The area around the Haram has changed so much since I had last been 10 years ago. The clock tower is pretty much hard to miss towering all the other many buildings close by. One of the signs of the last hour is tall buildings and it happening right in front the house of Allah. It reminded me of the Lord of the Rings tower!!! Brother M had done Umrah very recently and was very familiar with the area. He took us straight to the safwah towers where the men cut their hair and exchanged money. The rate is better in Mecca then Aziziyah, which is why we held off exchanging large amounts of cash. The Safwah towers is a large shopping centre with various hotels inside, like the clock tower, which is where we ended up eating.
We grabbed a taxi back to our hotel, getting back about 11pm and found our hotel was pretty much empty. Everyone had left a little while ago to do their Umrah. We cut our hair and jumped straight into the shower (it felt good washing my hair) and went straight to bed. We heard the other ladies in our room come in about 3-4 in the morning. I was so glad we left early to do our Umrah.
We were ready to begin our Tawaf for our Umrah, the ground floor was packed. I have seen tawaf during Hajj on T.V before but being there was something else, it was like there was more people then I see on T.V. We arranged with our Hajj buddies that we will meet them at our meeting point after we finished our Tawaf. With the amount of people doing Tawaf at the same time its hard staying in a group, it was even hard staying with Hubby. The easiest way we could do it was if I walked in front and Hubby held his arms out around me, sort of creating a barrier for me on both sides. I was scared to try and get close to the Ka’ba, seeing the people and the pushing and shoving. Plus my experience getting into the Mataf area kept playing in my head. We were half way through our first round when it started to get more congested. The crowd seemed to move slower meaning more pushing and shoving, we slowly realised what was going on. It was nearly time for Isha and people had just decided to stop where they were so they can pray in front of the Ka’ba. We were close to finishing our first round, I could see the green light, only a few more steps and we would have completed one round, and then the Adhaan goes. That’s when I felt it, I felt suffocated, squashed, scared. I kept thinking how are we going to get out, people were pushing to try and complete their Tawaf, people were not letting others get out. At one point I thought I was going to get pushed down, it truly left me shaken.
Of course once we got out of the Tawaf area people had sat down for Isha, trying to find a space was another mission. Men tend to pray right near the Ka’ba so the womens pray area is a little walk away. We managed to make our way through the little space we had, weaving through people, some just sat down others praying their Sunnah, I felt so bad we had no choice but to go in front of them. Once we found the ladies section, me and hubby went in different directions. I got a space next to a very kind lady who shared her musalla (prayer mat) with me then suddenly it hit me, where am I going to meet Hubby? Our group had provided us with sim cards but we hadn’t topped them up yet.
After I finished praying I made a quick dash to where me and Hubby has gone in different directions. To my relief he wasn’t too far away. So many people in ihram and with beards it would have been hard to find him in the crowd.
My heart sank a little when I realised it was time to go back to finish our Tawaf. The first round had scared me, I don’t deal well with small tight spaces. We slowly made our way and back and made sure we continued where we left off. The crowd seemed a little bit lighter, but I kept think it was only going to get busier, people were probably finishing off their prayers. I dared not get too close to the Ka’ba, I know it gets more congested the closer you get. My heart was racing, my eye were carefully watching making sure we would not get into any trouble like before and my mind was in constant dua. Before I knew it we had completed our 7 rounds (phew) it was only then I looked around and realised it was not that bad, the crowd didn’t seem that large. In my state of worry, I missed out enjoying my Umrah Tawaf, my first Tawaf.
We headed to pray our 2 rakahts of nafl prayer and then got ourselves some Zamzam whilst we waited on the steps for our Hajj buddies. Sitting from a far, I got to get a really good look at all the extension work. A lot had changed in the last 10 years, I could mentally picture what they were doing, and how it was all going to work.
Sai was a lot calmer and free flowing then Tawaf. We managed to make our dua on Mount Safa with a view of the Ka’ba, unfortunately there is no view from Mount Marwa. There is a small part which is lit in green lights. This is to indicate the section men are required to run, women are to continue walking at their normal pace.
As we walked from one mount to the other I couldn’t help but recall the purpose of Sai, the story of how it became. Hajar (R.A.) ran from one mount to the other 7 times in search for help in the blazing heat, no air-condition or tiled flooring. How easy it has become for us.
We managed to complete everything pretty early, the men were very eager to get out of their ihrams asap, I’m glad we didn’t plan on doing Hajj Al-Qiran!!!!
Paris was our first short break after our honeymoon. We decided to utilise the August Bank Holiday and book flights leaving Friday afternoon and arriving back late Sunday night, that meant we had a day’s rest before we went back to work. Tickets were more expensive than going during a normal non holiday weekend. It cost us £160.80 to fly with EasyJet and £208.00 to stay at Tim Hotel.
Tim Hotel was one of the cheaper hotels I found on tripomatic, which was close to the Louvre. We decided to book this instead of a fancy hotel, we only needed the room to sleep and keep our stuff in. The hotel wasn’t what I had expected but not in a bad way. The room was small and dated but clean, the only thing we noticed was instead of a double bed we got two single beds pushed together. This wasn’t a problem for us but please check before booking.
Getting from the airport to our hotel was not too bad. We landed at Paris Charles de Gaulle and opted for public transport to get us to the hotel. Hubby had researched how we can do this and I left it all to him. There are trains that can take you to central Paris, it’s a bit like London’s Kings Cross St Pancras and from there you can take the Metro to your hotel. We decided not to take the metro on our arrival as we weren’t too sure how to use it, our hotel wasn’t too far from the central station so we walked it. But this guide will tell you all (Guide)
We’ve had bad luck with flights, something always happens and we never seem to leave on time. We were a few hours behind schedule so we decided to check into the hotel and catch up on our prayers. We had a little wonder to the Louvre as it was so close to our hotel we just knew we had to see it at night. It was BEAU!
We then decided to head out to Trocadéro and grab a bit to eat. Trocadéro is right in front of the Eiffel tower giving you the best night view. A friend of mine told me that the Eiffel tower sparkles on the hour every hour at night, a must see when in Paris!
Unfortunately we missed the sparkles by a few minutes and decided to eat and head back for the next hour. All the food places around were far too expensive and we found ourselves walking for ages before we found a decent halal place to eat. The guy was getting ready to close but kindly allowed us to eat before shutting up shop. It wasn’t the best food I have had, but was enough to keep us going that night. We made our way back to see the Eiffel tower and caught the final sparkle, we even managed to find a crepe bar close by and indulged in their famous banana and Nutella crepes MAGNIFIQUE! (sorry, the poor attempt at speaking French stops here)
The next morning we woke up early for Fajr prayed and headed straight out to the Louvre we had heard the queues for the Louvre gets very busy and its best to get there early. We managed to find an entrance to Carrousel du Louvre which let us straight into the food court.
Carrousel du Louvre is a high end underground shopping mall, which is home to the La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid), made more famous by Dan Browns film adaptation “The Da Vinci Code” There is an entrance to the museum through the shopping center and you can also purchase tickets from one of the shops there. As we had seen the famous outside pyramids we decided to go through the shopping centers entrance. The queue was long but moving, the only hold up was the security checks. They require all bags to be put through their scanner, which slows down the moving crowd a bit. Going in we were taken back by how big the museum really is and we were just in the lobby area directly underneath the large glass pyramid.
The museum has paper floor plans in many different languages. There is even headsets you can hire that talk you through the art work. We only planned to be in the museum for 2 hours but we could have spent the whole day there. The guide highlights the most famous art work in each section, making it easier for those of us that don’t really know art but like to appreciate it every now and then. We went straight towards The Mona Lisa, their most famous and most visited painting. She was being treated like royal compared to the others, the painting is behind a glassed wall with a thick “Do Not Come Any Closer” barrier. Along with that she had 2 security guards on both sides. We managed to get a few snaps and head on elsewhere.
Some of the paintings really take your breath away, they are so huge and old, I kept visioning how they managed to create these back in olden times. We managed to see the Venus De Milo which was a tad bit awkward as almost all the statues were half naked.
I absolutely loved Napoleon III Apartments, they pretty much had all his furniture to even some of his walls! I loved how the curtains were in the same fabric print as the chairs and couch, something you would defiantly not see today. History always makes me gasp, I love seeing how they lived in the olden days, the rich and the poor
We made our way to the Notre Dame after we finished, stopping for a quick cold drink on the way. The walk there was beautiful, we even managed to add our own lock to the Love Lock Bridge.
Being a Disney fan I knew I would want to climb up to the top of the Notre Dame, but unfortunately we did not do our research properly. We saw the long queues going, which made us re-think our whole plan. If we were going to queue to get in that would mean other plans for the day would have to change. The queues were very long, but it was moving. There are no tickets needed to get in, I think they just slowly filter in the people so it doesn’t get too over crowded inside. Once we go inside, we were taken back by the beauty, it defiantly had an eerie feeling to it, it was big, dark and very quiet. We managed to find someone who worked there and asked where the entrance to climb to the top was, we were told it was outside! Once we managed to get out through the crowd we realised the queue for the climb was to the side, we didn’t even need to go in. But we didn’t have time, oh well there’s always next time
Next on the list was the Museum Of The Arab World we came across this on TripAdvisor and thought it was a must see. We were hoping to find a prayer space here but they do not have anything of the sort. The museum has some breath taking pieces. The Holy Quran section was my favourite, I loved the small scroll that had the entire Quran written. After snapping away the guard told us we were not allowed to take any pictures!
There is a balcony on the top floor which overlooks Paris, it is simply beautiful. There is a restaurant on the top and bottom floor, we found the top floor was pricier and more exquisite.
As there was no place to pray at the museum, we had to make a quick dash to Paris’s Grand Mosque the mosque is a short walk away from the museum and has a metro station not too far from it. We managed to make it for Zhur and even had time to take a few snaps before it was time to pray Asr. It was a nice break, to be able to sit down and relax for a little while
We found that we were a little ahead of schedule, the original plan was to head back to the hotel to pray Asr, but as we has already prayed there was no need to go back. We had a few hours before our next prayer so we decided to go straight to our next destination, the Champs-Élysées.
Champs-Élysées is like a very high end version of our Oxford Street. The street runs from the Arc de Triomphe all the way until the Louvre and takes about half an hour to walk from one end to the other, but the walk is beautiful. We got off at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Station and walked all the way up. I had no intention of shopping but I had to pop into Tiffany & Co not to buy anything but to hint to Hubby for future reference 😉
We did however queue for Ladurée, how could you not, they are the most famous French bakery. I have never had macarons before so what better place to try them, then the birth place of them. There was 2 queues that were spiralling out the door and on to the streets. The longest being the queue to eat in, lucky we opted to take away, we probably would have been there all night! Once we got to the front we explained how we could not have anything that has any animal product or alcohol in it. The team there are so lovely and helped point out which ones we couldn’t have. They have so many other dessert items other than macarons, but we decided to play it safe. I can’t remember exactly how much it cost us, but it was defiantly the most expensive bakery item I have purchased in my life
We continued to walk all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. As it is situated on a massive round about, you have to walk underneath the road, which then leads you right to it. Unfortunately that day there was some sort of ceremony happening there. They had blocked the middle off, so we had to peak through from the side
That was everything ticked off the itinerary for the day and we were ahead of schedule! Once we got back to the hotel to pray magrib, I was absolutely shattered. I could have easily crawled into bed and gone to sleep. But we needed something to eat.
We decided to stay close to home and find something local to eat. We managed to come across a small fish restaurant, which Hubby had found online. I can’t remember the name, and to be honest we were too tired to look for anything else. But I don’t think I will go back if I am ever in Paris again. The workers were bengali, and after being seated our waiter started a conversation with Hubby that was never ending, even after our food had come he was yapping away. I felt like a third wheel! They offered us complementary macarons at the end of our meal, which were very chewy and nothing like the original ones we had bought earlier that day.
The next morning we were up early again ready to head out after Fajr prayers. As we were leaving that night we had to check out of the hotel. I had contacted Tim Hotel before our trip and had asked if they would keep our luggage for a few hours. It seems this was a service they did provide to all guests. We didn’t want to be luging our heavy baggage through Paris so we left it at reception and picked it up later. They keep your items at the front and they are not held responsible for any missing items. They put a tag on the luggage and give you the receipt, which is needed when picking it up.
We had planned to visit the Eiffel Tower that morning, as this was one of the sights further away from all the other attractions. We didn’t have any plans for breakfast, we were just going to wing it, I’m glad we did. We ended up wandering around for a while before we can across a small authentic French café, Café Roussillon.
The café is big and seats a lot of people, it seemed there was only a handful of people eating breakfast at the time. Most seemed to be local, which is always a good sign. We were seated by the windows and ordered ourselves the Parisian Breakfast. The service was really good and we got our food so quickly. The Parisian breakfast comes with orange juice, tea or coffee, a croissant, bread and fruit salad and a little souvenir, an Eiffel tower keyring. We managed to finish everything apart from the fruit salad, it’s a shame its tinned fruit salad, if it was fresh I would of gulped it down! The little gift of the keyrings really made an impression with me, I would defiantly go back!
Before leaving home, we managed to book tickets for the Eiffel tower through Viator. All the tickets through the official website had been sold out already. We managed to skip part of the queues and were taken close to the first elevators. Watching from down below it was really something. The elevators go up the legs of the Eiffel town at an angle, it’s amazing to think how they came up with the idea to build this so many years ago. There is no time limit once you get up, they scan your card and you’re free to go. The Eiffel tower has 3 levels, the summit being the 3rd and highest level, ticket for this are an additional fee, which you will have to pay when booking your entrance tickets. Our guide told us to go straight to the summit as sometime they do not let you in 2 hours after your admission time, so we went straight to the top and worked our way down. The view is something else, you can pretty much see all the iconic landmarks of Paris from the top. Hubby was well in his element, pointing out the places we had been the day before. Tip for future visitors, take a jacket or a cardi with you. Being so high up it’s very windy and can get a little cold, even on hot days! Once hubby had enough of the top floor we made our way down to the 2nd and did the same all over again! I think we spent about 3 hours there in total and could have easily spent a lot more. We decided to eat at 58 Tour Eiffel, something magical eating so high up with a view of all of Paris.
By the time we had come down the sun was blazing and we couldn’t resist heading towards Champ de Mars. We lay on the grass with the sun in our face and a beautiful view of the enormous tower we were on a few moments ago. It was nice to see so many people enjoying the day. Lots of people had come for a picnic, others where there spending time with their children. We even came across what seemed like drama group acting out a play in full costume. What I clearly remember about Champ de Mars, was how clean it was. If this was in Britain, how quickly do you think it would have gotten littered
From there we walked to the Pont Alexandre III bridge and made our way back towards the Louvre, a must when in Paris. As we got to the Place de la Concorde, we looked behind to see a very small Arc de Triomphe. Seeing it from this point was really something else, it made me realise just how long the Champs-Élysées really is!
The walk from Place de la Concorde, through Tuileries Garden towards the Lourve is a really scenic route, perfect for a hot summer’s day and an even better way to end out trip. We slowly strolled through the crowd, taking in all of the beauty whilst munching on ice cream.
As we had checked out of our hotel earlier that morning, we had to go back to Paris’s Grand Mosque to pray, walking along the river seine and even stopping for another crepe. Once we were done we headed back to the hotel to pick up our bags and sadly finish our wonderful trip
My sister in-law told me how her father had felt when he was going for Hajj. He was so scared and nervous he apparently nearly had a heart attack. Of course Bengalis can over-exaggerate but I didn’t understand why he felt that way. My sister inlaw told me he was like that because he was going to be standing in front of Allah’s house a big achievement he was scared, all his lifes sins etc were playing on his mind. I know everyone reacts differently but I was eager to be there, my belief is that my Lord is Ar-Rahmaan and Ar Raheem (The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful)
With all the works happening at the mosque we found ourselves wondering around trying to get to the ground floor. As it was Hubbys first time seeing the Ka’ba he didn’t want to get glimpses of it whilst walking towards it, so he kept his head down whilst we tried to figure out how to get to the ground floor. Once we managed to get into a spot with a full view of the Ka’ba we stood and made dua.
I had done Umrah about 10 years ago, and even though this was my second time seeing the Ka’ba, the emotions I felt seeing it I cannot describe. It was like I was seeing it for the first time, it took my breath away. We all see pictures of the Ka’ba on T.V, facebook, Instagram etc. But seeing it with your own eyes, there is nothing as beautiful as the Ka’ba. This is the centre point of our religion, the direction we face towards five times a day, the image most of us have whilst praying. I broke down straight away.
I found myself starring at the beauty of the Ka’ba, tears rolling down my cheeks, hands raised asking Allah to forgive me. I had not planned what I would ask for when I was standing in front of the Ka’ba, I left that all to my heart. I stood there asking for forgiveness, apologising for my sin. I knew what my sister in-laws father was talking about. I promised I would not repeat any sins anymore. Many people say that when u first see the Ka’ba, make dua and it will come true. Now there is no Hadiths mentioning this but a dua is a dua. Being a Muslim is believing Allah will grant you your dua if not in this dunyah then in the ahkirah, unless it is sinful.
Since being married, we have managed to do 5 city breaks and only one resort holiday, we soon realised we are more the backpacking explorer types then the relaxing sun, sea and sand type. Don’t get me wrong after our first adventure week of our honeymoon we were ready to relax and finish it off with a nice resort.
But whilst we have time to ourselves and our youth I think it’s better to explore the cities now. My sister keeps telling me “once you have kids, it will be harder to do city breaks” I understand where she is coming from, every city break we have gone on has been jammed packed with daily activities and lots of walking! We love waking up early and exploring and coming back late ready for the next day of adventure, so I can understand why that would be difficult with children.
Our honeymoon was planned so well by Audley Travels I was left speechless by the whole trip, Hubby did very well! They spoke to Hubby to ask where we would like to visit and what activates would interest us. They came up with a beautiful 2 week trip visiting 3 different destinations in Malaysia. We went from seeing the hustle and bustle of the city to going to a rural town famously known for their street food ending with a relaxing beach resort.
I would love to travel with Audley for every holiday, unfortunately my bank balance wouldn’t like that at all. I guess we could justify spending so much on our first holiday together, but since then we have tried to keep our other holidays along the same wavelength as our honeymoon but on a budget.
Audley introduced me to itineraries, they gave us a small zipped ring bound folder with all our travel information. I was amazed (I know it doesn’t take much to take my breath away)
Since then I have always created an itinerary for our holidays. We may not follow it to a T but it always nice to have a plan before you go. Whilst I was planning for our short break to Paris I came across a brilliant itinerary website to make me plan my days better, Vist A City
I absolutely love this website and use it whenever I can. The only problem is that they don’t have every holiday destination on the site, I guess that would mean they would have to put up every corner of the world, but they are working on adding a few more popular destinations.
What I love about this website is that it calculates the time it takes to go from one place to another, which I think is very important information when on holiday. It also allows you to add location breaks, so anything not on their list of to do’s don’t worry you can add whatever you like.
I’m such a visual person, so I love the map they create for you showing where you will be visiting. It’s handy seeing all the top tourist attractions on a map, that way you can plan to do the things that are close to each other and save the rest for another day. For this I also love looking at the app Tripomatic they bring up the top places to visit and also hotels. It’s always good to know where everything is before you go.
I tend to use Tripomatic to look for hotels, I bring up the map and try and search for places next to a few tourist attractions. I write a list of possible hotels and read the reviews on Trip Advisor
Trip Advisor is my go to for hotel review, pictures do not tell you the whole story. I have seen so many fancy hotel pictures and when you read the reviews and see the travellers own pictures you realised how easily we can be fooled. Trip Advisor searches prices for you too, so you can get a rough idea on how much you are likely to spend. I like to check the hotels own website as sometime they can be cheaper.
With short city breaks I don’t book anything too fancy, we hardly spend any time in the hotel so it’s not worth it.
Flights are always the harder part of holiday planning, I wish there was a website that would show you the price to your destination over the whole year. As I am not limited when I can go on holiday, perks of being a D.I.N.K (Double Income No Kids) I will always choose for the cheaper flights. We all know flying during school holidays is a lot more expensive then term time. But some months are cheaper than others. It would be nice to see it all on one page so I can then decide when to go. I like using skyscanner to search, they tend to have all the correct filter and best prices. I always check the airlines website too, to see if it’s cheaper booking direct, sometimes it is. What annoys me with searching for flights is after a while the prices slowly go up. A friend told me this was a trick the airline does using your internet history. The more you search the higher the flight prices seem to go up. Make sure you clear your browser history every time before booking your flight, EasyJet is a big culprit for doing this.
Places to Eat & Places to Pray
Food is a very important part of our holidays, it can really make or break your day. I remember coming out from the hamam in Istanbul and craving donner and chips. A local restaurant owner flagged us down and shoved his menu in our face. We were starving and pictures on the menu look so good. Unfortunately the food was cold and stodgy, the chips looked like they had been soaked in oil instead of fried and the donner was cold and hard. It really did ruined our entire day (over dramatic much)
Finding food in Malayasia and Istanbul was very easy, as they are both Muslim countries. Food in non-Muslim countries can be daunting, for non-vegetarians there’s only so much veggie dishes you can have before you start craving meat! But I’ve come across Zabihah a brilliant website allowing you to find local halal places to eat. I like to note down a few places that have good reviews in different areas. I don’t like adding these to my itinerary, I feel like what you want to eat can change on the day, or you might even walk past a place that is even better. I always read the reviews as some places can say they are halal but when you get there they only have a few items that you can actually eat. Islam being such a fast growing religion is isn’t hard to find halal food.
I try my hardest to not miss my prayers, especially when on holidays. Zabihah allow you to search for places to pray too. Again I always read the reviews as some places are small rooms that offer prayer spaces for men only. I always print a copy of prayer times from Islamic Finder to take with me so we know roughly when each prayer starts. Worst case scenario if there is nowhere to pray whilst out, we always head back to our hotel.
If anyone has any advice to make planning my trips better and cheaper, let me know.
I started wearing proper makeup when I first started working years ago. In the beginning it was a small amount of blusher and eyeliner. Eyeliner was my best friend since high school. I remember one morning waking up late, rushing to school with nothing on my face. The amount of people who though I was ill! It’s amazing what a small black line under your eyes can do for you.
My skin started to get worse after I started working. I have always suffered with spots but this was different. I felt horrible my confidence was so low the only solution was foundation.
I can’t even think of the amount of different foundations I went through. I found my skin kept changing so the foundation I was using was just wrong for me.
I remember my first real foundation, not the cheap collection 2000 ones our mums buy on our trips to the chemist.
It was L’Oréal’s mineral powder foundation. The first time I used it my skin was clear and everyone kept complementing me. Once the spots started coming it just wouldn’t sit right it made me look cakey.
I wouldn’t step out of the house without makeup, my sister once told me maybe you need to let your skin breath, give the foundation a miss. I snapped, “You don’t understand what it feels like to have bad skin”
I wasn’t the best Muslima at the time, I would miss my prayer during work hours and come home and catch up on them.
It’s after I got married that I started to realise what I was doing was wrong. There were many empty rooms in my office and my colleague were more than happy for me to pray. It took a while for me to register that my makeup wasn’t helping me either. But that was harder than me taking a 5 min break to pray.
I was so conscious about my spots and marks I couldn’t bear the thought of wearing no makeup. I made up so many excuses in my head to try and justify it. It was until I came back from Hajj that I actually stopped wearing it to work. I had spent 3 amazing weeks on a journey of a life time and not once thought about wearing makeup. I stood in front of the Ka’ba for my Lord, I stood as he created me, no make-up or fancy wear. Why modify something that has been created by the best.
I woke up on the first day back to work tired from the journey but more depressed because I was missing Saudi so much. I looked at Hubby and said “I’m not going to wear any make up today” Hubby kind of shrugged his shoulders and said “OK”
That day went by quick, everyone was asking how my journey was and I was re-telling stories over and over again. But no one seemed to question why I had stopped wearing makeup, what a relief! It was always playing in the back of my mind throughout the day. Every time I would go to the toilet I would shock myself when I looked in the mirror, I just wasn’t used to it. My work colleagues just assumed I was really tired from the journey and some of it was true.
I had managed to get through the day and I felt so happy. I came home looked at Hubby and said
“I don’t know what I was so worried about, If Allah can accept me like this why can’t everyone else?”
P.s Don’t get me wrong I haven’t given up wearing make all together. My guilty pleasure is watching make up videos and reading reviews. I still like to doll myself up for special occasions, but I do wudu before I paint my face