If you or your partner have children, it’s understandable that you want them to experience their Umrah pilgrimage as a complete family unit. But when it comes to making plans and booking care, here are a few tips and suggestions about how to make the most of your time in Mecca.
1. Make sure the time is right
While Umrah is a key moment in any Muslim’s life, it is always worth considering if the time is truly right for them. Travel can be especially gruelling for smaller children and ensuring your children’s safety will be an additional consideration in an already challenging event to organise. Remember that Umrah and Hajj are meant to focus your attention on spiritual matters – having children may split your focus, but it is up to you to determine how best to proceed.
2. Give yourself plenty of time
As every parent knows, you cannot rush your kids. Remember that younger children are likely to get tired for quicker in the hot Saudi sun than an adult and they may not be ready for the long stretches of walking that Umrah requires. Be sure to budget plenty of time for breaks and try to avoid densely packed schedules wherever possible. Remember that some of the more popular sites in Makkah and Madinah allow parents to hire out wheelchairs to stop children from over-exerting themselves or to give their feet a rest.
3. Keep them safe
Every Umrah pilgrim needs to prioritise their children’s safety first and foremost. Events such as the circling of the Kaaba and the Stoning of the Devil can often become overcrowded during peak times (e.g. during Ramadan) and this has resulted in tragedies in the past. If you feel uncomfortable with having your children in a large crowd, do not hesitate to wait until they are a little older. Additionally, you should always make sure that your kids have identification on them, including your contact information, and the name and address of your hotel, and that you have a plan about what to do if they ever get separated from you. As the desert heat can sometimes pose a danger to children – make sure that they always wear sunblock, stay in the shade where possible, and drink plenty of bottled water.
4. Plan something just for them
Umrah is a truly amazing opportunity, but it can be gruelling for smaller children. Take time during your pilgrimage to do something that’s just for the kids. This can include visiting the elephants at Taif Zoo, watching a dolphin show at the Fakieh Aquarium, or visiting one of the many water parks surrounding Jeddah and Mecca. Camel treks and falconry displays are available all-around Makkah province, and older kids will love dune bashing or sand surfing in the vast Saudi desert.