The plan was simple and convenient: we leave Sharjah for Jeddah at 10 pm, arrive in Makkah by 3 am, finish umrah before Fajr, sleep for a couple of hours, then return to Masjid al Haram for Friday prayers. Except that upon reaching the airport, we are casually informed at the counter that our flight will be delayed. For six hours.
When going for umrah via Jeddah, one has to assume the state of ihram at a certain location before Jeddah; the pilot informs the passengers once the aircraft is flying over the miqat. However, since the plane’s lavatory isn’t really a convenient place for one to assume ihram—specially for men—most people prefer to change at the airport (before taking off for Jeddah).
This is the miqat:
And this is Jeddah:
Immigration at Jeddah airport is a breeze, but our bags take forever to arrive. We have already booked and paid for our Jeddah to Makkah taxi ride, plus three days hotel stay in Makkah. The guy who meets us at the airport (he’s from the agency where we booked our Umrah from) tries to sit two families in one taxi. Masood refuses. We had already paid in advance in Sharjah just so we will travel alone. Besides, there’s the non-mahram issue as well.
Also, there is absolutely no need to book and pay for the taxi in advance. There are so many taxis available just outside the arrival gates of Jeddah’s airport.
The gentleman above is our driver. He’s a Saudi national who worked in a multinational company during his younger years, so he speaks English fluently. He mentions U.A.E.’s stringent road rules and how everyone ends up paying so much fines. “It’s much better here,” he tells us, tasbih beads flowing between the fingers of his right hand, “We are free to drive as we please. See this? I’m driving at 120. I can even drive at 140, but I hear they’re going to put up radars on this road. When that happens then maybe I’ll drive within speed limits.”
We arrive in Makkah at 10 am, but due to the heat and humidity it feels like noon . Upon reaching the hotel, hot and exhausted, we discover that our room is already given to someone else, and there’s no other available room. After searching for sometime, Masood finally finds us a room in a nearby hotel and we transfer our six (heavy) bags by ourselves. We quickly freshened up and walk to Haram.
We are just in time for Friday prayers, immediately after which we perform the tawaf. The white marble floor, with air-conditioning circulating below its tiles, is cool and comfortable under our feet. But the sun is too bright and hot, and at one point I thought I will faint. But when one is facing the Ka’aba and communicating so intimately with the Lord, the hardships become bearable. Sa’ee, in my opinion, is harder.
When compared to my first umrah experience, this year’s tougher. But I am eternally grateful for the opportunity because neither Masood nor I have planned for this trip. And unlike the previous umrah, I wasn’t overly emotional either. I believe I had the guilt and remorse of a lifetime within myself when I performed the first umrah. This time I feel very light and um, less guilty.
To my readers who have performed umrah more than once, what differences do you feel the second or third time around?