Disclaimer: Like I said before, there is nothing amazing about what I did as many many other people have done it with more than one kid but I am blogging this in hopes that it will be a useful starting guide to those who wish to bring their kids along. I am in no way telling you what you should be doing or telling you that what I did was the perfect way. I apologise in advance if something about this post offends you, somehow.
So lets start!
Before the trip:
I did not really think much about the fact that I was going with a toddler because I just wanted to go. I was worried about her first long flight yes and praying alone with her with absolutely no one else I knew who would be with me. So, I bought the child harness (2 types, because just in case one snaps or something.) and…. a gps tracker/alarm. The latter will sound off if she somehow strays an x-meter away from me. This is an amazing invention but we actually did not need this throughout the trip because the harness worked fine/she did not stray too far away/we carried her in crowded areas.
One more thing that we did was to practise praying while carrying her for a few weeks.
THIS WAS SOMETHING WE ABSOLUTELY DID NOT ANTICIPATE BEFORE THE TRIP.
I do not know if it is normal or if it is because we took Saudi Airlines (because the SQ flights didnt seem to have this issue) or just some divine forces testing us but we were tested well. I hope we passed. At least until after my full body check going home.
Once the plane landed at the Hajj terminal, we took a bus to the terminal building itself. The bus did not open its doors till maybe about 20-30minutes later. WHY? Because I later found out that this was how they controlled the crowd. They have several stop points. Until the jemaah in the next stop point has been cleared, you will wait. And wait we did. So after the bus, we were all escorted to the boarding room. You know the room you go in to before you get on to the plane? Yes. At first we were told to wait for 1-2 hours. Basically it added up to 4 hours?
There were actually many many kids of all ages on my flight. Iman had some kids to play with if she was not sleeping. To put her to sleep I just carried her in my carrier. Iman is totally used to this so it wasnt an issue thank god! We also brought our own fluffy pillow from home so she could lie down on it to rest. We also packed a small bag with some of her favourite toys/books/snacks which came in really really handy. We gave her one toy/snack at a time.
When we were queuing up at the immigration counter which also took ages, Iman fell asleep again. Then when it came to my turn, guess what? I had to take her out to take a picture. That was not all. The officer asked for my boarding pass stub. Why? Until now, that remains a mystery. So of course I did not have it. That delayed everyone else’s turn after me. Sorry guys. Anyways I think after that some other people had issues because we had to loiter around for about 1.5hours more before we could take the 6 hour bus ride to Madinah. That was at about 3am?
By this time, I was already EXTREMELY TIRED. I could not sleep proper on the flight and at the waiting room. I wanted to cry already. My husband was surprisingly quite positive and so was Iman! I bet she was tired as well but she had sufficient naps in between I think because she was not moody or cranky. Alhamdulillah! I was though. Hee hee. So I had to let go of her normal sleeping time (I am a very uptight person.).
Bus ride honestly felt shorter than 6 hours.
I had a similar stalling issue going back to Singapore too. But I am back and thats all that matters.
SO checklist for immigration going into Saudi and going back to Singapore;
- Bag full of favourite toys/snacks/books.
Strangers LOVE to carry/pinch/hug/talk to Iman. The first time it happened, I was shocked. After that it was fine. The first time someone scooped her up, I said ‘NO NO NO!’. The person replied ‘YES YES YES!’. Okay. So some people will ask permission but some wont. And no point explaining unless you can speak their language.
So the harness is very important.
When going for prayers, I will bring some snacks and toys in my small sling bag. Thats all. And after a few prayers I realise that she cannot sit still for a long time so at Nabawi, I went for prayers after the adzan. Theres about a 15-minute grace. But that means there wont be space in the mosque so I always sit just outside the entrance where the air is cooler. The mosque inside is divided into the section for women with kids and without, by the way.
The main difference between Haram and Nabawi is that, men and women go into the same entrance for Haram while at Nabawi, the entrances are different. Which means, at Nabawi, you will be on your own. At Haram, if it isnt the prayer times, you can pray at the same section. If not guys will be a section in front and girls, behind. Not far away. And at Haram, if you want to pray in the mosque, you have to come in wayyyyyyyyyyy earlier.
How I did my Ibadah with her:
Within the 15 minutes grace, I can perform a few solat sunnahs (unless its a period which you can’t) or read the quran. Iman will be sitting on me/playing with her toys/looking around/playing with kids/disturbing people/nursing. Depending on the situation, I will be praying either sitting on the floor (being on the same level as her makes her feel calmer)/sitting on the stool (if she is sleeping and I am carrying her)/standing or all threee at once. Haha. If she is on the floor, I will always have her harness around my wrist or foot. Always. I will always follow the jenazah prayer right after the wajib prayer also because its very short. Sometimes my husband will take her and then I will be freeeee. Anyway, I have to really tell myself to calm down and just focus when she cries/disturb people while I am praying and just do the necessary. I try. Very hard.
Carried her throughout. Sometimes she will sleep, sometimes she wont but no major issues. Because she is used to being in a carrier. We also did it on our own as it was faster.
Jet lag causes some naptimes to be very unpredictable. I aimed to pray at the mosque all the time but not possible to follow all the jemaah prayers. I missed a few sometimes. But once she woke up, I will walk over to pray. Sometimes cannot. The thing about my hotel at Haram is that theres a speaker that is connected to Haram for allll the main prayers. So I dont know if this is counted as jemaah prayers but I just niat to, and follow. Both my hotels were at most 7 mins walking distance to the mosques.
Me. Because I was the main person carrying/attending to her throughout the trip, I was extremely tired some of the times. I have to make calculated decisions to let go of some of my plans sometimes because I would not be able to sustain. Khidhir was very helpful and offered but this was his first trip there and I wanted him to have more time doing his ibadahs.
And that is all, folks.
Please feel free to ask any questions. I hope this can help you! Ultimately you know your kids best.