When we were preparing for Hajj, we watched tons and tons of videos on youtube. Read all the blogs. Talked to the first-timers and spoke to the veterans. Some tell you that everything is provided for you, and to not worry about anything. Some ask you to bring everything you can fit into your luggage, including a power generator. Ok, I made the last part up, but you get the point.
We are the kind of people that like to be in a reasonable amount of comfort. So, this list below is for those that want to find the right balance between comfort and agility.
If you have ever been hiking, you know that the phrase “every ounce counts” is a mantra. I had a friend once switch from an entire Canon 7D set to a Sony Alpha 2. When I asked him why, he said the difference was in ounces, but on a mountain, it felt like pounds. I would follow his advice for Hajj. We assume that we can move, carry, and transport luggage the same way we do here in the states. None of this is true. Park your standards of excellence, process, and structure at home. Because when you have 3 million Haaji’s entering your country, its all about getting you in and out in the safest way possible. Not the fastest or most convenient. We are organizing the list into two: need to have and nice to have
Need To Have
- Insulated Travel Water Bottle – Cold water is not a commodity, luke-warm water is. Even if you make your way over to the zam-zam station, the plastic cup you get is 2-3 gulps. Bringing any other kind of water bottle is just not worth the weight or space. But, if inside its keeping cool, semi-tundra water, its worth more than its weight in gold.
- Metal Hanging Hooks – for clothes/bags etc. The bathroom situation is worse than any concert or stadium bathroom. You will need to remove your clothes (all of them) in order to use the bathroom, and maybe 1% of all bathrooms have anything resembling a hook (if you are lucky). Ihram towels are long, white, and transparent when wet. Don’t be that guy. And gals, don’t let your guy be that guy. Please.
- Waist (Fanny) Pack – no, don’t buy that horrendous atrocity of a construction project at your local bookstore next to the masjid. They have no grip, are not designed for any real-life use in mind, and will break. My dad bought one and was so disheartened when he realized it would not even hold his ancient iPhone, and I think he paid 40-70 bucks for it. Yes, US Dollars. When I bought him a fanny pack, his entire experience changed. Ladies, you can skip onwards, but Gents, please keep reading.
(1) When you are using ihram, you have no support for your junk. They will dangle at every single step of the way, and you’ll be needing to use Vaseline on your junk every hour or so, in order to stop the chafing and irritation. I accidentally never came across this problem, because my fanny pack serves three purposes
(a) Acting as a secondary belt when my first belt would malfunction (it happens a lot)
(b) Acting as a place to keep essentials, (like the hanging clips, cell phone, passport, etc)
(c) Serving as a barrier to prevent my junk from flying all over the place
(2) One of the folks in our group was in so much pain, he missed half a day of activates because he was writing in anguish from so much erosion that he could not leave his bed. Don’t be that guy.
(3) One negative is that the fanny pack does create some heat, so you will get hotter. But at this point, it really doesn’t matter because you will be so hot, even if you take it off it won’t make much of a difference. It’s well worth a degree or two of sacrifice.
- Snacks on snacks on snacks – Many will tell you that you don’t need it. And most of them are right. In some situations, we went 8 – 14 hours without eating while having to perform obligatory tasks. It’s not always easy to find food – serving even a small group of 40 can take 1-2 hours that you might not have. Bring healthy things, but I am not going to tell you not to bring sugary stuff or things that are carbs – please – sometimes, that nutty bar is going to do wonders for your dopamine levels. Many of us were hungry between meals, or even after smaller meals in the days of hajj – so come prepared. Bring extras, give to others, you won’t find any person who won’t take an extra snack for the journey. Pre-packaged items that can last in heat are ideal. Hot, melted, smashed up Oreos don’t taste that great on an empty stomach. Stick with Granola Bars, goldfish, nuts, small candy (that does not melt – NO CHOCOLATE!). My wife is obsessed with these Hot Fries – come on it’s so hot there do you really need a spicy snack? NO! The point is to take at least one snack that will give you comfort. There is a glorious store called Bin Dawood (more on this later) where you can find a plethora of snacks so you don’t have to import everything!
- Hand Sanitizer Foam – Need we say more? These are small light alcohol-free and scent free. Use it. Save yourself and others from germapalooza.
- Extra Large Safety Pins – buy the big ones, like the ones babies in cartoons have. They will do wonders for your clothes and ihram and for women, I’m sure you have even more reasons to use these handy-dandy pins. Buy a lot, because they will get stuck in your clothes, you’ll lose some, maybe it will fall into the toilet – etc.
- Flip-Flops – I bought ones from crocs. They were the best I tried and did very well despite all the water, sand, heat and sludge they encountered. They also got stepped on no less than 200 times in mina, as they were outside the tent and were passed around like a kazoo on new years eve. Mine pair was white, so they resisted sun rays, but that means they always looked disgusting. Black looks cleaner and maybe won’t make you vomit, but your feet will be screaming. The choice is yours. My wife had this pair and we both an agree they are beautifully tacky but held up with grace throughout the trip. Please, PLEASE do not pay an arm and a leg for flip flops for hajj. They will get dirty, they may get stolen and if they don’t get stolen you will wish they had by the end of Hajj.
- Padded Prayer Rug – you might be wondering why I’m asking you to bring your own prayer rug into one of the holiest cities in the entire world. It’s because even though it’s the holiest city in the whole world and people are coming from all over to pray and connect to their lord – there are actually very few carpeted areas in the Masjid (Medina and Makkah). In fact, there are very few places to even sit. As I mentioned above, we are people who like to be in comfort so if this doesn’t matter to you – skip it. We found ourselves praying on rocks; hot sand; dirty carpets; semi-wet granite; mall floors where shoes had just trodden a few moments before; etc. I would find a prayer rug that you can stuff and roll inside the carry-on bag that you will keep with you through 95% of your journey. This artifact will take up a lot of space and will have some weight. However, you will be using it at least five times a day, and it can become your source of comfort in an incredibly chaotic space. I told myself that I would “buy one when I got there,” but boy was I wrong. It is complicated to find what you’re looking for or taking the time to do it when you are so excited to be in our holy city. I would recommend buying it on day one or making sure you bring it on your own. It is that important.
So that’s it for “need to have”. Yes, the list is quite short. But we mean it. Obviously, things like passports, phones, chargers, converters – we can make a separate list for that, in a later post.
Be sure to check out a special packing list for the ladies!—->HERE!
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