Women in Islam are not allowed to travel to Mecca alone. The reason for this is that should something happen, the woman’s waq’l – witness – is responsible for her. She has to be married and with her husband or must have an uncle or a brother to bury her. When she enters Jeddah she must let the man handle her passport and entry documents. You do not seek conversation with a man.
This writer performed hajj alone but travelled with two married couples able to enter the holy city. Let it be said that traveling to Mecca is not an experience for the faint-hearted. It is an enormous spiritual undertaking; every year over 3 million people descend on Mecca from all corners of the world. Performing hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and has to be performed at least once if health and finances permit.
The word sab’r, meaning suffering or patience, is a word on everyone’s mind. You cannot slide in on the express and think there will be any shortcuts for you. You are there to first visit Medina, the holy city where the Prophet Muhamad had lived, and then on to Mecca where if you are a claustrophobic you will faint in the heat. Your bag is searched every time you enter the Grand Mosque. You must have the right clothes, the right shoes, and enter the throngs of pilgrims who stand with you shoulder to shoulder in the street trying to perform salaah. You will go to the Kabah two hours before every prayer time to get a seat in the mosque or outside on the marbled mataaf. On your left might be a white man and on your right a beggar from India. You have only one goal in mind; performing hajj and completing your commitment to God.
What to bring along
- Travel with someone you know you can trust.
- Do not travel with a smoker if you do not smoke. Women are not allowed to smoke in the street.
- Check that you have all your documents before you leave and that your name is on the list.
- If you are travelling with more than one person work out beforehand who will have the shower first, second and third. Once you hear the call to prayer you have seconds to get to your prayer mat.
- Travel light with two bras, two robes, two sets of ihram, three panties, socks and a cardigan for those cool mornings at 4.30 a.m.
- Pack in vitamins and medications to last six weeks; have a doctor’s prescription.
- Get an all-round antibiotic and a bladder prescription in the event you need it.
- Pack in glycerine suppositories as toilet conditions are not the best and you cannot squat for long periods of time.
- You need a good pair of walking shoes, a cloth bag with shoulder straps where you can keep the rolled up prayer mat, bottle of water, and dates.
- Bring a piece of elastic to tie around your waist so that your robe is hoisted up around your hips when you go to the outside toilet which is wet.
- Drink lots of bottled water and carry enough toilet paper. Take it off the cardboard roll and pack it flat.
- Do not lose your leather wrist band with your name and details on it. Have a safe and successful journey.