Alhamdulillah, we are finally living the post-covid life which means we can finally start to book our holidays, and where better to book than a trip to Saudi Arabia for Umrah. In this post you will get an insight into How to do Umrah – wait for it – by booking it yourself, with your kids and everything you need to know iA. This Umrah post is going to be a work in progress so some sections will be incomplete or needing an update and so keep your questions coming so I can add to this when possible and needed iA. Thank you for your patience with regard to this.
Now comes the interesting part – things have changed massively in Saudi Arabia! Many of the Umrah and now even Hajj tour groups have been scrapped so that you, yourself can actually plan your own Umrah trip – yourself! And yes that’s totally possible with a bit of research and reading some blogposts for the updated news on what’s what in Saudi Arabia regarding the Umrah rules (because there have been some massive changes since COVID-19).
More about my personal experience with kids during Umrah:
Alhamdulillah, by Allah’s blessing and mercy I’ve been living in Makkah for nearly 7 years now (we briefly left during Covid) and I can only speak from this particular experience of someone who’s s children were 6 months and 2 and a half years when we first arrived. I’ve carried my youngest in a baby carrier during tawaf (and totally loved it) and had to make sure my eldest daughter didn’t mistake me for another lady in a black abaya and scarf. We’ve seen the Haram at its busiest but also when it’s been quiet. I’ve seen it when children were not allowed in – that was a sad time for me – yes, I got time for myself and my ibaadah but something was missing and it was honestly the noise of kids laughing, crying, running around. I missed the kids and of course I missed taking my own kids. So, for all those families bringing their children, this is for you! Here’s what you need to know!
How to book the Umrah Trip yourself:
Firstly, just see this as a normal holiday you may be booking online – think visa, flights, hotels. Alhamdulillah the good news is the Visa system in Saudi Arabia has become much easier so you can easily book a Visit Visa online which you receive within 10 minutes. This allows you to perform an Umrah too, however you may not be covered for free medical insurance. The Umrah visa on the other hand gives you free medical insurance and many groups still book this for their members. I personally would recommend to book a visit visa for ease. Here’s the link to get you started: https://visa.visitsaudi.com/
Next up, book your flights however you do for your usual holidays, we usually just use skyscanner.com and then we use bookings.com for our hotels. Remember to think about the time you land, your journey time and when you will be checking into your hotel.
When booking hotels, always check how close they are to the Haram or Masjid in Madinah. I mean literally check your walking route on Google Maps first. Most will be fairly close in Madinah, but in Makkah there may be some which are a little further away (and walking in the heat makes it difficult for those with young children or elderly) they will offer a shuttle service or you could even use the new Makkah Bus services that take you from the Haram upto Kuday – The Makkah bus is currently free and you want to look out for the number 5 bus that goes back and forth to the Haram. Muslim Travel Girl has an awesome DIY Umrah Article that explains more on the hotel recommendations in Makkah. I will update at some point with my own recommendations soon iA.
MAKKAH TO MADINAH
Once everything is booked you can breathe Alhamdulillah. Remind yourself Allah has invited you, so Allah will facilitate this for you. I say this mainly to mamas who I receive msgs from worrying about their kids and their time at the Haram and I honestly get it! If this is your first trip with your kids abroad then yes its going to a brand new experience but also an exciting one too iA. If you’ve travelled with your kids before but it’s YOUR first time for Umrah – then I hear you too. You want to know what’s what so you can navigate how best to prepare for yourself and your kids when you arrive.
- Should I bring the kids?
Yes! Bring your kids. The reason I say this I know many family and friends later regretting that they didn’t bring their kids, but also because the experience of the umrah trip is so unique that it will have a massive impact on your children regardless of how little they are. Make these memories with your kids like you would if you took them to a resort holiday! Yes I understand its a religious ritual but it’s also a holiday – where you are relaxing, slowing down and realigning yourself with your Lord – let your children be a part of that. I totally get it, it might not be for all parents but for those on the fence about bringing their kids, I thought I’d share my twopence 🙂 At the moment prams are not allowed in the Haram – but then again on some days they are – bring your prams, your baby carries and iA it’ll all work out.
2. Where can I buy a child friendly Umrah Guide? – My First Guide to Umrah
From us here at Mama Teaches Me. Yes going to do a little promoting here of our newly published Umrah guide – you can see how passionate I am about kids coming with you for Umrah that I’ve even thought of how you can keep them occupied while you’re here 🙂 The Umrah Guide came about after taking my own children to the Haram on a regular basis and feeling the need for them to have something to do in between salaah – they would mostly have colouring sheets or reciting Quran especially during Ramadan. So for your Umrah Experience with Kids I thought the Umrah guide would be the best thing to compile after our visits to Madinah as well. Alhamdulillah this year my children got to perform their first ever Umrah with the My First Guide to Umrah to guide them. You can purchase the physical copy of the 50 page Umrah guide for kids here or download a digital copy to print at home if you are short on time here.
You can also read a previous blogpost I wrote some years ago – My Top 10 tips for an Umrah with kids! Remember Allah has invited you for this amazing opportunity – so don’t over think anything – your kids will be fine, in sha Allah.
3. What apps do I need to download?
Nusuk (Previously the Eatmarna App)
This is what you will need to download beforehand or in Saudi Arabia to book your Umrah slot in Makkah and Rawdah slots in Madinah.
Careem or Uber app for best taxi rates where you don’t have to haggle the price. I personally prefer the Careem, you will need to register with your email address and Saudi Sim card when you are here. You can use either of these apps for guide prices on fares in case you do need to go with a local taxi.
Hunger Station – If you prefer the ease of ordering food then this is the app you need. Pretty similar to Just Eat or Uber Eats app that you may be familiar with – you can pick a range of food or even just find what’s local to you as well. Great as a price guide when ordering food as well. I would definitely check the review ratings before ordering too.
4. What should I carry daily to the Haram?
It is ideal to carry a rucksack or bag to hold your shoes (and your kids shoes) – If you’re children are old enough, have them be responsible for looking after their own shoes. I’d wear thick socks or double socks for the kids too. There is a lot of walking on the hard marble flooring and it tends to feel cold because of the AC at times too. You’d need a water bottle – I find the metal water bottles work best – as the cold water stays cold in them – don’t forget to fill your water bottles up with zamzam whilst your there. Take your dua booklets – fortress of the Muslim, and your own dua book too. Take some prayer beads to encourage the kids to make adhkaar or buy them the prayer rings – (5 riyals at the 5 riyal shop). Pack a few snacks too. Take the Umrah Guide for your kids so they can continue filling in daily.
5. What Food options are available in Makkah/Madinah?
In Makkah there are loads of places to eat – in the clock tower itself – floor 3 and 4 are have dedicated food courts. I’d recommend the Smash burger on level 4 – if you like your spice try the Spicy Baja meal. Jabal Omar has a food court on their top floor, the ever popular Egyptian kushary place makes a nice light meal at a reasonable price. You’ve also got your familiar, yet halal options of KFC, McDonalds and Burger king dotted around so try those if you fancy it too. Contrastingly there always seem to be less food places for us to find on our visits to Madinah. There are a few fast food chains and a Bin Dawood (local supermarket) and the odd Pakistani restaurant. You could always download the HungerStation app for food delivery from local restaurants – (like you would with Just Eat)
Will update more here soon iA.
6. Where are the toilets and what are the facilities like?
Remember Allah has invited you for this amazing opportunity – so don’t over think anything – your kids will be fine! I get a lot of DMs about toilet facilities and the walking in the heat. SubhanAllah the ACs that are forever running in the Haram do mean it stays fairly cool and believe me when I say I’ve even felt cold in Makkah (due to Acs) in the Winter months – Dec and Jan mainly. Regarding toilets, I would say have your children go before you leave for the Haram and after lunch or dinner, after they’ve eaten. Having said that kids are kids and when they need to go, they need to go. So there are a few toilet facilities dotted around the masjid. One outside Mount Marwa specific for women -the mens one is fairly close too. So if your children need to go during the umrah – those are the closest. Just ask a local security guard or cleaner and they can direct you. The others we tend to use are in the Clock tower Food courts on floor 3 and 4. There’s another near the KFC on the first floor, go in and turn left – ask for directions – just say ‘hamam’ and someone will wave you in the right direction 🙂 Or of course if your hotel is fairly close, then take advantage.
7. Where can I buy other basic essentials?
If you need something basic to purchase like a nail cutter or scissors – you can easily find these at a 5 riyal shop – you can’t miss these – it’s the shops packed out with loads of people and where they shout out “khamsa Riyal” or even “panch riyal” (literally meaning 5 riyal) if you get lucky. But, for any other medical needs, you can go into any Nahdi – most of the chemists also speak English. The Nahdi chain also carries a good range of toiletries from many you can recognise from your local high street back in your home country too. They will also have a fragrance free range of shampoo and deodorant in case you need it for your Umrah. I would say bring the essentials – but in case you run out or need some more Nahdi will be the place to go. For food and snacks for the kids and yourself in the day – check out a local baqala (corner shop) or a Bin Dawood (like your Tesco/Lidl) for packaged snacks and boxed dates. I would recommend taking some snacks like this in to the Haram with you if you have the kids with you. (I’m not recommending take out food of rice and chicken – you’d probably get told your not allowed in if you try and sneak that food in) Remember it is still a masjid.
8. What are the other main places to visit in Makkah?
I get this question a lot in DMs too. Where else can you go to in Makkah that’s of historical significance. If you’re in a tour group then usually they arrange this for you – they take you to Arafah where you can walk up Mt Rahma (takes about 10 mins), to tent city Mina and if you’re lucky Jabal Thawr and Jabal Noor. But who’s to say you can’t do that yourself. You can arrange the same tour with any taxi driver – or ask your hotel to recommend a driver to you. Remember to let them know where you’d like to go in the Ziyarah and decide on your price before you get in. I would recommend going early after breakfast and getting back before dhuhr. You can also climb up the Mountains Noor and Thawr as they finally took ownership to tidy up and sort out the paths. There are also, new museums opening around those areas – something to look out for if you’re coming in 2023.
If you feel the kids need a park to play around in then I’d highly recommend the parks opposite Masjid Rajihi – many of the uber drivers or taxi drivers would know where that is as it’s not too far from the Haram by car. If you don’t want to miss any of your prayers at the Haram, then I’d recommend going after Isha – the park is well lit up and there’s always lots happening there. It’s a lot busier on the weekends starting Thursday night to Saturday night incase you want to avoid the rush hour. Be sure to take some cash with you for some of the paid rides for kids.
9. What are the other main places to visit in Madinah?
If you’d like me to include anything else in this blogpost – feel free to add to comments – it’s a blogpost in progress – there’s always lots to update or include but hope this helps for now!