Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What to Pack for Hajj: Part 1 {The Basics}

Hajj is a spiritual journey made by Muslims who travel to Saudi Arabia for 2-4 weeks. It is usually made once in a lifetime, and it's difficult to get an idea of what you might need to take because you've never done it before! During Hajj, you don't just stay in one place. Every couple of days, you keep moving. You move from 5-star hotels to old apartments to tents to sleeping under the stars out in the open. Then back to tents then apartments and finally a hotel, if your duration of stay is over 2 weeks. This, in a way, symbolizes that life is a journey. We're constantly moving, and our lives in this world are only temporary.

So, what are you supposed to pack for such a journey?

First, find a group that is recommended to you by others, and that you know is organized. This is everything during Hajj. An organized group saves you from stressing out about other things and focusing on the real goal when you get there, which is worship. This type of group could also give you information on what they will provide for you during Hajj, and it will save you from taking extra things that you don't need. 

Also, you will need a lot of knowledge beforehand. Don't go into Hajj thinking you will be guided every step of the way. There are around 120 people per group and only 2 leaders. Although they are there to help, having an idea of what you will be doing each day helps immensely. 

Now, on to the list of things to take.

My husband and I took one large suitcase with us. We were not going there for shopping, so we took the minimal amount of items. For gifts, we only got some prayer beads for direct family members and some dates. 

You will need a backpack for this journey. Make sure it is comfortable with thick, cushioned straps, and a medium size. As you get ready to board your flight to Saudi Arabia, keep your backpack with you rather than checking it in. The last thing you need is losing all your essentials! There is a chance of buses breaking down during journeys, resulting in walking a few miles with your bag, so make sure it is not too heavy or big in size. Some people brought rolling luggage but you'll need to remember that the streets aren't smooth and there are also a lot of stairs, so backpacks are the best option.

Comfortable walking shoes are a must. We always heard that we have to walk a lot during Hajj but only realized how much after we got there. Tawaf and Sa'ee were easy for us Alhumdulillah. But just to give you an idea, to find a taxi from the Mina tents, you will need to walk around 1.5 hours. Our walk to Jamaraat was also 1.5 hours in the heat, and then we had to come back as well same distance (the group website said it will be 45 minutes, so be prepared to walk more than expected!). Practice walking for over an hour nonstop before leaving for Hajj. The walking shoes I purchased were Skechers Memory Foam, and I would recommend them. Make sure to buy them at least a month in advance and break into them before the journey.

Finally, I got a neck pillow for the bus journeys, tent, and sleeping in Muzdalifa out in the open. I kept it in a drawstring bag which I attached to the strap of my backpack so that I don't have to carry it around.

You will need two other bags apart from the backpack. One will be a small, crossbody messenger bag for the airport and during travel in general. You will need to take this during your visits to both the Masjid Ul Haramain as well. Crossbody is important so that it  cannot be easily snatched like a shoulder bag, and it is also more confortable. In here, keep some cash, phone, solar power charger, snacks for energy, notebook and pen in which you have noted down addresses of where you're staying and directions, prayer books and sunglasses. 

On the main day of Hajj, you will be away from your tents and your belongings for an entire 24 hours. You will spend the entire day in Arafat and entire night in Muzdalifa. For this you will need a medium sized bag, because there really isn't any space in both places for anything bigger. I didn't want to have to take a whole different bag just for this one day, so I found a foldable bag online that worked perfectly for this occasion. It unfolds to a backpack that is ideal for a day trip. Keep an extra pair of clothes in this bag apart from other necessities.

Men will need a money belt to wear under their ihrams so that it doesn't get stolen. Here is the one my husband used and he said it was comfortable:

We got the Khaki colored one since it's cheaper but basically the same thing!

A document folder is essential to keep all your paperwork together in one place and safe from getting dirty. There are number of things you'll need to keep in here:

Passport copiesAt least 3 passport sized photos
Flight details
Credit/Debit Card copies
Hajj notes printouts
Proof of having taken the proper vaccines
Marriage Certificate copies if traveling with spouse

A Will is highly recommended and should be given to family members before leaving.

Finally, communication. It is absolutely necessary to get phones for all members of the family going. First of all, men and women stay in separate places throughout the stay and phones are the best way to get in touch. In a lot of cases in our group, only the husbands had phones and not the wives. The husbands would be standing outside the women's area, knocking loudly on doors, yelling out names. It was very disturbing for other people trying to worship or rest. If you can spend close to $10k per person on this trip, don't try to save a few dollars by not buying a dual sim phone. We got an extremely basic phone and used it everyday:

I also took my smartphone. I had left my 2 year old son with my parents and just needed to see him on Skype and through pictures. It definitely made me feel at ease. There is wifi in very limited places there. In hotels they are reliable but outside that it's hit or miss. If by chance it got connected, I was able to receive my son's latest pictures on Whatsapp and it comforted me knowing he's having (way too much) fun!

One of my favorite products was this solar power charger:

This one is for Android phones, you will need to find another one for iPhones. This is basically a portable charger that you can charge up in advance and it doesn't need to be plugged to an outlet while you're charging your phone. I fully charged it before leaving for Hajj using my computer. I didn't need to recharge the charger at all during my 2 week trip because I rarely used my smartphone. This charger can charge phones up to 3 or 4 times completely. Even after Hajj I use it regularly when I go out or even at home if I don't want to use an outlet. A bonus is that it can use solar energy to charge, but that takes many hours. I didn't need to use it because I was mainly using the basic phone to communicate. Using a basic phone will save you from the tension of having to charge your phone all the time. I think I only had to charge it after using it for 1 whole week! 

These are some of the basic things you'll need for your Hajj trip, inshaAllah. I will make another post in the future on personal belongings needed as well, iA. 

I hope this post was helpful to you! Don't forget to Like this

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Please leave comments down below if there are some other basic items that helped you out during your Hajj trip, or if you have any other tips!

Read Part 2 {Personal Belongings} here!

Read Part 3 {Healthcare and Religious Items} here!

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