Friday, October 14

A Pretty Long Day

Flying out at 9pm for a 6 hour flight isn't fun. I've written before about night flights, but this was worse since the travel time was short enough to get us to our destination at an insanely early time in the morning.

Still we managed to check in at Heathrow before Iftar and so avoided the rush and got good seats. The journey itself wasn't delayed and I also had pleasant company on the plane - apparently Leicester does have more than one person worth knowing. At Jeddah, immigration and customs were both a breeze.

So yes so far so good. But then we hit the atrocious tour agency allocation process. See, for a couple of years now we've no longer been able to privately book flights and hotels for Umrah or Hajj; it all has to be done via agents. This is a good thing in theory since it guarantees that all the right bits are in place, but the way it has been implemented on the Saudi side is unbelievable. And at such an early hour in the day, frustrating.

Despite this, we arrived at Makkah earlier than we had excepted to. Since it was Jummah, we had planned on doing Umrah after the Friday prayer, hoping that it would get less busy then - instead we took a gamble and decided to do it there and then at 830am allowing us to get out of Ihram that much earlier. It was still hot at that time of the morning and still very busy and tiring. The only reason we didn't fall asleep was 'cos we were so thirsty.

We finished the rites of Umrah at 1030am, two hours before Jummah. This was plenty of time for a shower - or so we had thought. An hour later we realised how wrong we were.

Now I've been Hajj and have seen how busy the Haram can get. But this was bad. I managed to find a few inches in which to pray inside the mosque, but my parents (with whom I had split up with by that point) had to pray outside in the sun. Thankfully the considerate imam kept the khutba and prayer itself short. After that, I made my way back to the hotel where I had another shower and 2 hours sleep before we had to get back for Asr. By now I had never been thirstier; it actually felt quite dangerous.

I wrote this two hours before Iftar, which I expect to be the most satisfying breakfast ever. My only consolation is that the rest of the trip will be much easier compared to today!