The umrah trip was the highlight of my 2017.
We brought along our two children. Abang was 3 years old and adik was 7 months old.
There were a lot of questions regarding bringing children for mini pilgrimage especially at such a young and trying age when they are so dependent on you. So I’m here to blog about our experience bringing kids there. There are of course, many other learning points and stories but I will focus on things relating to this little ones.
Let me answer these two questions first.
Would I recommend bringing children for umrah trip?
No. I am not recommending anything. It is solely your family’s decision. I didn’t like it when people told me not to bring my children for umrah. Therefore I will also not tell that you should. When we decided to bring our children it wasn’t really a fifty-fifty choice. We knew what we wanted. Therefore, whatever challenges that came our way, or whatever things we had to miss, we didn’t feel sore about it. Because it was our decision. I think if we were guilt trip into bringing them, we would feel really miserable. We would also feel miserable if we listened to others and didn’t bring them when we really wanted to. So I’d say this has to be a family decision.
That said, if you are single, young and free and have not felt the call to the holy lands, I’d say, make the first move and go and make that call. Because going there with kids.. is just so hard… so so hard. Which leads me to next question.
Would kids disrupt our ibadah?
Please. My kids will disrupt me halfway through emptying my bowels if they can help it. They will not by some divine intervention suddenly, be sweet little angels just looking up at you quietly as you pray. The crying, tantrums, crankiness will follow you to the holy lands, I’m afraid.
However, there were a few things that were not disrupted because I brought my kids.
1) Since I’m nursing my daughter, the onset of period is delayed. Therefore, I had a peace of mind that I will be able to perform ibadah throughout the trip.
2) I managed to pray calmly at Masjid Raudhah because of the priority queue. I could see from my side of the madness of the crowd trying to pray at the mosque. But it was quite easy for me with the baby.
Also, no matter how tiring and difficult it was with my two children, I was just really happy to be there with them. Not once, did I regret bringing them.
Now let me just share a list of things I can share about bringing small kids there.
1.Thank god for youtube
I went for all the lessons provided by my agency. But it was hard to concentrate with the two kids.
So when I went home, there were still a lot of things I was not sure about. So, youtube is a good resource. I watched Umrah TM FOUZY part one to part three.
2. DON’T take transit flight.
The trip was amazing. The flight was not. The flight was about 10 hours. We landed in Turkey and had to wait another 9 hours plus for the next flight. which was about 3 hours. There was a free tour around istanbul. I had really good memories of Istanbul from our honeymoon. But this was really madness. It was winter time, we weren’t allowed to leave our handcarry in the bus and there was a lot of walking . The bus only stopped at Sultanahmet and we toured the place by foot. So imagine we lugged around about 1 and half day’s worth of luggage. Pampers. Milk. Change of clothes. Baby carrier. You know the drill. The kids were tired from the 10 hours flight. We were tired from the flight. And something terrible happened at Istanbul which made our family so sad throughout the trip. Its not my story to tell so I’m going to leave it at that.
Also, something really weird and frustrating happened on our way to Madinah from Turkey. My 3 yo was having a fever. My baby daughter was also sleepy and tired. So we had two crying kids boarding the flight. And before I got on the flight, I was warned by my agent, “You may need to fight for your seat.”
With our two cranky sick kids, we boarded on the plane.We were blocked because people were arguing about SEATS. because APPARENTLY, some people thought it was beneath them to follow the seat number clearly stated on their flight tickets. I was stuck , holding my baby daughter who was squirming. And at one point, this man wanted to go against the direction of people and was looking at me angrily asking me to move. I told him that there isn’t a place for me to move, I was blocked everywhere. So what did he do? He angrily pushed me until I lurched to another’s passengers seat with my baby’s legs flailing around just because he felt that he is entitled to and I should just scram. I heard someone near me mutter , “orang dorang memang macam gitu . takda way dorang akan buat sampai ada way.”
I finally made it to my seat, crying baby and all. And when we reached our seats, there was no seat. Because someone was sitting there.
The person saw us, with our two crying kids. But continued sitting there without a care in the world. So we had with great effort, still holding our luggage and kids , extracted the tickets to show them.
And they just went.
“oh yes. this is not my seat. I know. I will move now.”
(credit for gifs: giphy.com)
3. The people of Madinah and Makkah LOVE kids
Upon landing in Madinah, everything just went uphill. It is such a beautiful place. The peace and serenity of this place is pure and real. And the people there. Whenever they see kids, they show so much joy. It was a good reminder to me that my children are such blessings.
4. Do laundry at this place
We had so many soiled clothes thanks to the fluids that managed to escape the diapers. We were prepared to wash the clothes in the hotel room, and brought detergent. But then our pegawai recommended this place and we tried it.
I think there are a lot of other laundry places in Madinah and Makkah. But I tried this particular one and I was very pleased with their service. Only needed to call them and they came to our hotel to pick up the bags of laundry. And it came back, washed, ironed and smelling so nice! Reasonably priced too.
5. Makkah is physically demanding
Okay, the basics is Umrah itself. Which consists of Tawaf 7 rounds and Sa’ie 7 rounds. Add kids to the mix and you will need to factor in two other things. Diaper changing and carrying them. After all the travelling its hard to predict when our toddler was going to be tired. During our first round of umrah, he was tired and so my husband had to carry him. He’s not light anymore and I don’t know how my husband did it.
So what can you do?
6. Bring carriers!
I wish I brought 2 carriers. But we only brought one. There are places that strollers can’t enter.
And on one of the days the carrier was peed on. I had to wash and dry it in the hotel room.
7. Use the buggy.
We didn’t niat umrah for our kids for the first round because we wanted to do ours first.
Also one of the syarat tawaf is to have our left shoulder always facing the kaabah. We only brought one carrier and it was not forward facing. Therefore it would be really difficult to make the kids fulfill this condition.
It could be done easily with the buggy.
We rented a two-seater buggy and it could fit our family of four . We used this to perform both Tawaf and Sa’ie. On it, we read duas as a family and zikir together. The challenge of this buggy though, is trying to stay awake. Both our kids fell asleep on it. It’s really comfortable.
To get to the buggy, you can go up this ramp. (shown below)
And then go up another ramp , to reach the level. Find the office and make your payment and off you go.
Although it is a very convenient alternative, the next round of umrah we performed , we didn’t use the buggy. The feeling of performing tawaf the usual way on foot on ground floor , seriously has all the feels!
8. If you can’t keep up with the tour group then take it at your own pace.
We found it hard to keep pace with a tour group , although they were all very nice and understanding. We wanted to do it at our own timing, following our kids cues. So what we did was call the taxi to come to our hotel. My uncle did this through the hotel counter. We need to niat outside of tanah haram so the taxi brought us to the nearest place we can make our niat. Of course, this meant that we did not get to join the tour group to all the nice places, like Masjid Quba. But it’s okay, that only means I need to go again!
9. There is no diaper changing room
Or at least, we couldn’t find one. Dealing with the kids’ najis was one of the biggest challenges of the trip. Ibadah needs cleanliness. But these things are hard to control. Diapers are wonderful invention but we still need to change them frequently.
A portable diaper changing mat is a MUST must must to bring.
10. Bring reinforcements
Your parents. Your aunt. Your in-laws. Beg them to come, if you must. I do not know what we would do if we did not go with our family.
11. You need energy
You really do. When we returned to Singapore, the whole family fell sick. I had a fever of more than 39℃ for days. Followed by vomiting and nausea. Maybe a fitter family would have fared better.
Maybe before I went, I could have taken some vitamin C, go for a foot reflexology, sleep well, etc etc.
Okay, that’s the end of this list. If you have more questions feel free to drop me an email. I will try my best to reply.
And thank you , thank you to Shahidah Travel for being efficient from start to finish. I think they take great care of the jemaahs under them and I was very pleased with their service.