I recently went to Saudi Arabia for Hajj. This year there were more than 2.5 million pilgrims who performed Hajj. We Muslims call this a journey of a lifetime. I thought I will share some moments of this journey with you. As it does test you physically and mentally and tests your patience in the heat and also with the crowded environment.
Our (Me and my wife) journey began on the Sunday 18th June 2023, when we left Manchester airport for Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. One of the important parts of the Hajj involves men dressing up using 2 sheets of white cloth. This shows everyone is equal in Islam. Even a king or minister will dress the same way during Hajj.
We visited the Kabba (the cubic building) at the grand mosque in Mecca. The Kabba was rebuilt by prophet Ibrahim. Kabba is the direction, where every muslims faces when they offer their prayers. No matter where you are in the world - you face in this direction when making your prayers. At first sight when you are right in front of the Kabba, it was an indescribable feeling. Part of the hajj involves going round the Kabba 7 times and in temperatures over 45 degrees, it does test you physically, especially with the crowd. People are advised, if you drop something, then don't try to pick it up.
Another part of the Hajj is staying several day/nights in tents in a place called Mina near Mecca. The conditions of the tents vary - for us it meant living in a tent with about 300 people. It was crammed, but it did have some sort of air conditioning. Living in these is a challenge as all the 2.5 million pilgrims, all live in Mina in tents at same sort of time for several days. It is a challenge for the Saudi government to provide food and water and some basic amenities for all these pilgrims.
The other important place we had to stay was in the tent in a place called Arafat. Where all the pilgrims gather on the day. This was where the prophet gave his last sermon on the mountain.
In nearby place called Muzdalifa, the pilgrims also have to spend a night in the open (no tent!), sleeping on the ground. Not very comfortable. Didn't get much sleep that night (we didn't have our sleeping bags with us), but we were glad it was only one night. The final ritual of Hajj is the cutting the hair or most people have a head shave for men. I did this and people said I looked 10 years younger!
The other challenging part of the Hajj was walking. This meant walking from our Mina tent back to our hotel in Mecca. This was about 12 kilometers. Involves walking through long tunnels (some about a mile long. It seemed like it was never ending, and you get a great feeling when you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Despite all these challenges, thanks to Allah, it meant we completed our Hajj. Which is one of the main pillars of Islam. It becomes obligatory on all Muslims, especially when you are able to afford it. I must say despite getting blisters under my feet, it was still an amazing journey and made me think how difficult it would've been for our parents.
The final part of journey was to go Madina and visit the grand mosque, where it’s a bit more relaxing. This masjid-e-nabvi (the prophets mosque) is also one of the biggest mosques in the world. Where it can accommodate about 100,000 people.