In our final (Part 3/3) post on our Umrah pilgrimage, we share on our experiences in Makkah and how we managed to fulfil our umrah obligations with our 2 young kids in tow.
“There is no city on earth through which Allah multiplies one good deed by a hundred thousand except Makkah.” (Sahih Bukhari , lbn Hibban)
1. Preparations to enter Makkah
We departed from Madinah to Makkah on Sunday morning, all decked out in our umrah gears – Ihram for the men and appropriate prayer attire for the ladies. We did our sunnah prayer in our hotel before leaving and proceeded to recite our niyyat to perform umrah at Bir Ali Mosque, 9km from Madinah and 450km from Makkah. Throughout the ride to Makkah, we were encouraged to recite the Talbiah. Even though we had prepared ihram outfits for the boys, we did not put them on till we arrived at our hotel in Makkah. The boys needed to be as comfortable as possible for the long bus ride, plus we had to maintain our state of ihram throughout the journey to Makkah.
If you choose an itinerary with Makkah as the first destination instead of Madinah, you will need to perform your sunnah prayer at home and be in your umrah gears when you head to the airport. 45 minutes before arrival in Jeddah, you will then need to recite the niyyat for umrah. The journey from Jeddah airport to Makkah is about an hour long.
2. First umrah
We arrived at Makkah Hilton at about 9 pm, checked in and had a quick round of freshening up before performing our first umrah pilgrimage. This is when we also got the boys geared up in their Ihram. We had to change Dani’s diaper and made sure Ari went to the toilet first before we headed over to Masjidil Haram to ensure minimal disruption during umrah as well.
Even though it was close to 11pm, the compounds of the Masjidil Haram was brightly lighted up and for a moment there, I was confused between night and day. There were many people going in and out of the mosque too and performing their umrah. I remember thinking to myself that this mosque never sleeps. On hindsight, when I compare with the other timings we did our umrah, this was probably the least packed timing. But it was still packed nevertheless.
We brought along our Tulas and strapped the boys in even before we entered the mosque. As we had to maintain our wudhu throughout the umrah pilgrimage, hubby and I agreed that all transfer of kids would be made through my parents. Thankfully we didn’t have to make any transfers though. Our group kept close together throughout tawaf and sa’i. By the 3rd tawaf, both boys were fast asleep in their Tulas, which also meant that they were heavier to carry. We had to perform our solat sunat Tawaf with the kids in tow, chairs were easily available to allow us to perform our solat. The 7 rounds of Sa’i felt more challenging than Tawaf, especially because of the slopes on either ends of Safa and Marwah. The boys slept all the way till we got back to the hotel. This was us after completing our first umrah.
My parents, my mum especially, looked so tired here. This made me realise how difficult it must have been for our old folks to perform their Hajj. Tawaf and sa’i are just two components of Haj, and the Haj congregation is much larger than the umrah congregation.
My little Haji so tired after a long day, successfully transferred onto the hotel bed for the night.
3. Subsequent umrahs
My parents opted out of the 2nd umrah and offered to take care of the kids. We took up their offer and followed the rest of the group to perform our umrah. Without having to carry Dani, it felt less tiring. We were able to keep pace with the group. My parents joined in the third umrah. This time round, we broke away from the group and chose to perform our umrah at our own pace. We tried letting Ari walk on his own but the crowd during Tawaf was too overwhelming for him and he asked to be carried. If your kids are older, you might want to consider pushing them on the wheelchairs instead, cos they too might be overwhelmed by the number of people and the pushing and shoving all around.
4. Jemaah prayers in Masjidil Haram
Masjidil Haram is much much bigger than Nabawi Mosque, we managed to explore the mosque quite a bit and prayed at different sections within the mosque. Most of the time, we prayed at the main prayer hall at Level 2, from the nearest entrance to our hotel, King Fahd gate.
The mosque security closed off some of the entrances when the mosque became too packed (usually close to prayer times), hence it is very important to make sure you make your way down to the mosque early for prayers. We ended up praying at the mosque external compounds at least 2 times, and we stumbled upon the basement prayer section another time because that was the only entrance left open then. We quite liked the basement area as it was a small contained space and we prayed there a couple of times more. On our second last day in Makkah, we explored the rooftop praying area and performed our Maghrib and Isyak there. That was quite an experience in itself, scenic and very cooling.
But of course, the best prayer spots were those that gave us a view of the Kaabah. Those times, it felt like a surreal experience facing the real Kaabah during prayers and not just the drawing on my prayer mat. These places were usually packed though, so again, I’d recommend that you be there early to book your spot. Not easy with kids too so you might want to moderate your expectations at the same time.
The families that we met in Makkah were as friendly, nice and generous as the ones we met in Madinah. Again, the boys made friends and received many goodies. Their rezeki, indeed.
Friday Jumaah prayers are really really packed. In Masjidil Haram, there’s a high chance roads are closed and entrances to the mosque are closed as early as 1.5 – 2 hours before prayer time. So you might want to be at the mosque very early.
5. Subuh prayer
There were a number of Subuh prayers in Madinah and Makkah when we brought our sleeping boys along with us to the mosques. As parents, you know your kids best, and if they are not likely to wake up cranky and crying in the middle of prayers, why not. Ari tend to be in deep sleep and Dani will sleep soundly as long as he’s being carried. It might be useful to find out the techniques to do your prayers while sitting down. There are plenty of Waqaf stools in different areas within the mosque compound for you to use during prayers.
6. Kids Club @ Hilton Makkah
Hilton Makkah has a Kids Club, and we let the boys play at the club twice during our stay. The first time, we dropped them for an hour. The second time, we dropped them a bit longer and picked them up after Zuhur prayers. If you are staying at Hilton Makkah, you might want to consider this option if you intend to spend a slightly longer time in the mosque. The kids get to play, and you get some time to do your own stuff. Even though Dani was too young to be left behind, the staff allowed us to do so because Ari would be with him.
7. Shopping at Makkah…
Our hotel was just next to the shopping mall and we spent quite a bit of time window shopping. There are plenty of food options too, hence you might want to consider opting for a half board package. Even though we had lunch and dinner provided, we skipped our meals a couple of times just so we get to eat other types of food. Hilton Makkah’s breakfast spread was awesome though!
8. Climbing Jabar Nur
Again, this was possible because my parents stayed back to take care of the boys. Initially the umrah group was keen to go for the climb, but when one by one they pulled out, hubby and I decided to go ahead. We took a cab to and fro and walked up the 1,100 stairs to the top of the Jabal Nur. We managed to take a peek at the Hira Cave where Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from Allah SWT.
“Read in the name of your Lord who created man from a clot. Read: for your Lord is Most Bountiful, who teaches by the pen, teaches man that which he knew not.” (Quran 96:1-5)
9. And then the kids got sick…
When we left Singapore for our umrah trip, Ari was down with fever. Throughout the whole journey to Madinah, he was very weak. Hubby was closely monitoring his temperature and gave him his medication every couple of hours. In Madinah, we were encouraged by our guide to feed Ari plenty of zamzam water. We did that. Each time we went to the mosque to pray, we will bring our water bottles and fill them up with zamzam water. Alhamdulillah, Ari’s fever subsided by Day 3.
In Makkah, Dani started running a temperature two days before we were supposed to depart for Singapore. Thankfully he still nursed, ate and drank well despite being sick. Hubby was back on duty monitoring his temperature (hubby recalled Dani’s temperature at one point was close to 40degrees!) and fed him medicine every couple of hours together with zamzam water. We were thankful Dani was not cranky during the whole episode. He had almost recovered by the time we headed back to Singapore. Alhamdulillah.
Shahidah Travels had a clinic in Makkah and Madinah for their pilgrims but thankfully, we had sufficient medication and didn’t need to go to the clinics.
In fact, filling up zamzam water became a routine that Ari looked forward to each time we enter the mosque. Here is he helping his dad refill our bottles at the basement prayer space.
10. The Farewell Tawaf
On our last morning in Makkah, we were up early for our final tawaf, Tawaf Wada at 3am. We weren’t the only ones up at that hour, the place was packed. It was a sad poignant moment for us, having to leave the holy city of Makkah and not having the privilege to pray in front of the Kaabah. I still remember those few final moments in Masjidil Haram, as we sat and prayed continuously while waiting for the prayer call for Subuh. Dani slept throughout and I did my Subuh prayer with him still asleep in the carrier.
The time we left Masjidil Haram, back to our hotel to pack our belongings for the flight back home.
11. Flight back and zamzam entitlement
All pilgrims are entitled to a pre-packed 5 litre bottle of zamzam water before you depart. So don’t worry about stocking up on zamzam. You won’t be allowed to carry your own bottles of zamzam in your checked in baggage or hand carry anyway and they will check your bags for those. Kids get a bottle too, so altogether we got to bring home 6 bottles of zamzam water . Alhamdulillah.
This was us with all of our loot before check-in at Jeddah airport.
Two tired kids, two rejuvenated parents. Bringing your kids along for umrah may sound like no easy feat, but with enough preparation and lots of doa and tawakkal, it was manageable and we would not have wanted it any other way.