8 September 2019, just 9 days after the start of the Islamic calendar year of 1441AH, 9 days after the visa for umrah season reopens, we are able to achieve something that we have always wanted to do – performing Umrah during a low-season period. Alhamdulillah, after months of planning and researching (mainly by my better half in scouting for travel agents, visa info, etc) we had a memorable 13 days in Saudi Arabia.
Low-season umrah exists simply due to visa requirements of visitors from all over the world. While this has changed drastically with the recent introduction of multiple entries tourist visa all-year long, previously any visitor would need an Umrah Visa to perform Umrah in Makkah. We knew that by end August 2019, most of the Hajj pilgrims would already be leaving the holy cities after the Hajj season and it usually takes a few weeks before the Umrah Season starts. Capitalising on this little info, we went on looking for any agents that are willing to do a trip as early as the 1st week of Muharram and we discovered Our Deen Travel & Tours, a humble yet professional start-up based in Damansara with its founders being Malaysians based in Saudi Arabia.
Alhamdulillah, after a minor hiccup due to new visa online system and one-time rescheduling of departure date, we were able to fly on 8September 2019 for our Umrah trip. Just like my previous umrah travelogue, I’m just going to walk through the 13 days experience via selected photos taken from my lenses. May these photos bring back lots of sweet memories for you and me and inspire us to return to visit these Holy Cities again soon, insyaAllah.
Different agency this time but our loyalty to MAS remains. MH150 KUL-JED.
It does not take long before we get to experience the beauty of flying on low-season. As the crew armed the door of the plane, less than 60 pax can be seen seated all over the A330 widebody jetliner.
Despite MH150 being a commercial flight, it is operated by Amal’s setup which means friendly crew, cool gift pack and unfortunately domestic-flight kind of catering.
And fast forward a few hours later, we passed through the immigration (at the normal terminal instead of the Hajj terminal) seamlessly, welcomed by OurDeen Travel’s Mutawif Ustaz Agus and started our journey by bus to Masjidil Haram.
And after a quick check-in and dinner, finally a sight that is always missed.
Syukur for this opportunity.
Completing our first Umrah’s Saie and Tahlul within hours after arriving.
The beauty of being among the first few hundreds/thousands of pilgrims to enter Makkah at the opening of new season, we can freely walk around the mosque choosing the best spots for prayers.
Best spot for early mornings and late afternoon and evenings.
During school holidays and winter months, you might have to time your visit to the mosque at least 30-60 minutes before praying times to get the Kaabah view. During this early season, we can walk-in straight to the area in-front of Kaabah most of the times. Alhamdulillah.
Praying right in front of Kaabah. An indescribable feeling that I absolutely miss.
And the after-prayers dash to the Hajarulaswad.
Thanks to Ustaz Agus, we also had some nice activities at the mosque’s rooftop as well. A place that brought back some of 2017’s Hajj season Tawaf memories!
Random scenes from outside the Mosque.
If you have people passing you cash to donate in Makkah, this is one of many ways to do it. Food!
It is not easy to see Jabal Rahmah this empty!
Besides dust, this could very much the reason why many Malaysians return home with some coughing action! 😛 It’s worth it. Delicious ice cream.
Shopping is a must for
Ustaz Agus in action.
Bonding over some Mandy Unta!
The beautiful and (worth the crazy high price) Royal Clock Museum. We actually opted to not visit Taif so that we could explore this museum instead. More on this in a separate blog post.
And the view, SubhanAllah.
I love Madinah. Just like how I love Makkah. Madinah has this own unique calm feeling regardless how crowded it can be.
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ
Once again, the low-season factor was a plus point. Alhamdulillah, we get to walk-in to Raudhah on daily basis every night and stays for quite some time even for the ladies.
Just after midnight.
And on one of the mornings, we had the opportunity of sending the jenazah to Al-Baqi cemetery, an experience I will appreciate for a long time. Alhamdulillah. Thanks to a tip from Bro Fizi, to be able to do this make sure you pray at the forward left side of the mosque and rush out right after the prayers.
As the famous Shariq Qurban fish stalls were closed when we were there, we settled for a nearby alternative stall which was not too bad.
And the next day we were introduced to this insanely delicious Mandy Rice. It is so good that I don’t think I would ever able to find anything remotely as good here in Malaysia. Thanks Bro!
And the last item on my checklist had to be Kunafa. I’ve tried Kunafa in Palestine and some other countries including Malaysia but somehow the version in Madinah matches my taste bud perfectly.
When I thought we had enough (mostly pleasant) surprises during the trip, we had one last joy at Medina airport. As our flight was one of the earliest serving Medina directly to and from KL, it was only one way full. The flight that took us home was serviced by a super jumbo A380 and total number of pax were only about 40. What a way to end a wonderful trip. Syukur.
Thank you Allah for this opportunity and as mentioned in the early part of this post, this “low-season” travel window might not be the possible these days as now people can apply visas much easier and with multiple-entry visas more agents will start to push for trips as early as possible. But please do explore and find out on the best timing throughout the year as I would advice avoiding crowded period if possible so that you would have less time beating the crowd and more time for ibadah. Most importantly, make doa and set the right niat and everything will falls in nicely insyaAllah.
What is your most favourite memories from your Umrah trip? Share in the comments below.