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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