilets and were always empty, and they couldn’t understand why women were complaining.
We also had a kitchen area where we could make coffee, and it was a pantry full of snacks. We used to take a tray and also take our lunch from there.
We did have a decent variety, but I really tried to stick to things I knew were not spoiled because also I did take diarrhoea pills, and I didn’t want to use them.
We also had a nice cold fridge in our room that got stacked with drinks daily, so this was a nice bonus. Though again, the toilet situation did not mean much of that either.
One thing that everyone told me is to take a small bag and only a few clothes. I really didn’t know what to expect because people were saying don’t even take pyjamas; you will not need them.
Arab women had huge suitcases with so many things that I felt underdressed. I am also not saying this to bash them but rather because I wish I had taken more clothing options.
We didn’t have space to store them, but I did have my bug travel backpack, which fits a decent amount, and also under my bed since I was next to the door; if I had a big bag, there was nowhere to put it.
I feel like that packing part of Hajj is hit and miss unless you really know where you are going and what are your sleeping conditions. Also, I feel that because I was with local and also other Arab women, they do take more care of their appearances no matter what, which I actually find nice because one thing during Hajj is. You do have time to do those things on top of ibadah.
Overall, my first night went well. I only had 3 women in my tent, and it was a good night’s sleep because everyone else arrived the next morning.
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