We recently visited the Holy cities in Islam, Mecca and Madina for what is called umrah. Umrah can be done anytime of the year versus the main Hajj, which is done at a specific time of year and consists of a lot more rituals spread over specific days. We decided to bring our children along in order to increase their love for these holy places and to make tangible some of the historical places of the beginning of Islam. I will not be sharing fiqh or ruling tips as there are plenty of scholars that have outlined those. These are more mommy tips.
Moms of boys, make sure you buy them a proper ihram belt. I made the mistake of listening to my husband that any old belt will do and come to find out, it won’t. I also wish I had special snaps sewn into the ihram because it can be a hard for a young boy to manage the special two pieces of cloth, especially if you are coming through Jeddah and straight to perform the umrah. It was super windy while we were getting off the plane and I was carrying luggage and couldn’t help the poor kid navigate the stairs and the wind and cloth ( the current Jedda airport does not have gates but buses to take you to the airport). Best advice would be to start off at Madina first and then head to Mecca. The lines at the airport for customs are ridiculous so make sure everyone has used the restrooms and have some snacks and water packed for the little ones. That’s probably the number one advice for the trip would be to always carry enough water and snacks for the kids. There are plenty of food options and most tours include meals but there may be off times when the kids are jet lagged and you can’t make it to the buffets. We were lucky to be able to travel with family and it made the trip much more memorable and fun. There are wheelchairs available to rent for the rituals that you can push smaller children in as they can get tired from tawaf and saee. We had the kids listen to lectures about umrah and tried to explain the rituals in ways they could understand. You can also try to make it more tangible in ways and ask them “do you think Bilal RA had the same view of the mountains during sunset?” in Madina? Sometimes it was necessary to split up as prayers were segregated. Marking clear meet up spots is essential due to heavy crowds in both masjids. Let them see the masjids during less crowded times and soak up the ambiance if possible. Have empty water bottles for zamzam water refills and thin bags with straps for everyone to carry their shoes in. Do any touring of other areas early morning as it gets quite hot during the day. There are pharmacies all over so you can always pick up meds if needed. Moms of little ones, always have a hand on your baby. I found a lost toddler and the guards could care less about helping to find the mom. There is a large building for lost children in Madina but no one wants that worry and heartache. Try to rotate with your spouse for some one on one worship time. Last piece of advice that’s not kid related is the shopping is cheaper in Madina. Leave any additional advice below, would be happy to hear it!