Posted on Aug 25, 2016
Another Hajj season is right around the corner, and it's hard to believe it's been two years since Ahmed and I were blessed enough to perform one of the most important acts of worship in a Muslim's life. Many of you have reached out asking for a list of things to bring and ways in which to prepare for Hajj - so here goes!
In terms of preparation, one of the most important things you can do to prepare for Hajj is set proper expectations. This is especially true for Americans and other Westerners going for the first time. If you read my Hajj Reflections Part II, you'll remember that there were two distinct advantages I took with me on the trip as a result of living in Dubai. First, I was used to the heat. Be prepared for some real heat.
I'm not talking about July in Texas, I'm talking about August in Saudi Arabia. It's going to be hot - and I distinctly remember other Americans at Hajj who just couldn't get over the heat. It was constantly on their tongue, distracting them from other things and in essence blocking them from some real blessings. Know that it's going to be hot - and the more you expect it to be incredibly, uncomfortably hot, the more you'll be able to ignore it.
Secondly, I got used to the people. Know that as an American, one of the hardest trials you're going to endure is dealing with people. Leave your American sensibilities of order, politeness, respect and manners at the door. People will be rude. People will get in your face and you will get frustrated. I'll never forget a girl in a sister group who had a near break-down after trying to get her food at Burger King. It was utter chaos. People cut in line, they shouted and demanded their food while she patiently waited and wondered if her number would ever be called in what she could barely call a "line."
Things are not the way they should be and certainly not the way you're going to expect them to be. Yes, it's Hajj and people should be spiritual and on their best "Muslim" behavior, but the reality is you're surrounded by millions of people from different backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, cultural norms and sensitivities. Not everyone will apologize for elbowing you in the rib or bat an eyelash at coughing directly in your face. There were things I witnessed at Hajj I cringe to repeat - but you know, they honestly pale in comparison to things I've witnessed in everyday life in Dubai. And this was the biggest advantage I took with me to Hajj - understanding the people. Now, if someone does go out of their way for you - consider yourself lucky and pay that blessing forward.
2) What to Bring
There are two types of people at Hajj. Those who over-pack and those who hardly pack at all. I fell into the latter half and everything I brought for the two week trip fit into one carry-on (with room to spare).
I only brought one black abaya with me from Dubai and it was the one I wore to the airport. Thankfully, we headed to Medina before Mecca where I knew I was able to do some shopping in the souqs. I got about 5 white abayas (if you can, avoid wearing black, it's just too hot) that I paid no more than $15-30 for each. I wore each one for a few days and then gave it away. Anything I bought for myself there I pretty much gave away by the end of the trip.
The entire trip I wore our Premium Jersey Wraps. I know I tell you guys how amazing these are when traveling - but seriously you will be so thankful for them at Hajj. You don't need any pins (I get bad heat rash where the pin is so this was seriously a life-saver for me!) they stay in place, are lightweight, breathable because they're made of cotton and super versatile. I brought five light colored ones with me and rotated them the entire trip.
The best pants to wear underneath your abayas are tapered pants that are also baggy in the thighs - think harem pants. I brought leggings with me and they were so hot and uncomfortable the way they clung to my legs that I needed to go back to my hotel and change. You want them to be tapered so that when you're using the bathroom (and just in general since things get pretty grimy) they're not dragging on the floor. You also want them to be loose in the thighs to be comfortable and avoid over-heating. Try these from Shein or Macy's. Harem pants are the *perfect* pants to wear under your abaya. They're thin, lightweight and loose in the thigh. I wouldn't recommend joggers as the sweatpant material will be too thick and you'll overheat.
The entire time I was at Hajj I wore tennis shoes. I didn't mess with sandals because of how grimy everything is. You're also doing a ton of walking so your shoes need to be comfortable. Also, since I could wipe over my socks so long as I had wudu before putting them on, it made things a lot easier when I needed to make wudu throughout the day. I recommend an inexpensive pair of Keds that you can give away when the trip is over.
In My Bag
During the entire trip I had one of those super lightweight drawstring backpacks provided by Adams Travel and at all times I carried with me:
- Hand sanitizer
- Face mask (wear this in highly congested areas to avoid the spread of germs and disease)
- Baby wipes
- Mini prayer rug (if you don't have one, buy one there to avoid laying your head on the hot (and often dirty) ground. It also came in handy as a soft cushion to sit on when on the hard marble.)
- Printed-out Dua's (these were my own and the ones that others gave me. Have these available at a moment's notice, cause there will be plenty of opportunities you'll want to whip out your du'as)
- Soft-cover quran
- Vitamins (while I didn't carry these around all day, I did go overboard on the vitamins and Vitamin C (bring Airborne or Emergen-C packets) and took them daily to help boost my immune system)
How to Prepare
Lastly, when it comes to preparation for Hajj itself - again, there are two types of people. I was of those that talked to a few close friends and had a basic understanding but didn't go overboard with books or lectures. It's my own personal preference, but I wanted to go in fresh, without too much influence from others and their own experiences. Of course I needed to know the basics in order for my Hajj to be considered completed and hopefully accepted, but I didn't do much more than that. Rest assured that your Hajj leaders will explain everything you need to know every step of the way.
When it comes to du'as, my Dad (who was also my Hajj leader) would tell us to look into our hearts. Yes, it's great to recite memorized du'as or read them from a du'a book, but the best du'as are those that come from the heart. Dig deep into your heart and ask Allah (S) to help you with the things only you know about. It was a much more personal and fulfilling experience when I could pour my heart out to Allah (S) in the holiest of places as opposed to reading du'as from a book.
Finally, go to Hajj with an open mind and an open heart. Look at every moment as a learning opportunity and absorb as much as you can from the people around you. Look for the signs Allah (S) has left for you and the major key - patience. When you want to get upset, be quiet. When you want to speak up, learn to turn the other cheek. You are there to learn - not to teach others how to live. Take the experience for what it is and be open to allowing the experience to change you - and change you it will. May you all have the most amazing Hajj experiences, may your Hajj, prayers and dua's all be accepted and please remember us in your duas!