Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and it is obligatory on every adult who can afford it. I had the blessing of Allah to perform hajj couple of years back. Before going there, I was as nervous as anyone can be regarding preparation. It is a journey in itself. I got benefited from various sources (internet+friends+family) and want to share my experience so it may help someone like me.
There are two things to prepare, spiritual preparation and physical preparation.
Everyone knows the best what is inside their hearts other than Allah. So I cannot recommend anything about spiritual preparation. It is definitely unto each person’s capacity and you know how to come out of your comfort zone (your normal spiritual capacity) without over doing it.
So here I will discuss few things which I found useful during the journey. I consulted too about the luggage prep from various websites and from the people who had the experience. You can find them anywhere for example https://muslimmatters.org/2017/07/27/hajj-checklist-and-packing-guide/. They have explained why they are required.
Here I am sharing my experience, Only for the Hajj Days when you are away from your comforting hotels etc. Most of the things I have discussed are when we were in mina/walking from mina to jamaraat/muzdalfa/makkah.
Do you really need them?
There are few things I never used which were added to most of the luggage lists. Like re-useable water bottles. You will have access to water/water bottles every where. Like where you stay in mina, hotels, mosques etc. So I had bottles, but never felt to use them. Just grabbed a cold bottle when leaving the hotel/living place. Re-fill with Zamzam Water when empty, dispose it off when necessary.
I arranged so many summer clothes, end up using 2-3 of them, same with scarf. I washed them and re-use them. WHY? because those were the most light/comfortable/ventilated etc that I didn’t feel like to wear anything else. Washing something is the easiest thing, get washing powder (No need in your luggage, you can get from there), use sink to quick wash your stuff and they can be dry even inside room, so no worries. I had 2 abayas which were enough too.
There are no many toiletries I have seen in the list. I bought them too. But what I actually use, Vaseline (petroleum jelly) , nothing else. For my feet, to massage your legs, hands, for rashes. Everything. If you don’t mind, use just the oil (almond oil). It will also do the wonders. It is for hajj days. Before and after use whatever you like. I have seen non fragrant shampoo, soap etc. But when you are actually in hajj days (4-5 days depending on your stay in mina), you just want to pass the water through your body, only water. With less time, queues, not enough cleaning facilities, it is the best thing to do. Did I use my shampoo and soap while hajj days, NO. You may thing how disgusting it feels like, but its not. Clean water actually cleans everything, you don’t believe it until you experience it insha Allah.
Use of mini/necklace fan: I didn’t bought any. First thing you are already have enough things around your neck, so one more? the other thing is when it is hot, it is hot, that a mini thing is not going to do anything. So its more of mental satisfaction.
The other thing is the spray bottles. I have seen it people were using it, I didn’t get one. It is another item in your bag and when you are hot, throw water on your face directly from water bottle. It will dry in seconds so sprays are not going to do more than water. Never use a towel/tissue to dry it, let it dry by itself.
DON’T DRINK FREEZING COLD WATER. This is one of the biggest lesson I have learned. You may think I am mad to say that but the story may change your point of view. My husband had freezing cold water before hajj, then he caught soar throat, badly sick, he was then worried if he could even perform hajj or not. It doesn’t mean you will be safe from getting sick (You are very prune to get sick because of millions of people’s gathering can cause any viral issues very easily), but it saves you insha Allah from being easy target. To take care of yourself should be your main priority. Don’t over-do things/ibaadah if you even started to feel sick. Do proper rest to perform the next stage of hajj.
Useful things which normally are not in the list. A spray plaster is very good in case of any rash, blisters on feet etc. Because most of the time blisters/rashes are on the places where plaster cannot stay. So it was handy when I had to use it.
You must have something to eat in your sling bag. Some dates/sweets anything small. Because it is very common to get lost in mina and then you don’t know how long it will take to get back to your place. So have some emergency snack. I have seen an elderly lady who was diabetic and suffered a lot because of it. That doesn’t mean there is not food available. But it is most of the time, saving time to reach your destination, natural hesitation to ask for help, not finding a person speaking your language, generally sick to ask for help. And one event specially for me when you feel sleeping in intense air conditioning, I ate something to keep me awake in mosques, staying longer there. It is very common to feel sleepy (I have seen people proper snoring in Haram, don’t blame them, everyone gets so tired, it is sometime uncontrollable.)
There are so many things to save you from heat. You have to walk a lot in heat/sun so it is important to be prepared for it. The only thing which worked for us was soaking wet towel. You put a damp (even dripping with water) small towel on your head with sun glasses. It was life saving. You will find water fountains on your way when you are walking, otherwise in emergency use your water from water bottle to damp the towel, refill water bottle whenever you find a next spot. You can obviously use umbrellas, but just in mind it will disturb your pace of walking, disturbing others around you, making room of it along with you etc. I used it in the beginning then I found that it was easy without it, folded it and put in my bag.
One thing I found was amazing when my husband’s nose started to bleed because of his sickness on Araafa day. One of my (then) room-mate (now friend) had some Sattu drink (available from Asian Shops). It helped to reduce the internal body heat. I recommend use these kind of remedies to keep the internal heat down. Use chia seed/basil seeds, yogurt drink (Luban) etc. a lot (you can get easily from local shops there). Fizzy drinks will reduce your thirst but due to high in sugar you will feel thirsty quicker than water.
There is one most important thing when going toilets in mina or muzdalfa etc. an elastic belt and a over-door hook. That will save you from getting your clothes dirty when in toilet in mina. Due to large number of users of these toilets cannot remain clean. Rivers of water on floor make things dirty very quickly. Elastic band around your waste in which you tuck your clothes in and hang your abaya on hook. I have seen some toilets already had hooks to hang clothes on, but not all of them. And obviously clean your feet with water (half legs too if you feel like) after using toilets.
One thing which is worrying everyone is the access and use of toilets. Just keep in mind the number of human beings present at the time of hajj. So don’t expect for the best and not to complain. But use them as soon as you find them whether you feel to go immediate or not. Because you never know when will be next time you will be in the closed proximity of toilet.
(I will update it soon if something else came into my mind. While writing it, all my journey recalled. It is good to pack your stuff without over-doing/worrying, moderation is what Islam teaches us all the time. May Allah bless everyone who is going for performing hajj and make it easy for all of mankind. Ameen)