Wednesday 28 March 2018

Practical tips on preparing for Hajj

Hello lovelies!

After doing a presentation this past weekend to our prospective Hujaaj, I realised all the preparation that has to go into it. I suppose I was 'fortunate' to have been accredited only 4 weeks to prior to leaving, so I really couldn't take all the time in the world to prepare. However, having said that, there are so many aspects of the Hajj which I had hoped I had been able to prepare for.

Choice of Operator
I have already covered what needs to be considered when choosing an operator. Read that post here. It's vital to choose wisely, as each Hujaaj's needs vary, so your choice should be right for you. Take into account your budget, your travel needs whilst abroad and listen and chat to your choice of operator to ensure that they are on the same page as you.

This is a very important aspect, and not only refers to your budget for the package, but also includes spending money (while you are in Saudi). These are the factors to take into account:

  1. Your budget in terms of the suitable package is first and foremost, and while it would be ideal to have 5 star accommodation for duration of the trip, 4-6 weeks is a really long time and this will be extremely costly. Remember the intention of the trip and work with your budget around this e.g. if it means taking a 4 star in Madinah so that you have more cash for Makkah accommodation. Also remember that if you're deferring, the costs for the following year will be higher, and could include unexpected additional costs. This year tax was implemented and they've discontinued Saudi subsidisation of Tanazul.
  2. In addition to your package, you would need to budget for your meals and other expenses whilst you are in Saudi, and gifts you'd like to purchase. For a 4-6 week stay you could budget on about R13,000-R20,000 per couple for food, depending on your meal requirements. Breakfast is usually covered by the hotel, which means you would have to cover a light lunch (I didn't eat too much at lunch) and a good supper. This excludes any other little snacks you may purchase along the way, such as the occasional juice, Starbucks (if you're a coffee connoisseur), supplies at the supermarket, airtime and taxi fare.
  3. Try to purchase as much as you can here and take along with you, snacks (nuts, biltong, sweets, chips, biscuits, rooibos teabags), even peanut butter, crackers and tuna if you're wanting to save on buying food every day. Also buy your ihraam, fragrance free toiletries, medication, rehidrate etc in SA.
  4. If you're Cape Town based, you will without a doubt have many guests coming to wish you well on your journey. This means planning snacks, food for mealtimes and ensuring that the guests are looked after, is a real cost which has to be accounted for.
  5.  Leaving your family for a 4-6 week period is daunting, and budgeting for that upfront was even more so. Ensure that the utilities (electricity, water and telephone bills) are paid upfront, school fees and extra mural fees are paid, food is covered for the time you are away and any cash for unforeseen circumstances.
  6. Leave some cash behind so that the family can arrange for your homecoming without putting unnecessary pressure on family.

When I left, I put the following in place:
  1. Complete calendars for each of my kids on the kitchen fridge, so that everyone knew where they needed to be and when. With their busy schedules it's easy to get overwhelmed.
  2. Any important school events which would happen whilst you are away, I had to arrange that my middle son gets to and from the Science Olympiad, and that his job shadow week had been sorted.
  3. Notify the schools that you'll be gone and provide an alternate number for them to contact during your absence.
  4. Arrange a letter to medical aid, informing them who the caregiver is in your absence. Leave the medical aid card with the caregiver.
  5. Compile a list of all important numbers eg. lift club, school teachers, music teachers, family doctor, grandparents, friends, parents of friends etc. This was sent to all who would assist with fetching and carrying.
  1. Most airlines have generous luggage allowances (2 x 23kg per person)- this is effectively two large suitcases. Remember that you may be shopping quite a bit so will need to keep some luggage allowance for your trip back. If you'll be going to Masjidul Aqsa after hajj, you may need to reduce to one bag depending on the airline requirements. In this instance, you may need to utilise the post office to send some luggage home. 
  2. With the prices of snacks rather high in the Kingdom, take along your favourites from here. Nuts are very pricey, cereal bars, peanut butter, sweets, trail mix- light food which is easy to pack and will keep your energy reserves high. I'm finicky with my teas, so I took my own stash of teabags. (I repeat this as it is uncanny how much daily snacks can amount to in Saudi Riyals!)
  3. Favourite toiletries, since the heat is excessive it can play havoc on your skin, so ensure that you pack your preferred products- once again they can be very pricey in Saudi. I found my foot care regime to be very important and took along the Body Shop Peppermint foot range: the scrub, the energising spray and the foot butter. These worked miracles on my tired feet at the end of the day (and kept them soft and smooth too!)
  4. An ice towel is an essential item to help keep cool in the oppressive heat, and even though men aren't able to wear it in whilst in ihraam, it can be used to wipe yourself down. This too was purchased in SA and taken along.
  5. Take care to stock up on your medication, chronic as well as occasional medication. I packed painkillers, daily vitamin supplements, Panado, Mybulen & Nurofen, flu medication, Strepsil lozenges, cough syrup, Imodium, Rehidrate, Reuterina tablets and natural products like Septogard and Echinaforce. I've heard that you can no longer obtain anti-biotics without a prescription, so try and take some along in the event of an emergency.
  6. I packed few abayahs (only two excluding the one I wore) and bought as I needed in Madinah. I found the light burkahs which I bought from Get Covered locally to be perfect in the intense heat. I loved the mesh ones, and to combat the transparency, I wore two of them, one as an under burkah :-D 
  7. Don't forget a good, quality pair of sunglasses, preferably a plastic frame as the metal frames heat up and burn the skin.
  8. Reading material, Hajj journal and a good camera if you're keen. I actually used my phone camera as it is easier to carry around.
  9. Pack your ihraam separately, I packed all my Umrah ihraam, and Hajj ihraam separately. The abayah, the scarves, underwear etc and kept them ready for when I would need them. 
  10. A light, comfy pair of sneakers for when you're visiting ziyarahs and need to climb hills, as well as a comfy pair of sandals for walking long distances and would be appropriate for ihraam (I wore Birkenstocks). 
  11. I pre-packed a Hajj bathroom bag for the days at Mina: This included a hand & foot towel, fragrance free soap, wudu spray bottle, shampoo, lotion, hand sanitiser and lip balm (all available at Sawants sold by Pure Bloom). I included latex gloves, feminine wipes, elastic band, tissues and  Dettol & water solution in a spray bottle (this I only did just before departing for Mina.)

Have a good idea of what you'd like to buy as gifts, I had my children compile wish lists, to make my gift shopping easier. They also each wrote a special note to us which we would read once we arrived in Madinah, as well as specific duahs they wanted us to make on their behalf. I had written each of them a personal letter, which they opened on the first night we were away. It was a special gesture, and something for them to refer back to when they were missing us and feeling down. 
We also decided to leave a day early and stay overnight in Johannesburg to get some rest before leaving SA. So we booked into a hotel on the airport and met up with our Hajj group the next morning fresh and rested!

I hope this comprehensive list can help the with the long list of things to do, and make life just a little easier.

Wishing all the prospective Hujaaj well with the preparation, and may all your Ibadah be accepted and return with a Hajj Maqbool & Mabroer!

Because I struggle to eat fast food we occassionally ended up eating at the hotel restaurants,
The Intercontinental in Madinah was a favourite.
There are quite a few malls which have branded stores, however these are much more expensive
than the market traders. 

The food court at Al Noor Mall, Madinah. Just a caution, fast food is very expensive!

Even budgeting for small little snacks need to be taken into account

The foyer of the Hyatt Hotel, Makkah, which we stayed in 

Burgers galore at any food court! I ate burgers for some variety, 4-6 weeks is a long time!

Starbucks is as always very costly!! 

My sandals (Havaianas) I took along didn't last in the heat and broke,
so I purchased these on a sale for much less than it costs in SA! 

Some of the gifts I received before leaving which came in very handy.

I was also gifted a complete set of fragrance free products from Pure Bloom, a range manufactured
locally and available for sale at Sawants. These products are super hydrating and nourishing for the
skin in the harsh Saudi climate.
Good luck once again with your preparation and planning!

Ciao for now, 
RuBe xoxo

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Friday 16 March 2018

Embracing My Bucket List

Happy Friday Readers!

We're heading into Autumn, with crisp morning air and cooler days. I absolutely love the change of seasons, it eloquently demonstrates that change is beautiful, if we only choose to see it. In the same way that Mother Nature undergoes 'changes' every few months, so do we also transition into different versions of ourselves on our path in life. I am fully aware that I need to grow and learn from my traumas, and from my daily interactions. Every single encounter will have a lesson or message for me, if I'm open to seeing it.

Last weekend I attended Fadwa Cozyn's Bucket list workshop, as part of her #SoulSeries workshops. And whilst I am generally very good at knowing what's on my bucket list, and focusing on achieving them, I instinctively knew that I would leave the workshop with some valuable tools. And of course I did! The workshop was more than just a bucket list workshop, it was a reminder to me of my souls contract on this earth. I believe that we all have a purpose, that we all have a contract which we are meant to fulfil, and regardless of how we feel about it, destiny (if that's you want call it) has been written. And the resounding message I took from this workshop is that if I just concentrate on my own written journey, I will have no time to be concerned about others' journeys. I know this to be true; since I started practising introspection, I do not need to be concerned with anyone else's journey. I have found that I am able to steer clear of inserting myself into the lives of my children beyond what I am meant to do as a parent. As my readers will know, when my sons entered young adulthood, I have had to learn to let go of the apron strings and be a guide, sometimes a mere observer, as they experience and learn from their own trials. I have realised that I cannot protect them from those lessons meant to strengthen them. 

A bucket list is essentially a list of wishes and dreams which I would like to fulfil in my lifetime. Needless to say travel destinations are a key element as well as family, personal growth and business goals. During the workshop it became very clear that each persons bucket list would differ significantly based on a personal value system. I am very clear on what my personal values are, and as a result, I am unaffected by what society expects from me. I further realised this week, as I conducted my consulting meetings, that a strategy or plan which clients and I formulate together, is no different to a bucket list. In fact, it could be looked at as a 'bucket list' of actions required to achieve a specific end goal (and we usually combine the personal and business). And in the same way that I need to know my value system to know what goes on my bucket list, we unearth the value system of the client, as this is what will propel the business forward. Each business will be intrinsically different, as each business owner has fundamentally different value systems. It therefore stands to reason, that each individual will have very individual aspirations, and that a married couple or business partners will align their goals to be in sync with each other in order to co-exist successfully.
Another big realisation which landed with me this week was that my bucket list is what propels me to live my best life. My aspirations and goals on this list is the basis for my life, and it has nothing to do with anyone else. Even as a wife and mother, my bucket list is mine, my life is mine first, and in those aspirations my roles as wife and mother formulate. Anyone concerned with someone elses bucket list, will clearly not be living their best life. It takes too much energy to be concerned with the aspirations and goals of others. It takes too much energy to want to live someone else's life. Especially when we have no idea what their personal trials are. It causes one to lose focus, seeping the fulfilment from your own life. This is where we can make the most impact on our own lives... live our own bucket list, and allow the next person to do the same. It will make space for so much gratitude and joy ♥️ 
Let's teach our youth how its done darlings!

Today's outfit is a beautiful ensemble by designer friend, Mohammad Rawoot, the master behind M-Couture
The contrasting prints and colours are meant to depict the myriad facets of who I am. It shows the many avenues I have travelled on my path to living my best "human experience", to quote Fadwa. The ensemble consists of a wide legged pants and light kimono, I improvised and added a loose top underneath (for modesty), instead of the vest the outfit came with. It's perfect for that night out with friends or weekend chilling with a pair of flats. These are part of his ready-to-wear range, Rock Couture, and can be ordered an ready to wear in 7 days.




MCouture pants & Kimono
Green Cross heels
Mimco bag
Old Scarf
Rebelfunk Earrings
Zulululookbook sunglasses
Lovisa necklace

Ciao for now, 
RuBe xoxo

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Wednesday 14 March 2018

Superbalist favourites for AW18

Hi lovelies!

The cooler weather is creeping up on us and this means it's time to haul out those boots and sneakers and start packing away those sandals. Ankle boots have been a staple for quite a few seasons, and for me, sneakers are always a necessity in my wardrobe. I pair my sneakers with anything, from denims, to skirts, dresses and formal trousers. It immediately gives any outfit an edge, however, the type of sneaker one chooses is what will make or break this look.

Superbalist have asked me to pick three favourites to transition into Autumn from their boots and sneaker ranges. These are my picks (ones which I will 'add to cart' in an instant!), ranging from really affordable options, to the more pricier options. This is one of the things I like about Superbalist; one can find high fashion, trendy items as well as classic pieces in various price brackets. This ensures that they cater for all shopper requirements!

My choices from their sneaker range: 

Aztec OG metallic by REEBOK
These pale pink sneakers are trendy and the feminine at the same time. It's a must-have for any fashionista

These glitter sneakers are slightly more adventurous and really well priced.
A definite must do for courageous trendsetters

 Old Skool platform by VANS
The Vans Old Skool revamped to sport the platform sole. A platform sole is super edgy,
and this canvas sneaker is so versatile

Shop these (or your own choice of) sneakers here

These are my picks from their range of boots:

Merle by VERO MODA
Metallic boots are a huge trend which saw an introduction last Winter, they
will be back this winter in pointy versions with little kitten heels if these are too chunky

Available in both Silver and Gold

Long boots have been around for seasons and seasons, and just see a tweak here and
there. The over the knee is still a Winner for this Autumn/Winter season

Naja leather boot by VERO MODA
These cowboy style low heeled boots is a classic which will last for seasons to come.
They're great quality and oh so stylish!

Available in tan and black, so if you're keen on them, get them in both colours!

Shop here for your own choice from their wide range of boots to complete your Winter outfit.

For shopping on the go, I frequent the Superbalist App, it's simple, easy and accessible for anyone wanting to shop online.
Download the app here:

Sign up and receive R250 off your first order, and with free delivery on orders over R350, there will definitely be some items in your checkout cart!

Happy shopping!

Ciao for now, 
RuBe xoxo

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Friday 9 March 2018

Madinah to Makkah... The first umrah

Hi lovelies!

I've been so busy doing Hajj write ups this week, that I felt it was appropriate to do my next instalment. I have also chatted to so many people and I cannot contain my excitement for the prospective hujaaj, for what they're about to experience! Right now, for prospective hujaaj, hajj may seem like it's still far off, with all the administration and preparation required ... but trust me, it will be here in a flash!

After spending a spiritually rejuvenating 12 days in tranquil Madinah, we prepared to depart for Makkah. Prior to leaving, our spiritual leader held refresher umrah classes, discussed the history and generally got us into the right frame of mind for our approach to Makkah. This was the next step on our life changing journey, one where we've accepted the most important invitation of our lives. For me, it was a journey I had pictured in my minds eye for years, I even had a vivid dream (years prior to this journey) of my first sight of the Ka'bah. So the prospect of finally realising this dream and fulfilling a life-long aspiration had me in tears and filled with anticipation. I was preparing for the monumental moment where I stepped into the Haram for the very first time. 

We were briefed on logistics, and were ready in our ihraam (special clothes required) to leave the hotel. For women normal attire can serve as ihraam, and doesn't need to be white, for men however, the ihraam constitutes the two pieces of white cloth. As with any movements for hujaaj during this time, the Saudi government provide buses for the 450km journey into Makkah. About 15 minutes outside of  Madinah we stopped off to perform Thuhr (mid -afternoon prayer) and made our nieyah to enter into the state of ihraam (we were already dressed in the garb). 

The bus ride was actually an unexpectedly pleasant one, especially after the horror stories I've heard from previous hujaaj about how awful this bus ride is. We made one stop along the road to eat and navigated our way through various checkpoints before arriving at our hotel. We left Madinah just before 1pm and arrived at our hotel after 9pm, this is after all the security checks and delays, but overall it was still a good trip! Soon after getting our luggage and checking into a very lovely hotel room, with a view facing the Haram we were ready for our umrah. Our group made arrangements to meet in the foyer an hour later, and in the meantime hubby and I explored a bit looking for food. 

We met up with our group, each and every one on a spiritual high, with our hotel just across the road from the Haram, we didn't have far to go. As we entered, through King Fahd gate, our spiritual leader prepared us for the first sight of the Ka'bah. We kept our eyes downcast, as we descended the stairs towards the Ka'bah, filled with wonder and awe. We then stood in front of the Ka'bah, our eyes still downcast, and only when we had our duah for this very moment prepared, did we look up. It was breathtaking, emotiona,l and before I realised it, the tears of gratitude and awe were streaming down my face. I really needed a few moments to take it all in; to absorb the magnitude of this moment, to  digest the fact that I was indeed a guest the house of Allah (SWT)! ♥️ This moment is one that will remain etched in my memory bank forever. Algamdulilah!

We proceeded to perform our tawaaf (7 circumambulations) with a relatively empty Haram (by this time it was already past 12am) and thereafter the Saai. Throughout this I could not tear my eyes away from the Ka'bah, this monument to which I have directed my musallah for prayers every single day. It was now an actual physical presence, with such magnetic attraction I didn't want to leave.  Had we not been beyond exhausted, I'd want to stay for hours more. After the saai, we clipped the hair and returned to the hotel room to freshen up, shower, change and grab an hours shut eye before Tahajud.

This experience is like nothing I have ever encountered, the spiritual high is inexplicable and so grounding. It's as if I had found the place which communicates with my soul. This is where my soul is at HOME, the place which will forever call for my soul to return!

Ready to leave our hotel
The bus was pretty comfortable for the long drive ahead
The mosque at Bir-Ali

Shortly after entering the state of ihraam for the first time

The 'rest stops' along the route to Makka

The road between Madinah and Makkah is mainly barren, rocky desert

After completing our first umrah

Ciao for now,
RuBe xoxo

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Friday 2 March 2018

Inner Work is never easy

Welcome readers!

Can you believe it's March already! 2018 certainly started with a bang, and life has continued on an accelerated pace. For me as a businesswoman, wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend. There have been some significant shifts in my life and notable shifts in relationships. This has all been as a result of intensive inner work which started more than 2 years ago and has been a constant journey since.

This inner work is aimed at me, understanding myself at a level which is not always comfortable, but is especially necessary. At times this type of work makes me feel broken, and other times like a total b***h, but as always it serves as a path to healing and moving forward.

I have written about life with teenagers, and the challenges I face as a parent to young adults, and I know that without my own work, I would never be able to afford my kids the space to just be themselves. I grew up in a tribe where traditions are important, culture is weaved into the very fabric of our daily lives. And yet, when I dared to step out on my own, and looked at the tribe from the outside, I realised that we need to evolve. I needed to evolve, to become a person where traditions do not rule my every decision, nor does it dictate my parenting or interactions. Traditions are important, for sure, it forms part of our identity and ancestry, and yet there will always be space to incorporate new traditions. One of the 'cultural norms' I choose to challenge is hiding ugly truths, this is something we choose to do in our communities, families and extended networks- and even go as far as pretending everything is fine. Typically something huge happens (such as terminal illness diagnosis, abuse or divorce) and nobody talks about it, preferring to tell children that nothing is wrong or we go about life as if nothing has happened. Just by doing this, we take something fundamental away from our kids, we teach them to ignore their intuition and gut feel for when things are wrong. We teach them that certain things are taboo to talk about, to think about and some topics are off limits. I believe in always being honest with my kids, even when it may be the hardest thing to do. I believe that they need to know I am human too, prone to mistakes, prone to bad decisions and that I don't always have the answers. 

I would not have been able to arrive at this point without working on myself, looking at what makes me tick and what my core values are. They're not always the same as the tribe we come from. (I use the word tribe loosely, which refers to our family & community networks which we grow up in) My intention is for my kids to trust me, to ask any question and know that they will get the truth. The answers would be age appropriate but still the truth in it's basic form. Our kids are faced with situations we cannot even comprehend, and without having that safe space to talk about it, they can find themselves disoriented. But before I was even able to provide the safe space, I needed to be safe. This meant I needed to learn to drop all judgements which I have been conditioned with since birth (which is a continuous area of work), I needed to understand what matters and discover what my own value system is. Equipped with this, I am able to navigate the world from a place of authenticity, and be a safe haven for my kids. This sounds really simple, but in reality is the hardest to achieve, as it means taking a hard critical look at the self (without judgement but with acceptance). 
There are so many amazing women offering conscious parenting courses, mommy circles, self development and NLP courses; all aimed at being the best we can be. Whilst it can be a daunting task to take the first step towards it, the reward is extraordinary. Relationships take on another dimension and interactions become meaningful. 

Today's outfit features a very colourful kimono I received from Reem Couture. Manufactured in satin finish, it is perfect for a night out or even dressed down as I have done with brogues. This kimono is reflective of my life, so many colours, facets and dimensions, which I keep discovering as I dig deeper into the self. Paired with a jeans and fringe bag, it's perfect for a coffee with the girls or a date with one of my sons. 

Outfit details:
Reem Couture Kimono
H&M Jeans
Dune London Brogues
Riehanas Scarves pom pom scarf
Lovisa Rose quartz earrings
Rebecca Minkhoff Fringe bag 
Giorgio Armani Sunglasses

Caio for now,
RuBe xoxo

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