Never has there been a post I have felt more privileged to write than this. As we learn through our beautiful faith every opportunity is a blessing and no where is this more stark than on this occasion. I do feel this way about our work at Haute Arabia everyday, our position to be able to support new brands grow across international markets, to provide a platform for women from around the world to reach other women with one common thread – our desire to be modest does make me quite grateful. This year has been filled with great blessings, from the most precious blessing of a baby girl, to a wonderful new team at Haute Arabia with a new Director who I am fully certain will help Haute Arabia flourish to the next level. Introducing Azra Ismail of Capetown, South Africa who brings 5 years of Corporate experience having been in finance and number crunching. She brings incredible creative flair and a superior eye for all things fashion. In the last three weeks she has supported us to bring on our new team of 30 and for all this I can only ultimately thank Allah (God) for his abundant generosity.
So at this moment in time there’s nothing more important than a journey to give that thanks to where it’s due. It’s as simple as that, and I encourage everyone to take a few days out wherever you are in the world as often as you can to go and replenish your soul. For those of you based in the Middle East this is the greatest blessing at your doorstep. Whilst working at the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology a couple of years ago as the Seed Fund Portfolio Manager I used to try and visit each weekend.
Yesterday on mention to someone that I was going – there was such an awe of surprise and longing and I responded to them with why don’t you go if you so wish to, what’s stopping you. Their response was that they don’t know how, or where to even start with planning. Do we need to go in a group? Do you book a package? How much does it cost? Can I travel alone? I wouldn’t even know what steps to follow on the umrah.
I never felt so sad and yet so blessed once again, blessed for the knowledge and blessed for being able to help this person convert this clear dream to a reality. Instantly I started to unravel this myth of complexity surrounding one of the most important pillars of our faith. Be it that this is the ‘little pilgrimage’ it’s really valuable training for the Hajj – or actual Pilgrimage which is compulsory for every mentally sound Muslim.
Here were my answers which may help someone else.
Do I need to travel in a group? Can I travel alone?
You don’t need to have any groups, you can travel alone except if you’re a woman you do require a mahrem (someone to accompany you who will be your brother, father, husband, son or mother’s brother). This is compulsory unless you’re over 45 where there is some flexibility for women attending in groups with other women.
Umrah doesn’t have to be expensive at all, you simply need to book yourself a flight, there are many options from taking Egypt Air which will stop via Cairo but fly you right into Madina. You could take a direct flight to Jeddah (recommended with young children or elderly members of the famlly- take Saudi Airlines or British Airways.
To be on the safe side, the top hotels to consider for proximity and price are – Movenpick Hotel and Hilton Hotels. There are many options around this which include;
Makkah, Fairmont~ Hotel, Raffles Hotel (for more premium stays) but the Hilton hotels and many of the local one’s are excellent also
Madina, the latest hotel to be added is Shaza Madina which has become extremely popular for its excellent customer service, customised amenities and of course it’s proximity to the great Mosque.
If cost is an issue I recommend booking 2 nights in Makkah and 2 in Madina – in 4 nights you can get a wonderful hotel – being something comfortable and close to the haram for £400 for two people. So I hope this shows you how cost effective this can be!
Tip; Note that this is out of Ramadan, the key times I recommend are beginning of January when schools have STARTED again or April just after Easter break has ended. This way you get the most quiet and peaceful state with the fewest people.
How do you travel from Makkah to Madina?
You may drive/ take a car/taxi, (note that women cannot drive so this will be the man who will need to drive). I recommend booking a street taxi where you can negotiate slightly a rate, don’t negotiate inside the haram area and do’t negotiate hard as this is disliked in the proximity of the haram. Drive time is approx 6 hours.
Another much quicker option is taking a flight which will take an hour and will be much more comfortable
Do I need a Visa?
Yes you do, but don’t worry even that’s not difficult thanks to a wonderful team at Yalla VISA (yallaVISA.com) – alhamdulillah (All praise to God) we have never had a problem here. You simply give them a call, and they will fix your visa for you in no time! Circa £125 for your visa and arranges within 2-3 days at maximum. (I do advise you to give as much time for this as possible and check with them first due to consistent regulation changes from the government. Call them on 0044 7957 278 676.
So now you should be all set- hotels/flights/visa booked it’s time to prepare and pack!
I will be issuing my part two of this guide shortly in which I will cover, what to prepare, what to pack, the guide for performing your umrah and emotions and suggested Tips!
Keep following for the next instalment of this travel diary.
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