Sunday, December 18

Umrah 2022

Every time I visit the holy cities I convince myself it'll be my last.

Each time the reasons vary, but it almost always has to do with the change. In that sense having been blessed to have visited as frequently as I have can be a bit of a curse. That said, I do think part of the problem is how precious some can get about visiting.

It's becoming a bit of a Disneyland. Pilgrims on Facebook or Instagram live while on their tawafs, expert dua poses for the hero selfies. Dawdling and gossiping to whittle away the time. It's not as much sad as frustrating.

The four-plus-four days were just about enough for me, although one of the days in Makkah was spent visiting Taif - a first for us with our shiny new tourist visas (spoiler: it wasn't worth the wait, but at least it let us do another Umrah). We are still yet to use the inter city train - the maths just don't work for us once you consider the numbers and convenience of door to door service.

The post COVID crowd management is a mixed blessing. Makkah seems artificially busy, with only pilgrims (or technically those dressed as pilgrims) were allowed into the mataaf. Madinah did it right though - finally introducing a queue for salutations to the Prophet and a quite nifty and well organised booking system for a slot in the Riaz ul Jannah.

We managed to do everything we wanted to this trip, although for us that doesn't mean much. As a bonus we had a World Cup to watch during the evenings which was fun - particularly as a well supported Morocco over-performed. Flying Qatar Airways back ensured we watched the final in the air which was a sweet bonus.

So yeah, a pretty standard trip and optimised to the hilt. I can of course imagine going back as the frustration is forgotten, but I suspect the key is to go for even shorter periods of time and get out before it all becomes too much.

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