As the days of Hajj draw closer, prospective pilgrims are contemplating about which Hajj company to travel with. Hajj stories are very diverse; some are terribly tragic whilst others are outright hilarious. Understand that your Hajj experience is very much dependent on the Hajj company you choose.
For a more informed and educated choice, we have put together five key things that a prospective pilgrim should look for in every Hajj company.
1. Recommendations. Endorsement and recommendations reflect whether or not the company did an excellent job, and if their customers were satisfied with the service they were provided. It also mirrors the company’s honesty and reliability in delivering what was promised.
Ask around to find out what is the best Hajj company for you. If friends or family had a good experience then most likely you can expect a similar experience.
2. Package details. Make sure you are aware of the package you are buying. Some things to look out for:
- Direct flights. Shorter journeys mean less hassle.
- Transport. Government provided transport is only mandatory when leaving the airport in Saudi Arabia. Beyond that, private transport is allowed.Government transport incurs greater delays than private transport and is usually very chaotic and unorganised. Don’t expect too much from government transport.Preferably, you want a package that offers private transport. This means that the coaches are for your group only. These coaches maintain a decent standard of comfort and punctuality, and are often air-conditioned.
Important: More often than not, delays due to traffic or road blockages are very common and unavoidable for both government and private transport during the Hajj season.
- Hotels. Most people want a hotel in close proximity to both the mosques in Makkah and Madinah. Find out the rating of the hotel as well as its facilities—inside and outside—like a/c, shops and restaurants. Ask to see if any meals are included as part of the package.
- Aziziyyah accommodation. Prior to the actual Hajj days, some packages include a short stay in apartments in a suburb of Makkah called Aziziyyah. It is a 10-15 minute drive to Al-Masjid Al-Haram.Most Hajj companies use this time to prepare their pilgrims for the imminent Hajj days. Ask the Hajj company how your time in Aziziyyah is going to be utilised.
- Arrangements for the Hajj days. Most of the pilgrim’s time during these days is spent in Mina. For most UK packages, the Mina accommodation is situated in the European section, which is an hour long walk away from the Jamarat (stoning site). VIP packages are situated much closer to the Jamarat. Be sure to know exactly which camp you are in.Find out if meals are provided during these days. What kind of food is it? Are hot and cold drinks available 24 hours a day? You don’t want to stress about food for yourself and your family during these days. The food outlets in Mina are not many and the service is poor. Sometimes, a lot of pushing and shouting is necessary just to be heard. Getting food from these outlets is no easy task.
3. Experience. Ensure that the Hajj company has many years of experience. An experienced group will be better informed of the logistical difficulties in Hajj and how to remedy them based on previous years of experience.
4. Team. Well-trained tour guides are essential for any successful Hajj company. Ideally, the larger and more experienced the team is, the better your trip is going to be. Unfortunately, since 2013 the Saudi Government has limited the number of tour guides. The ratio of tour guides to pilgrims is 1:50.
Find out if the team members are fluent in English, Arabic or your native tongue. Are there qualified team members that can provide religious guidance? Do they have Saudi partners to ensure a good service? What service do they provide for the disabled? Formulate questions based on your needs as a pilgrim.
5. Development programme. Ensure that your Hajj company has a strong educational and development programme. This journey is a turning point in peoples’ lives. The reward for an accepted Hajj is nothing short of Paradise, and forgiveness for all sin. Thus, Ḥajj provides a ‘clean slate’ with which a Muslim can start over.
It is, therefore, imperative that anyone contemplating performing this Journey of a Lifetime makes the necessary effort to prepare for such an excursion.
Ask if the Hajj company will prep you before you fly out? If so, how? Do they have a development programme in place? Do they provide any literature? Will religious guides be accompanying the pilgrims throughout the tour? Are there going to be lectures in Makkah, Madinah, and throughout the days of Hajj?
Al-Hidaayah Travel Ltd