Here’s a guide for the first time pilgrim.
Getting the best package deal for Umrah may be a tiresome task for many South Africans. And whilst others swear on undertaking the journey through a travel agent; it may prove cheaper to journey on your own. What’s more is you can go for Umrah without ‘breaking-the-bank’.
Some tips on booking flights:
- Wait for the quarterly airfare specials. These airfare specials tend to start at the end of peak season. You may get a great deal from Saudi airline after the month of Ramadhaan and certainly after the Hajj pilgrimage. Another great time when specials are released is during December and April. So be on the lookout!
- After booking flights, atleast a month or so before you can secure good seating on the plane and book your halaal meals.
- Apply for visas through a travel agency or through SAHUC direct. Once you’ve received your visas you are good to go!
Some tips on booking hotels on your own:
- Use third party platforms such as Booking.com , Agoda and Hotels.com to get the best accommodation in the holy lands.
- You can secure great deals at hotels situated close to the Haramains at reasonable prices.
- And what’s more, some deals include breakfast, which can help save you a few hundred Rands.
- Remember to read atleast 3 pages of reviews on each prospective hotel so that you are certain that you understand and are happy with the standards of the hotel. Who better than previous guests to rely on!
Some tips on preparing for your Umrah journey:
- There are classes held in and around South Africa at major Islamic centres that offer Umrah classes FREE OF CHARGE.
- The classes educate one on how to perform the Umrah, as well as, all the supplications to be read, history about the Holy Lands and Landmarks where one can visit during the time spent there.
- These classes often provide books to read before embarking on the journey, which will also prove helpful.
- It is also a wise idea to read up on Islamic History before one departs. This is imperative in understanding the Holy Lands and the journey ahead; where pious predecessors once lived.
Some tips on packing for your Umrah Journey:
- No matter what time of the year you go, Saudi Arabia is a desert bound country and temperatures during the day are almost always hot and dry. Packing cool cotton clothing is an advantage.
- Pack only a few light abayas/thobes, soft cotton scarves and cool cotton clothing as undergarments. Pack only a few as you can wash these (by simply purchasing a bucket and washing powder from the local hypermarket known as Bin Dawood or the other little kiosks that can be found all over the city). Or one can also utilize the laundry services offered at most hotels.
- Pack only a light jacket when leaving South Africa and for the airplane journey.
- Be sure to pack a burqa if you normally use one and a very comfortable pair of shoes. There is a lot of walking to be done and a good comfortable pair of shoes will go a long way. Also, note that the Holy Lands are hot and dry, so pack a shoe that is airy and easy to slip on and off.
- Bundle your Ihraam clothing together and separately from the rest of the clothing so that it is easy to access when the time comes to don the Ihraam. Please note the conditions for Ihraam as this will assist you in selecting the best suited items in your wardrobe.
- As a matter of modesty, pack a niqab to don when in the Holy City of Madeenah as a matter of respect to the beloved Rasul of Allah (SAW).
- Pack a thick pair of socks (also known as slipper socks) to wear when you depart for Saffah-Marwa. This will assist on the granite flooring in the Harams as well.