Tips & Advices – Performing Umrah (Part 1)

Alhamdulillah (thank you to Allah) the Powerful, most Gracious and most Merciful – that had given me (and more chances to my beloved mum) a chance to perform Umrah (the visit – in arabic is ‘I’timaar’) in the Holy City of Mecca / Makkah in Saudi Arabia, which distance is around 6981km from the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

A trip to Umrah

The trip started back in 1st April 2013 and we were safely back in Malaysia on the 13th according to schedule. It was a wonderful, educational, and all around … (words just couldn’t describe the joyful feeling that I had) experience – especially given the opportunity to set my foot on the Holy Land, and seeing the muslim Qibla / Kiblah / Qiblat which is the Sacred House of Kaaba up close and personal (I wanted to say with my two own eyes, but the eyes are not mine – just borrowed items by Allah) ūüôā

KL to Mecca

My post is all about the experience, some tips and advices for those who are going there. If you are searching for Dua’s (doa / invocation) or religious guidance on how to perform Umrah – then these sites below will probably be more useful and specific to your needs. Please bare in mind that I am not responsible for the content. If you are unsure, consult those who knows.

> HOW TO PERFORM UMRAH <
> STEP BY STEP UMRAH GUIDE <
> A GREAT SLIDE STEP BY STEP TO HOLY UMRAH GUIDE (I think this is good) <

What I will cover is in terms of physical (and maybe some mental) preparation, tips, and guidance when you are there (be in the city of Madinah or Mecca itself), what are the things you should and should not bring along, the do and don’t – to hope that you will have a comforting, safe and pleasant journey so that you can concentrate more on doing ibada (or worship) instead of thinking (or even complaining!) about this and that.

For those who are going there, I hope that my post will provide you with supplementary tips and advice – and for those who have plans (or even those who don’t!) may have a better insight and preparation before you are invited by Allah to His Holy Land. Where “The best is to share, not to keep!” – I neato4u hope that this post will be of benefit, at least to a few out there ūüôā

Enough with the lengthy introduction – let’s move on to our first part of this Part 1 of “I have no idea how many” (God knows!) first chapter – “PREPARATION”¬†where we will cover these topics below :

– THE MENTAL PREPARATION BEFORE PERFORMING UMRAH
– LEARN THEORY, AND DO A MOCK PRACTICAL
– THINGS YOU SHOULD BRING (AND NOT).

My writing will be a bit different than the rest of Umrah / Hajj guide out there, so come on in and have a read!

CHAPTER 1 :PREPARATION

– THE MENTAL PREPARATION BEFORE PERFORMING UMRAH –

Some says Umrah is the ‘little Hajj‘ (or lesser pilgrimage) – although not compulsory, but is highly recommended. If you have a chance to perform Umrah¬†before¬†Hajj¬†(like me), consider yourself lucky as although as easy as it sounded for those who wanted to go there (as the cost is getting cheaper and most private travel companies offers Umrah packages with good deals) – not everyone¬†wants or have the¬†desire to go there in the first place. ¬†Take a look around and see how many people who have financial capabilities and all the time in the world to actually go there but still have not. And now have a look at yourself that is preparing to go there (and getting good preparation by visiting this and other relevant sites for info). You deserve a pat on the back. And this is why you are going there – because you have been Invited ūüôā

The first and most important thing to think about is your ‘purpose‘ or ‘intention‘ of performing Umrah. Is it because someone asked you to? Is it because you will have the chance to wish (at a Holy and blessed place where wish is very highly granted by Allah) for the things that you like? For wealth? Or is it just to accompany someone there? Or perhaps you think this is just a trip like any other vacation that you have went to? To take pictures and post them in facebook, instagram, tweeter, or your blog even? To meet new friends? To find business along the way? Or maybe someone have told you that the dates (kurma) in Mecca are good and cheap? The kebab’s are the best in the world?¬†Yes, I (and many others)¬†have been in these kind of situations before. Maybe it is the devils doing, planting ideas into our heads – or maybe it is just plain ‘us’ that have our minds corrupted. In any way, make sure these are NOT your PRIMARY purpose or intention of going there for Umrah.

So some may ask and still figuring out, what IS my purpose or intention to perform Umrah? Simple answer – to seek Allah blessings of course. To go there and wish that you be a better muslim. To go there and seek for Allah forgiveness. Make sure that these are your main purpose and intention to perform Umrah, and insyaAllah He will also make your life better. Who understands us better than Allah? If you are a parent of a newborn child – do you wait for the child to say “please give me food” or “please give me some clothes” or “I want to play with you“? Instead you already know what the child wants (even when the child does not even know what they really wanted)¬†even though they did not say it. And MasyaAllah, this is Allah the all-knowing, the all-mighty. Is there anything that goes on without Him knowing it? I will leave that for you to answer yourself.

– LEARN THEORY, AND DO A MOCK PRACTICAL –

If you are performing Umrah via a private travel agency, these travel agencies have and will offer scheduled classes and briefings to explain and educate on how to perform Umrah (at least that is what most agencies offer here in Malaysia). However I urge you to study and explore about Umrah¬†before¬†attending these classes so you will have a better exposure of the subject. The things which you learn in class will support whatever that you have self-learned before. This will greatly increase your understanding, and do not be shy – take the classroom opportunity to ask anything that is in doubt. Especially about what is allowed and not allowed during the ihram state. I have seen some peoples who went and have little to no idea about what is forbidden in ihram that ended up in paying compensation for their fault and wrong doings. While it is not a sin if you do not know, but these small incidents will leave a bad taste to yourself during Umrah, and some may be broken hearted and worried afterwards. What we want is a perfect and peaceful environment that will not interrupt your ibada. So take some time and learn ahead before the classes begins. Take small notes in bullet forms and try to memorize it. You can bring books and notes during your rituals when you are there (in the Holy city, while performing ibada like tawaf or sa’e, etc) – however it is best if you could memorize the basics to make it a more comfortable and pleasant experience.

umrah how to[ source : tabunghaji.gov.my ]

One of the things which made me confused and¬†doubts was the act of ‘tawaf‘ (the circling of Kaaba). I find it a bit difficult to understand because I have never been there before, and there are act that you must do in certain places when performing ‘tawaf’. The fact that you need to circle it 7 times made it more confusing to what I should do and do differently on each circles. To make it more confusing, there are different types of tawaf’s as well. However, take my tips to make it easy. In tawaf’s there are things which are repetitive on every circles (you remember these things and just repeat them in every circles) and there are recitations which are differents during sequence of the circling. ¬†During class, ask and segregate these two things so that you will have a better understanding of the basic core (the repetitive and unchanged recitations and doings). Remember, you will be able to bring books and notes during tawaf if you want to. So do not worry about memorizing the lengthy dua’s (although it is not wrong for you to memorize, and is better if you did).

Understanding the basic core of tawaf is very important so that you are able to be more connected to God and turn on that emotional feelings of how grateful you are to receive His invitation, the chance for your wish to become a better muslim (or muslimah) that is highly granted, to seek for His forgiveness and escape from all punishments and Hell. And don’t forget to make a wish so that Allah grants us Heaven without ‘hisab’ (being calculative), and let us enter Heaven with his grace (rahmat) instead. As Allah is the most merciful and most loving, this is the Ultimate wish that we all hoped for.

tawaf the procedure

Some agencies do a mock practical on tawaf where every participant gets a try – simulating the real thing. I wasn’t that lucky but was just shown an example of how to tawaf. It was quite a crash course so everything seemed too quick and too much information that I could digest. Fortunately my wife did record these on video and I was able to run through them again (and again and again and again, even after boarding on plane!). I strongly suggest that you do a ‘simulation’ of tawaf by yourself. You can do it at home even. Just grab a square pillow and place it in the middle (to simulate kaaba), then circle around it as if you are doing the real thing. Do this until you are comfortable with the basic core and I assure you are going to have a great and satisfying time when the actual ritual is performed.

– THINGS YOU SHOULD BRING (AND NOT) –

The things that ‘I believe‘ you should bring (based on my experience) are :

  1. cash (allocate to buy clothes (in addition to other things) when you are there – go light, return loaded)
  2. travel luggage (preferably wheeled) – usually travel agency will provide
  3. a small lock for your travel luggage and or pouch
  4. a small pouch that you can wear on your shoulder (good if the pouch can hold item no 9 inside) – usually travel agency will provide
  5. your ihram clothes (at least 2 suits – this will take the most space in your luggage as the cloth material are quite thick, and please find the thick cotton because it is going to be cold at night)
    for ladies, your ‘telekung’ or cloak covering a woman’s head dan body worn at prayer (no face covering mask, this is prohibited during ihram)
  6. small scissors and a shaver (used when finishing sa’e – shaver if you plan to bald your head, if not scissors is enough – and no, you are not going to shave your head until bald yourself, you do this at a barber shop – shaver is just to run through your bald head when you have finished sa’e if you do not have hair)
  7. book / notes of dua’s (doa / invocation) – see if you can find a small book that you can hang around your neck with string
  8. undergarments (at least for 5 days)
  9. normal clothes (for 3 days, eg t-shirts, slack, long sleeved shirt)
  10. essential toiletries for men (toothbrush, toothpaste, shaver) and ladies (tampons, pad – just the essential basics – the rest can be found in hotel)
  11. a pair of sunglasses (you will need this when visiting around places, trust me)
  12. a jacket (you will definitely need this, a must bring! Don’t underestimate the sunny sky of Arabia as sometimes it is very cold at night)
  13. a pair of slippers that does not cover fingers of the feet
  14. a clean pouch to put the slippers inside (you can also use a clean plastic bag if you don’t have any pouch or does not bother to buy one – this is to bring your slippers inside the mosque, to avoid from being lost or misplaced – Yes you CAN bring slippers inside, talk about it later).
  15. an international adapter to charge your phone / smartphone (if you bring one and I will show you how it looks like later)
  16. a clock with an alarm function. If you have your phone or smartphone with you, then this will do.
  17. aspirin / paracetamol (panadol and the likes) as the chances of you falling sick will slightly increase.

 

Let me explain the itemized list in detail too so you will have a better understanding why :

(1) Cash
List down what are the things that you would like to buy and estimate how much do you need to bring (do include for foods too, although all main servings are provided by your travel company, I am sure you wanted to try some local dishes too while you’re at it). But remember to allocate money to buy your own clothes that will be your daily attire over there. This is the reason why you only bring normal wear enough for 3 days, so that your luggage is light and have space for new clothes.

For men, you may get these dresses shown below as cheap as 20 riyal (price @ 2013). However, quality does come with price. I suggest that you shop around and get a quality wear which price will be a bit expensive (above 50 riyal I believe) but much cheaper there compared to the same stuff in your country. Not that these dress will blend you into the community, it is also appropriate for prayers and a good ‘gift’ for yourself to bring back home.

jubah lelaki

neato4u in mecca

(2) Travel luggage
While you may bring backpack, I suggest that you go for a wheeled luggage instead such as below. Your travel company will usually take care of your luggage – making sure they board the aircraft, until it arrives at the hotel in Saudi Arabia. Don’t store everything here though (if you lost this, you will lose everything) – which is why I also recommend a sling shoulder pouch bag that will be covered in item number 4 later. It may be best to ‘mark’ your bag so it differentiates from others, and enable you to see it from afar. For mine I cut a piece of white cloth and draw a logo with black marker pen. My adorable wife sew it on the bag front and also side. With this, I can identify my bag from afar.

travel luggage

(3) A small lock for your travel luggage and or pouch
Nobody likes it when other people simply unzip and check your belongings – and these could occur in just seconds. To safeguard your stuffs, why not spend a bit on small locks like the one below. I personally like (and bought) the one with combination locks (the red one) instead of keys.

small locks for umrah

(4) a small pouch that you can wear on your shoulder
Use the pouch / sling bag to store your dua books, notes, and perhaps your slippers (wrapped in clean pouch or plastic bag, make sure separated from dua books section). You may also store some of your cash here, and maybe your smartphone. Do not leave your pouch at all times and keep it beside or in-front. You may wear this while in ihram or while tawaf (the circling of kaaba), it is not a problem (consult your religious teacher if unsure). Some travel companies even provide these sling bag too, so check with them before buying – the last thing you want is unnecessary stuffs to buy and bring – remember, this is not a vacation!

pouch bag for umrah

(5) your ihram clothes (at least 2 suits – this will take the most space in your luggage as the cloth material are quite thick)
for ladies, your ‘telekung’ or cloak covering a woman’s head dan body worn at prayer (no face covering mask, this is prohibited during ihram)
Your ihram wear looks like a towel, but bigger, a lot bigger. I have seen people with ‘modern’ ihram wear that cloths are thin. When you may be thinking that the weather is hot in Mecca and Madina, getting a slightly thicker ihram cloth are much more recommended as it is sometimes very cold during night. Even in the Prophet Mosque, Al-Masjid An-Nabawi and also in Masjidil Haram it can be pretty cool to cold as some part are highly air-conditioned. Having 2 or 3 suits would be enough. Just send them to laundry (in hotel) if it gets dirty. If any of your close family members have already worked out Umrah or Hajj, use theirs instead of buying new – as there will be no use for it when you return home. Ihram cloths are quite expensive ranging from RM65 onwards. For muslimah, the same goes for your telekung. And try going for plain instead of striking colors and embroideries to avoid unnecessary attention. Muslimah dresses are also cheap. If you are in Madinah, on the way to Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, there will be sellers along the road that sells variety of items ranging from hijab to full dress, perfumes, and much more. You will see these after Fajar / Subuh prayer and between every prayers after. In Mecca, same thing happens along the road to Al-Masjid Al-Haram. Prices between Madinah and Mecca is around the same. Negotiate before buying, but be serious too – if you have said the price and the seller agreed but you declined it instead, there may be trouble and the seller may cause a scene. So before noting any price, make sure you confirm of buying it when the seller agreed. The best way, let the seller tell you the best price their offer instead. This way, if you are not satisfied, you can just walk away.

kain ihram untuk umrah dan haji

(6) small scissors and a shaver
Store these small scissors and shavers in your sling bag. This will be used to cut / shave your hair after sa’e (from Safa to Marwa) during tahalul (tahalul is what we call the act of cutting hair / shaving in Malay, although I am not sure what it is called in English)¬† that denotes the completion of your state of ihram. Now you may have heard that it is best to bald your head (for men) when completing the umrah – When I first heard this, I thought during tahalul we are to shave all of our hair ourselves until bald… and was wondering how this would look like when I am still standing there in Marwah (Sa’e ends in Marwah) or if there is some barber waiting to bald my head there. This was funny although I was very concerned back then. My mum (who have performed hajj and umrah several times before) calmed me down and told me to just cut a bit of my hair with scissors during tahalul. Then after that, on the way back to hotel, there are several barber shops along the way that you can drop by. I was a bit scared to be honest because I had never bald my head before! But it was a quick and painless process, and doesn’t cost much as well ūüôā

gunting lipat

tahalul umrah haji

(7) book / notes of dua’s (doa / invocation)
Usually your travel agency will provide these, but sometimes they provide books or notes that are big and not mobile friendly. Try finding something small that you can tie a string around your neck. This way it is very accessible and you do not have to waste time digging in your bag to find it.

(8) undergarments (at least for 5 days)
Send used one to hotel laundry. Or you can opt to shop around and buy new.

(9) normal clothes (for 3 days, eg t-shirts, slack, long sleeved shirt)
Bring some casual wear that you are comfortable with. Wear this at hotel after Isya prayer, during dinner or when going out to see the town of Madina / Mecca if you prefer.

baju melayu

(10) essential toiletries for men (toothbrush, toothpaste, shaver) and ladies (tampons, pad – just the essential basics – the rest can be found in hotel)

(11) a pair of sunglasses (you will need this when visiting around places, trust me)
sunglasses

(12) a jacket (you will definitely need this, a must bring! Don’t underestimate the sunny sky of Arabia as sometimes it is very cold at night)
When it’s hot during the day, it is often cold during the night. The chill Arabian wind will soak to the bone. Get yourself a jacket to avoid getting cold. You may also need this during bus travel (some buses have powerful a/c and you can’t avoid it much). I don’t know about those of you that are used to cold or lives in winter climate countries. But for me as an Asian that lives in a tropical climate with no winter (although I often sleep with the a/c turned on) – Jacket is a must bring item for this journey.

(13) a pair of slippers that does not cover fingers of the feet
It is important that your pair of slippers does not cover your foot fingers. This is due to you being in ‘ihram’ state before performing your umrah. Get something comfortable. One tip, do not leave your slippers outside at Masjidil Haram. Even though they allocate small boxes for your slippers and shoes, don’t bother using them. There is a 90% chance that you will not see your slippers again. Carry your slippers inside by slipping it in the small pouch or plastic. But we will get to that in point number 14.

(14) a clean pouch to put the slippers inside
Not sure if your travel agency / company provide these, but I believe it is not worth buying. You may either Do It Yourself (DIY) by using some old clean cloth material, or just go out and buy something from Tesco and re-use the plastic bag. Keep the empty pouch / plastic in your sling bag. When you arrive at either Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi or Masjid Al-Haram, take out your slippers, put them in the pouch / plastic, and store it inside your sling bag. If you can’t use your sling bag to store your slippers, just hold and take it inside with you. When you pray, put it beside you or in front of you. Just make sure the pouch and plastic is clean on the outside. The chances of you losing your slippers in Masjid An-Nabawi is much lesser then Masjid Al-Haram. I will try to cover this up in later topics.
slipper pouch

 (15) an international adapter to charge your phone / smartphone
If you have a handphone / smartphone, just bring it. This is not the old days and having a mobile phone with you may save yourself from being lost (My mum was lost during one of our trip in Madinah, luckily we found her back – I”ll probably tell the story afterwards). Restrain from bringing ¬†lot of gadgets (like laptops tablets and such). Remember your goal is to perform ibada / ritual – not going there, get connected to facebook and post daily pictures!

adaptor saudi

This is what you need (at least for Malaysians. The input plug varies if you are from other countries / region. Don’t worry if you forgot to bring or buy this from home. Usually they will sell this at hotel. Price is a bit marked up, but not expensive.

 (16) a clock with an alarm function. If you have your phone or smartphone with you, then this will do
You may have jet lag, but definitely you are going to be a little bit tired when you arrive as it is a long journey to get there (about 2 days). So make sure you set your alarm for fajar / subuh prayer, and all other prayer times as well. The first few days (for those who are not used to travel), may prove quite challenging as you try to adapt to new time zone, new climate and surroundings!

 (17) aspirin / paracetamol (panadol and the likes) as the chances of you falling sick will slightly increase.
A lot of people get sick over here. I was also down with headache and fever for 2 days. Try not to let these things stopping you from performing umrah and other good rituals. It is not everyday that you can be there, so make the most out of it and stay healthy!

I believe that will be all for the first chapter. Next I will focus on the journey itself and what you will encounter, what to expect. And tips as if this is your second visit to the Holy City. Hope this article helps and please subscribe if you want to be notified of my future posts.

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One Response to “Tips & Advices – Performing Umrah (Part 1)”

  1. Nusrat Says:

    Very interesting post! Thanks a lot for sharing. Really very useful and informative post about tips and advices to perform Umrah. I love it.

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