Friday, 2 February 2018

#HajjSeries Madinah (Part III)

Assalaamu Alaykum Readers,

This past two weeks have brought back so many memories of my #HajjJourney, seeing the list of accredited names and spending the morning at the SAHUC Roadshow was really uplifting. Being able to share my Hajj experience and share in the joy of the potential pilgrims was phenomenal!
It prompted me to get going with the next instalment in my HajjSeries... Madinah continues.

My last post on the journey featured a lot of the Madinah history, and some of the places we visited which was impactful for me, especially areas of the mosque which every pilgrim traverses every day on their way to and from prayers. It was significant to me to know that every step I took was in the shadow of a place where our Prophet (PBUH) or other great scholar had made his mark, or left his footprint. 

There were a few other historical sites which we visited while in Madinah, which all travel agents will assist pilgrims with visiting. I can only urge potential visitors to Madinah to embrace these opportunities, despite the stifling heat, to go out and get stuck in the history. (Some of my images of these sites below)
Today, I'd like to focus on the practical aspects of Madinah...

As I first stepped off the plane onto the tarmac, the overwhelming heat hit me like a brick wall, be prepared for stifling heat, the likes of which is very hard to describe. As a result it is essential to remain hydrated at all times. Even the short walk from the air-conditioned hotel to the mosque, will dehydrate you, and the zam-zam water does not fulfil this purpose. One of my lifesavers on my trip was Rehidrate, which I purchased here and packed in my suitcase. There were so many fellow travellers who required an IV to hydrate them, as dehydration occurs so quickly, you don't even realise it has happened. 
After a few days in Madinah and exploring my immediate vicinity, I was ready to see the more regular, everyday side of Madinah. Hubby & I discovered that Uber works in Saudi, so we used it to visit one of the malls. I also needed to shop for a few pieces I couldn't find at the local markets. We decided to visit Al Noor Mall, which was approximately 6km from our hotel, where one can find international brands and some local Saudi brands. I chose to purchase abayahs from a local boutique, to wear for my time in and around Saudi. I packed very light and I really needed to shop for abayahs for the 6 week stay!

Some things to keep in mind whilst in Madinah:
  1. If you're travelling on a 6/7 week package, Madinah is relatively empty for the first week. Take full advantage of this, visit the Sacred Chamber as often as you can as it only gets fuller by the second week.
  2. Since I chose to purchase abayahs from a local boutique in the mall (these can be a bit pricey), as opposed to the usual abayahs from the market traders (of which I bought two), I was commonly mistaken for a local Saudi and this afforded many liberties. One of them being easier access to the Sacred Chamber (Rawdah).
  3. On this note, I found it easier to navigate my way into the Rawdah on my own, this may not suit everybody as it gets exceptionally fuller day by day. In addition to the crowds, and long waiting periods, the women tend to become frenzied, pushing and shoving and literally stepping on you as you perform your salaah. If you struggle with crowds or even worse, a hysterical crowd, it may be best to visit the Rawdah as part of a group or with a companion for support.
  4. In order to maintain energy levels, be consistent with taking your supplements (our travel agent supplied us with these) and daily Rehidrate solutions. I even started taking it a few days prior to departure for Saudi.
  5. This is particularly important as one gets very few hours of sleep, some nights you may find yourself at the Sacred Chamber until late (it closes at 11pm for women) or in quiet contemplation in the mosque. An early morning afterward (for Tahajud salaah) therefore means, 2/3 hours sleep and a rundown system.
  6. We explored Madinah on our own, however this was always with my personal plan of ibadah I wanted to perform in mind. I had set myself some 'goals' or activities I wanted to complete in Madinah, so these were my priority, and then visits to the mall or shopping.
  7. Most of my shopping for my kids, and gifts for family was done in Madinah, since I was hoping not to spend too much time in Makkah shopping. 
  8. Be prepared for the crowds to increase significantly during the second week, and this means you would have to arrive at the mosque some time before prayer time to ensure a good spot (inside the mosque if that's what you want).
  9. I am not used to eating Indian food too frequently, nor am I keen on regular fast food and these seem to be the most common food choices in Saudi. We chose Turkish food very often, or chose to eat at internationally branded hotels for their wide range of cuisine. Alternatively, I managed very well on fruit, nuts, yoghurt, dates and water.
  10. Bin Dawood, the local supermarket is a haven and stocks everything you may need, however some things are extremely pricey! But if there are specific foods/snacks you cannot do without, pack it in! Nuts are expensive, and it was difficult to find raw nuts, and vegetables are literally non-existent in meals. They're sold at the supermarkets raw, but with nowhere to prepare them it's not much help!
As I finish my #HajjSeries, there will be more tips which I will share, these are specifically for day-to-day in Madinah. These will assist even if you're departing for Umrah, however the weather conditions will vary.
Leaving the Rawdah on a relatively quiet morning

Inside the Rawdah, the Sacred Chamber is situated behind the white screen.
The area before you  enter the Rawdah, most times you will find women sitting in country groups and they will be
allowed in at certain intervals. The green dome in the background indicates clearly where the Sacred Chamber is situated
The frenzy starts before reaching the Rawdah, this was taken on a day I chose to sit with the Indoneisan ladies.
I was rather taken aback by the hysterics which set in with some nationalities.
The oldest mosque in the world, Masjid Quba, built by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the first stones of this mosque is said to be laid by the Prophet (PBUH) himself.
The plaque on the wall at Masjid Quba
Entrance to the women's section of Masjid Qiblatayn "The Mosque of two Qiblah's"

The Archers hill on the pains of Uhud, where the muslims were defeated, the burial place of many martyrs
Mount Uhud and the mosque built on the plains of Uhud

Atop the infamous Archers hill, with Mount Uhud in the background

I hope these tips help!

Ciao for now, 
RuBe xoxo