Packing for Umrah can pose a lot of problems – especially if its your first time visiting the holy cities of Saudi Arabia.
Many pilgrims tend to over-pack, leaving little space for souvenirs on the way home.
So we’ve put together a short guide to the essentials for men and women.
ESSENTIALS FOR EVERYONE
According to the hadith, hajji should wear sandals during the pilgrimage. Any type of sandal or flip flop is permitted, as long as the top of the foot is visible.
You will have the opportunity to collect some zamzam water while you are there, so you need to make sure you have something to carry it in. Vendors in Mecca and Medina charge a premium for 10-litre containers with ‘zamzam’ markings on them, and they tend to sell out quite quickly, so you are better off bringing your own.
While you are in the state of ihram, sun cream cannot be worn. But afterwards, it is an absolute essential. Even in the cooler months, Saudi Arabia is extremely hot, and there is very little shelter in the Grand Mosque and the desert. Sunburn will make your Umrah experience deeply uncomfortable, so be sure to apply (and reapply) a strong SPF every chance you get.
During Umrah you will be spending a lot of time walking across rocky terrain in the desert, and you may find it painful to kneel on the ground for prayer. Prayer mats are easy to carry (you can even buy special bags for them at Jeddah’s airport) and will save you from sporting scratched knees for the remainder of your pilgrimage!
Many pilgrims are surprised at the toll Umrah takes on their bodies. Feet will blister; lips will chap; thighs will chafe; and you may even endure a few cuts and bruises while making your way through the mountains. In most cases, a smear of Vaseline can relieve the discomfort of dry and irritated skin, as well as sealing over any minor scratches, so it’s a good idea to carry a small pot with you during the Umrah journey.
ESSENTIALS FOR MEN
Make sure you pack this in your hand luggage – if you are flying into Jeddah, you will enter Miquat (the holy air space above Mecca) so you may need to change into your Ihram robes on the plane.
The shaving of the head is an important Umrah ritual, so you can rest assured that there will be long queues of men waiting to have their heads shaved at the key spots around Mecca. By bringing your own razors, you can shave your own head, or share the shaving duties with another hajji brother. Plus, you will have the peace of mind that you are using a razor that is clean and hygienic.
ESSENTIALS FOR WOMEN
The best ones can be bought in the markets of Jeddah, and they are loose, flowing and surprisingly cool. Make sure you wear loose fitting clothes underneath – t-shirts and harem pants are an Umrah favourite.
This should be able to fit under your abaya, and should be big enough to hold your passport (you will need this when travelling between Jeddah and Mecca/Medina), some money, and essentials such as sun cream, Vaseline, and the Koran. Unfortunately, theft is common during Umrah, so it is important to take good care of your valuables.
After a day in the sand and heat of Saudi Arabia, your hijab will be dirty and sweaty. Unless you are happy to spend your precious evenings in Mecca hand washing your scarves, it is best to pack a few extras – at least one for every day that you will be there.