Me and Hubby had been planning to go Hajj for a while, we had even spoken about it before we got married. We both had intentions to go before we met and once our wedding was fixed we knew it was something we wanted to do as soon as possible. My mum has always taught me once you have the money for Hajj it’s your Fard (duty to Allah) to go.
After our wedding we slowly started getting ready, but unfortunately couldn’t go that year (2014). As we had taken a lot of time off work for the wedding, work wouldn’t allow any more for Hajj. I truly knew it wasn’t meant to be for us that year. We had both agreed with work to make sure next year would not be a problem for us to go. As that years Hajj came and went we felt sad that we weren’t there but we knew Allah had something even better planned for us.
Come January 2015 we started the process, we didn’t have all the money ready, but we made a payment plan to save a certain amount each month. We knew we would have it all ready by the time Hajj came round. I had made the intention to use my Mahr money for part of my Hajj payment and then saving up for the rest using my own money. Our 3 week package cost us £4750 each and we saved another £1000 each for spending money! Each year the prices seem to increase and we opted for the shifting package which is cheaper.
My sister had been 2 years before us with a brilliant group who they highly recommended. The only issue was that they would go to Medina first and Mecca last, which isn’t something we wanted to do. Hubby and my brother in-law met with a group from London – Al Hijaz Tours & Travels Ltd , we had heard good reviews about them from friends and decided to check them out. They both came back and felt this was the right group to go with and we soon made a small deposit to secure a place with them. At the back of our minds we knew we were going on this journey but I don’t think it really felt real until after Ramadan.
After Ramadan we only had a few weeks before we left, we slowly started getting everything ready. Shopping and packing just seemed never ending, we kept buying things and re-packing. I couldn’t get my head around what I would need, I kept speaking to my sister and going through my list of stuff.
Our flight was one of the last flights for Hajj and depending on when Dhu Al-Hijjah would start we would have 1 or 2 days before Hajj started so I thought it would be better to pack my Mina bag so I wouldn’t have to rush around sorting it while I’m there. But that went down the drain, i ended up re-packing just before we left!
I started working on my dua list as well, something I recommend doing early. I had plenty of time preparing and my list was long! I had texted those close to me asking if there was any specific dua that they wanted me to make for them. I wrote them all out and made sure I took them with me.
We were lucky to get our Visa confirmations 2 weeks before we flew out. I have heard many horror stories of rejected visas, which was always playing at the back of my head. Once we got our Hajj visas I was just eager to get going, I didn’t want to wait, I just wanted to be there. It was the longest 2 weeks of my life!
We left our farewell visits and calls a little too late in my opinion. After we got our visas we started calling our relatives that lived far away. It just seemed never ending, the list just grew and grew, you’d think you were done and then you would remember someone else. The local visits were done in our last week, which was the hardest as we were still working so had to do them in the evening. We found ourselves out every night which meant no time to pack. The night before had to be the worst, we had everyone come round to see us off which meant cooking and cleaning until late at night and then sorting ourselves out for our 3 week journey. I hardly slept that night!
As typical bengalis do, we finished the last bit of packing a few minutes before we were due to leave the house and even made a few farewell calls whilst driving to the airport! We hadn’t made our intention for Umrah yet so Hubby was wearing his thobe at the airport. The funny stares we got, it took me a while to register why people kept looking at Hubby and then it hit me! Made me chuckle to myself, imagine if he was wearing his ihram!!
The plane journey went quick and majority of the people on had not had their ihram on, so the queue for the toilet was extremely long. What surprised me was the prayer area, it was very small and the men decided to get changed in there, leaving no room for the women to pray, we had to pray in our seats.