Eid-al-Adha & Hajj
The Hajj, is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia where Muslims fulfil one of the five pillars of Islam during the final month of the Islamic Calendar, Dhul-Hijjah. Many Muslims may decide to travel a month before Eid all-Adha, to the holiest city in Islam to offer prayer and repentance. On the 8th to the 12th day of the month of Dhul-Hijjah, Muslims in the city gather to perform the rites of the pilgrimage together.
In this article, we share tips on how you can stay healthy during Eid al-Adha and Hajj pilgrimage.
Stay up to date with your vaccines
Saudi Arabia has vaccination requirements just like other countries. Depending on your nationality and where you are flying from, check the vaccination requirements before travelling for Hajj. Visitors from all countries must be vaccinated with:
- Quadrivalent Meningococcal ACYW Polysaccharide Vaccine, provided that the period since receiving the vaccine shall not exceed (3) years
- Quadrivalent Meningococcal (ACYW) Conjugate Vaccine, provided that the period since receiving the vaccine shall not exceed (5) years
- Complete COVID-19 vaccinations with approved vaccines in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
- One dose of bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV) or inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) for no less than (4) weeks and not more than (12) months if you are travelling from a polio-endemic country
The Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia has also advised travellers to get vaccinated against seasonal influenza, especially those who are under 5 years of age, senior citizens or if you are immunocompromised.
Increase physical activity before your travels
Hajj is strenuous on the mind and body, even for healthy and fit adults. It requires a lot of walking and those who regularly engage in physical activities may find it easier to complete the pilgrimage. Depending on the location of your hotel, you may walk up to 2 kilometres to and from the mosque during each prayer time.
On top of that, you will also have to perform Tawaf (circling the Kaaba 7 times) and Sa’i (walking between the hills of Safa and Marwah 7 times) which are roughly 7 kilometres long in total.
Before leaving for the holy city, take as many walks as possible daily to build your stamina and physical fitness. Aim for at least 30 minutes of walking or moderate exercise every day.
Wheelchair availability for senior citizens
There will be plenty of wheelchairs available at the airport and Masjid al-Haram for pilgrims to use during their rites. The manual wheelchairs are free of charge and pilgrims can collect them from the wheelchair station within the mosque. Electric wheelchairs are also available at an extra cost for use during Sa’i.
If you require someone to assist you with your manual wheelchair, you can request this from the available staff.
Pack the essentials
On top of the vital documents such as your passport, vaccination certificates and flight tickets, here is a list of items you should bring with you:
- Regular prescription medication (e.g. insulin for diabetes)
- Vaseline to avoid chafing
- Diarrhoea and dehydration relief for upset stomachs
- Paracetamol and ibuprofen (painkillers and for colds)
- Vitamin, energy and heartburn relief tablets
- Antihistamines for allergies
- Eye drops for dry eyes or conjunctivitis
- Deep heat patches and mentholated ointment for muscle pain
- Lozenges for sore throats
- Non-scented lip balms and antibacterial gel
- Handheld, portable fan for Mina
👴🏻 Travelling with elderly parents? Here are a few extra must-haves to keep in mind:
- Extra ihram
- Extra pair of comfortable sandals or slippers for walking
- Water spray to beat the heat
- Easy-to-carry snacks for the journey
- Portable pillow for Mina
Drink a lot of water
The weather in Mecca can reach up to 45°C in July and coupled with the amount of walking done, you can get dehydrated very quickly. Make sure you have enough water on you and make frequent stops to refill your bottle throughout the day. If you are excessively sweating or experiencing diarrhoea, be sure to up your water intake to prevent dehydration.
One of the rewards of visiting Mecca is the abundance of Zamzam water. Located within the Masjid al-Haram, the Zamzam well is extracted daily and distributed throughout the day to visitors around the mosque. You can find Zamzam water stations all around the mosque to make sure you stay hydrated at any time of day.
Toilet use during Hajj
There are many public toilets available just outside the mosque to accommodate a large number of pilgrims during Hajj. You may also choose to use your own hotel bathroom if you are located near Masjid al-Haram. However, if you are travelling with senior citizens with reduced mobility, plan your prayer location accordingly and give them ample time to reach the toilets in time.
Avoid walking in the scorching heat
Avoid exposure to direct sunlight during the hottest time of day when you are in Saudi Arabia. This is typically between 12 to 2 pm but evening temperatures can still reach 40°C. Use the available shaded walkways in the area to keep clear of the sun. If you cannot avoid the sun, use your prayer mat to shade yourself from the sun while you walk outside.
Be mindful of what you eat
There are plenty of food options available for travellers during the Hajj pilgrimage. Depending on the travel package, pilgrims may even have meals and snacks included. Alternatively, there are many restaurants and local vendors offering an array of cuisines in the city, including fast-food chains.
Unfortunately, one of the most common issues faced by pilgrims during their travel is food poisoning. During Hajj and Eid al-Adha, it is common for other pilgrims to give food as sadaqah or charity to fellow pilgrims. It is best to be mindful of your eating habits at this time and follow these tips:
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after eating
- Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating
- Use clean plates and cutleries
- Check for unpleasant smell, texture or taste
- Eat cooked food as soon as possible
- Avoid salty food to prevent dehydration
- Avoid food from street vendors
Pack comfortable garments for your trip
Although there are certain rules to follow when it comes to clothing during Hajj, you can still make sure you’re picking the most breathable fabric for the trip.
While men have more firm rules to follow in regards to Hajj clothing, you can make your travels easier by choosing comfortable and open-toed sandals for your trip – do make sure that your heels and toes are visible at all times. On the other hand, women are free to wear the most comfortable sports shoes they have.
Women should also avoid black clothing during Hajj as it can trap heat more quickly during the summer months. Although white abayas or hijabs are not recommended due to their sheer quality, women are free to wear any colour they like during Hajj.
Arrive early to avoid overcrowding
This year, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that there will be 1 million pilgrims performing Hajj in Mecca. While this is less than half of the number of people during pre-pandemic times, the holy city will still be packed with travellers.
One of the ways to avoid overcrowding is by arriving earlier at the mosque or avoiding peak times. For example, if you are planning to pray at the mosque during Fajr, arrive 30 minutes or 1 hour before the prayer time. Not only will this save you from congestion problems but it can also help you avoid infection risks from viruses such as COVID-19, meningococcal disease, influenza and pneumonia.
Create a buddy system
Since the holy city will be packed with pilgrims, travellers can adopt a buddy system during the pilgrimage to help them on their travels. This is particularly helpful for senior citizens who are going to Hajj for the first time. As we age, we may begin to lose our sense of direction and it can get harder to navigate a new environment. A buddy system can help you get in and out of the mosque area as fast as possible and keep you safe during peak times.
As an added precaution, keep a piece of paper on your person at all times containing important details such as your name, hotel, country of origin and emergency contact number (preferably someone on the trip with you).
Tracking devices for senior citizens
As an added precaution, children travelling with elderly parents can also provide the seniors with a tracking device during the pilgrimage. In the event that you get separated from your parents, you can easily track their exact whereabouts and reunite with them.
Practice sabr, sabr, sabr
Performing Hajj is a spiritual journey that involves a great deal of patience and perseverance. With the large number of people involved, there are bound to be difficulties that will arise during the trip. It is crucial to remember the importance of Sabr or patience and how it is a part of our iman.
When you are in difficult circumstances, remind yourself about the significance of Eid al-Adha, particularly Prophet Ibrahim’s (as) sacrifices and the overall objective of Hajj. Here at Homage, we hope you have a blessed Hajj and may this holy journey bring you closer to your faith.
Happy Eid al-Adha!
- Al Jazeera (2022) Saudi Arabia receives 1st foreign Hajj pilgrims since COVID began, Al Jazeera. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/6/4/saudi-receives-first-foreign-hajj-pilgrims-since-before-pandemic (Accessed: July 5, 2022).
- BERNAMA (2019) Malaysia will negotiate for larger tents in Arafah, Mina for comfort of haj pilgrims – Fuziah, BERNAMA. Available at: https://www.bernama.com/en/news.php?id=1753992 (Accessed: July 5, 2022).
- Hajj travel advice – Fact sheets (no date) Gov.au. Available at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/hajj-travel-advice.aspx (Accessed: July 5, 2022).
- Miah, Z. (2020) Health tips for Hajj, Pilgrim. Available at: https://thepilgrim.co/health-tips-for-hajj/ (Accessed: July 5, 2022).
- Ministry of health وزارة الصحة (no date) Gov.sa. Available at: https://www.moh.gov.sa/en/HealthAwareness/Pilgrims_Health/Pages/Approved-Vaccines.aspx (Accessed: July 5, 2022).