Umrah: (Part 2) – Madīnah al-Munawwarah

Silently uttering a prayer as the plane started to take off, I was excited beyond words. I looked out of the oval-shaped window and saw the sun setting in the pink horizon, far across the desert dunes of Sharjah.

‘This same sun would greet me in the morning’, I thought with a smile, ‘in the city of the Prophet, sallalahu ‘alayhi wassalam.’  The thought made me restless with anticipation, and though I had planned to sleep in the plane to get some rest, I couldn’t. Instead, I read the Umrah guide book that I had brought along with me, which I have already been reading for the past couple of weeks as part of my preparations for this important journey of my life.  In the seat behind me, I could hear a woman softly sing an Arabic nursery rhyme to keep her baby from crying.

Less than two hours later, I looked out of the window and saw, thousands of feet below us, lights. ‘This is it!’, I thought aloud, making Masood look out of the window as well. I quickly took a blurry picture of my first glimpse of Madinah.  The plane then took a turn and the city appeared more clearer from the left window instead. I sighed.

Photographed by Nadia Masood

Appearing to be right in the centre of the city, The Masjid al Nabawi, or the Prophet’s Mosque, glimmered like a giant star amidst million smaller ones in the black night. I couldn’t take my eyes off this spectacular sight.  However, moments later, the plane prepared for landing and the view was gone. Soon, at around 9 pm local time, the plane landed at the Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz Airport.

The moment I stepped out of the aircraft, a warm breeze blew across my face, and I felt it envelope my soul, welcoming me to the City of the Prophet, sallalahu ‘alayhi wassalam. The temperature was 31°C, as opposed to 28°C in the U.A.E. I climbed down the stairs and the moment my right foot touched the ground, my heart skipped a beat.

Madinah’s airport is small and there wasn’t much crowd. First, we were handed Umrah Arrival Cards to fill in. We then queued up to the immigration officer, had our visas checked and passports stamped, and then another officer took photocopies of our visas. Masood went to collect our luggage.  I waited for him at the other side of the security check. When he went to get the suitcase, after it had gone through the x-ray machine, the officer told him in Arabic to open it. Apparently, he noticed from his monitor the two rods behind the suitcase, the ones that support the handle at the back. He checked and let us go.

Outside, a friend of Masood greeted us. He was kind enough to pick us up from the airport and drive us all the way to our hotel.  In the darkness of the night, Madinah felt peaceful. I also noticed that most of the cars on the road were old. And yes, there were no female drivers. I smiled when men impatiently honked their horns the moment the traffic signal turned green.  ‘Just like home’, I thought. I lost track of time, too busy observing the city when, from somewhere out from behind the old buildings, I saw the minar of the Masjid al Nabawi glisten. My heartbeat quickened as I realised we’re moving towards it.

The hotel lobby smelled strongly of bukhoor. I sat on the huge sofas covered in golden velvet while Masood and his friend walked over to the reception to check us in. The lobby was full of Iranians. Looking up from the centre of the lobby, I can see the next floor. People, men and women alike, were sitting and listening attentively to a man making du’a in Farsi on the microphone.   man was kind enough to offer us orange juice while we waited. I don’t remember the name of the hotel, but it was very good. The staff was courteous and they had done a fabulous job maintaining clean rooms.

In Madinah, I never ate out. Masood had always brought food to the room, where we all ate together. ‘I didn’t notice women eating in restaurants,’ he mentioned. ‘I don’t mind,’ I thought, ‘It’s already too crowded outside.’ We offered all our prayers in Masjid al Nabawi, Alhumdulillah, and Fajr was a very lively time. ‘It feels like Eid,’ said Masood. After offering our Jummah prayers and having lunch, Masood’s friend took us around Madinah.

Nadia Masood

Nadia Masood

Nadia Masood

I found Madinah to be a simple, clean and peaceful city. Most importantly, there wasn’t much construction work going on so that was definitely a refreshing change. There wasn’t much traffic either. Also, I noticed that the people were friendly and accommodating.  Everyone I know who had been to Madinah have the same impression. As a matter of fact, the people of Madinah were the ones who had welcomed Prophet Mohammed, sallalahu ‘alayhi wassalam, with open arms when he migrated from Makkah. That is probably why the prophet mentioned in the following hadith:

Abdullah bin Zaid bin Asim reported Prophet Mohammed, sallalahu ‘alayhi wassalam, as saying:

“Verily, Ibraheem declared Makkah sacred and supplicated for blessings to be showered upon its inhabitants, and I declare Madinah to be as sacred as Ibraheem declared Makkah to be sacred.  I have supplicated (to Allah for His blessings to be showered) in its sa’ and mudd (two standards of weight and measurement) twice as did Ibraheem for the inhabitants of Makkah.” (Muslim:1360)

Nadia Masood

Known by different names, Madinah al Munawwarah or ‘The Enlightened City’, lies 250 km east of the Red Sea and is surrounded by mountains. This city also produces the country’s finest dates. Among the first things I noticed was that a lot of women come out in the morning, in full niqaab, and would sell stuff, like prayer rugs, scarves, slippers, and other small items. They either push a cart along the streets of Madinah or spread a blanket on the clean floors of the city and put the items on display. Business looked specially good after prayers, specially on Fridays. They end up blocking the entire area in front of the Masjid al Nabawi, prompting the police to come and force them to leave.

Nadia Masood

The mountain of Uhud, where a battle was fought in March 625 between the Muslim community of Madinah, led by the Prophet Mohammed, sallalahu ‘alayhi wassalam, and a strong army from Makkah, led by Abu Sufyan. Due to the mistake of some of the Muslim archers of abandoning their positions despite the instructions from the Prophet, sallalahu ‘alayhi wassalam, to remain in their places regardless of what happened during the battle, seventy Muslims, including Hamza, the Prophet’s uncle, were martyred. Prophet Mohammed, sallalahu ‘alayhi wassalam, sustained several wounds himself.

Nadia Masood

Prophet Mohammed, sallalahu ‘alayhi wassalam never forgot the martyrs of Uhud nor the occurences in Uhud; he visited the tombs of the martyrs every year and revisited them during the last days of his life. The battle of Uhud was commemorated by Muslims in later periods to remind them not to make the same mistake again.

The picture above shows a small mosque just across the graveyard, where the unmarked graves of Hamza and other martyrs are located. Women aren’t allowed near the graves, nor photography is allowed. One thing I’d noticed was that some people supplicate while visiting these graves. This is shirk and should not be done at all.

We then returned back to Masjid al Nabawi in time for the Maghrib prayers.


  1. it sure is a breathtaking site, isnt it? i love the marble flooring…u can virtually spend the entire day at the masjid without even looking at the watch…. i remember the days when we used to go to madinah and makkah during ramadan (we stayed in riyadh, so it was easier for us to drive)… every visit was memorable in its own way…

    It must’ve been so busy during Ramadan. I can just imagine the crowd! And yes, one does tend to lose track of time in the masjid.

  2. Subhanallah, looks like this post read my heart from the bottom to the top. I am still missing this lovely place. InshaAllah we will make it lot more days next time.

    Minimum 10 days, InshaAllah.

  3. Asalaamu Alaikum,

    Madinah is by far my favourite city in the world! I’ve never felt so much peace and tranquility in my life as I did sitting in Masjid Al Nabawi after Fajr.

    Alhumdulillah I was blessed to be born in Saudi Arabia and spent my first 10 years of my life there. I never truly appreciated it until I moved to Canada when I was 10 and got a chance to visit again when I was 15. I haven’t been back since. Insh’Allah someday…when it’s best for me…

    My husband and I are actually thinking of moving to UAE. I heard the job situation is bad there too but Insh’Allah whatever’s best for us will happen. If you know anyone looking to hire an electric/electrical engineer or something in wireless communication or an elementary school teacher, please let me know! 😉 I’ll really appreciate it!

    Congratulations on your Umrah! I hope and pray that I’m invited there soon too! 🙂

    Walaikum Assalam, dear Roohi, and thank you so much! May Allah accept your dua and bless you with the opportunity to visit Makkah and Madinah. I’ll be on the lookout, InshaAllah, for those posts you mentioned 🙂

  4. =( i miss saudi arab so much right now ….. i want to go back !!

    and mashallah nice to see you there =) !! and thanks alot for sharing the pics !!

    When were you there last?

  5. This was such a well written post – you should be a journalist! Or at least charging people money to read this, because this is better than a travel guidebook lol.

    Who were the imams for the prayers?

    Thank you! I had wanted to be a journalist lekin mere khandaan waaley decided it was ‘un-girly’ lol. I have overheard a brother mentioning the name of the imam, but I don’t seem to recall it now 🙁

  6. Salam Nadia, mashallah a very well written post,thanx for the detailed description, I mean how nice it is to see the places where Islam came alive,for instance just looking at cave Hira will give goose bumps, this was the place where the first revelation came, pray that I am invited to this place,only people invited by Allah gets the opportunity to perform,Umrah and Hajj…

    Walaikum Assalam, Maryam. May Allah bless you with the opportunity to perform Umrah and Hajj with your family, Ameen.

  7. Lovely pictures.

    From all pictures I have seen, the mosque at Madinah actually looks bigger than the Mecca one. We were there for some time it really is grand, beautiful and very peaceful. We had old currency there but the people were very friendly and eager to accept and help us out.

    Masjid al Haram in Makkah (400,800 sq meters and still undergoing expansion) is slightly bigger than Masjid al Nabawi (400,500 sq meters) though the latter does indeed look larger in pictures. And yes, people are very friendly and accommodating.

  8. I went for Ummrah in 1996, three months before my wedding, with my parents. We live in Dubai and my husband has gone 4 times now on official trips to Jeddah when he did Ummrah. He has not been able to take us.

    I wait patiently for Allah to call me to his home one day so my children can go there and see it with their own eyes. 🙂

    You are indeed blessed to have been able to go there.

    I have been told of a family here in the U.A.E. who’d been planning for Umrah since 2006 and have been denied the visa for different reasons each time. They are a young family and certainly have the money to make the journey. Therefore, there is no doubt that Allah only invite those whom He wish to invite – so it is a huge blessing for anyone to be able to make it for Umrah and Hajj. May Allah accept your dua and bless you and your family with the opportunity to visit His home.

  9. Assalamu alikum sis…

    Wallah your post just leaft my heart in tears. SubhanAllah. My heart has been longing to visit that blessed city of our beloved prophet sallahu alayhi wa salllam. InshAllah We are planned for this coming april. I am currently a resident of UAE, i would really appreciate it if you could give me some tips…it would be my first inshaAllah 🙂 Jazakillahu khair.

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