• Hajj: What to Expect

    Embarking on Hajj is a spiritual voyage that millions of Muslims undertake annually. Discover what to expect during this sacred journey, including managing crowds, navigating transport, and understanding the essential rituals, accommodation, and facilities along the way.

    Crowds

    On average, two million people from around the world perform Hajj each year. Statistics show that in 2012 (1433 AH), a record number of pilgrims performed Hajj, with the figure in excess of three million. The actual number of pilgrims is thought to be much higher, due to the number of unregistered pilgrims that take part in the Hajj.

    Year Hijri Year Number of Pilgrims
    2007 1428 2,454,325
    2008 1429 2,408,849
    2009 1430 2,313,278
    2010 1431 2,789,399
    2011 1432 2,927,717
    2012 1433 3,161,573
    2013 1434 1,980,249
    2014 1435 2,085,238
    2015 1436 1,952,817
    2016 1437 1,862,909
    2017 1438 2,352,122
    2018 1439 2,371,675
    2019 1440 2,489,406
    2020 1441 1,000
    2021 1442 58,745
    2022 1443 926,062
    2023 1444 1,845,045

    In order to deal with the immense crowds, you will need to be mentally prepared and have a great deal of patience. There have been a number of fatal incidents over the years due to stampedes as a result of panic in crowded areas, the most recent being in 2015 where over 2,000 pilgrims were killed in Mina.

    Huge crowds during Hajj
    Huge crowds during Hajj

    Large crowds can cause anxiety and nervousness in individuals, particularly for those who aren’t used to such environments. The following are a few tips to deal with crowds during Hajj:

    • Avoid peak times – Some Hajj rituals, such as the pelting of the Jamarat, can be performed throughout the day. It is advisable to complete these rituals at times when there isn’t as much of a crowd as there normally would be during peak times.
    • Take a break – If you’re performing a ritual such as Tawaf or Sa’i or walking between Hajj sites and feel the crowd is getting too much for you, it is perfectly acceptable to take a break and find a less crowded area.
    • Be aware – Just as you would if you were driving a car, be completely mindful of what’s happening around you. You may well collide with people or even wheelchairs during rituals if you’re not as careful as you should be.
    • Take care of your belongings – Thieves tend to steal wallets and other items from pilgrims in crowded areas. Stay vigilant and ensure your belongings are adequately secure.
    • Never push – In crowded places, some pushing and shoving is inevitable. Remember, there will be many pilgrims from countries where pushing and shoving in crowded places is a norm. Try your best not to push and perform your rites in a cool and collected manner. Don’t harm anybody and remain calm if others are pushing.
    • Go with the flow – In a crowd, go with the flow rather than against the flow, remaining within the block of people heading in the direction that you wish to go. Avoid walking in the opposing direction of people as this will inevitably lead to collisions.
    • Company – Avoid walking alone, particularly if you’re a woman. It’s nice to have that bit of support, especially if you struggle with crowds.
    • Help others – If you notice someone around you becoming anxious about the crowds, try to give them space and reassure them.
    • Be patient – Crowding and long queues are inevitable, so you must remain patient and try not to get frustrated.

    Days of Hajj

    Day No.: Date
    (Dhul Hijjah)
    Day known as Summary
    1 8th Yawm al-Tarwiyah
    (the Day of Quenching Thirst)
    • Enter into Ihram and make niyyah
    • Proceed to Mina before Dhuhr
    • Perform your Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha in Mina
    • Stay there overnight
    2 9th Yawm al-Arafat
    (the Day of Arafat) or
    Yawm al-Wuquf
    (the Day of Standing)
    • Perform Fajr in Mina
    • Proceed to Arafat
    • Perform Dhuhr and Asr in Arafat
    • Proceed to Muzdalifah after sunset
    • Perform Maghrib and Isha in Muzdalifah
    • Collect pebbles
    • Stay there overnight
    • Perform Fajr salah and make du’a
    • Proceed to Mina before sunrise
    3 10th Yawm al-Nahr
    (the Day of Sacrifice)
    • Perform Rami (pelting) of Jamarah al-Aqaba (the big pillar)
    • Perform Hady (animal sacrifice)
    • Perform Halq/Taqsir (get your hair shaved or trimmed)
    • Proceed to Makkah
    • Perform Tawaf al-Ziyarah
    • Perform Sa’i
    • Go back to Mina (unless you have a valid excuse to stay in Makkah)
    4, 5 & 6 11th, 12th & 13th Ayyam al-Tashreeq
    (the Days of Drying Meat)
    • Perform Rami (pelting) of all three Jamarat on each day
    • Proceed to Makkah
    • Perform Tawaf al-Wida

    Transport

    Pilgrims on a coach
    Pilgrims on a coach

    During the days of Hajj, most pilgrims are transported between sites via government (Mutawwif) appointed buses. The cost of transport is normally included as part of your Hajj package unless you choose to use a taxi. Some groups are provided with private buses.

    The various trips from one place to the next can vary greatly in terms of duration for a journey of the same distance, depending on your location, the time you leave and the amount of traffic on the road. It is important to remain patient as delays with transport are very likely.  It may sometimes take less time to walk to the next site, which pilgrims often choose to do instead of taking the bus.

    On the 10th of Dhul Hijjah, government buses won’t be available to transport you to and from Makkah to perform Tawaf al-Ziyarah because pilgrims will be performing the various rituals at different points in the day. Therefore, arrangements for your transport will have to be made with a private bus or a taxi.

    Walking

    Although transportation is available as described above, many pilgrims choose to walk, some out of choice and others through necessity. Walking may sometimes be the only choice due to traffic congestion or the bus breaking down. Below is a table that illustrates the distances between each site and the approximate time it takes to walk between each one at a normal pace:

    Date Location Approx. Distance Approx. Time Taken
    8th of Dhul Hijjah Masjid al-Haram to Mina 8 km (5 miles) 2 hours
    9th of Dhul Hijjah Mina to Arafat 13 km (8 miles) 3 hours
    Arafat to Muzdalifah 8 km (5 miles) 2 hours
    10th of Dhul Hijjah Muzdalifah to Mina 4 km (2.5 miles) 1 hour
    Mina to Jamarat 3 km (2 miles) 30 minutes
    Jamarat to Masjid al-Haram 5 km (3 miles) 1 hour 15 minutes
    Masjid al-Haram to Mina 8 km (5 miles) 2 hours
    11th of Dhul Hijjah Mina to Jamarat 3 km (2 miles) 30 minutes
    Jamarat to Mina 3 km (2 miles) 30 minutes
    12th of Dhul Hijjah Mina to Jamarat 3 km (2 miles) 30 minutes
    Jamarat to Masjid al-Haram 5 km (3 miles) 1 hour 15 minutes
    Date Location Approx. Distance Approx. Time Taken
    8th of Dhul Hijjah Masjid al-Haram to Mina 8 km (5 miles) 2 hours
    9th of Dhul Hijjah Mina to Arafat 13 km (8 miles) 3 hours
    9th of Dhul Hijjah Arafat to Muzdalifah 8 km (5 miles) 2 hours
    10th of Dhul Hijjah Muzdalifah to Mina 4 km (2.5 miles) 1 hour
    10th of Dhul Hijjah Mina to Jamarat 3 km (2 miles) 30 minutes
    10th of Dhul Hijjah Jamarat to Masjid al-Haram 5 km (3 miles) 1 hour 15 minutes
    10th of Dhul Hijjah Masjid al-Haram to Mina 8 km (5 miles) 2 hours
    11th of Dhul Hijjah Mina to Jamarat 3 km (2 miles) 30 minutes
    11th of Dhul Hijjah Jamarat to Mina 3 km (2 miles) 30 minutes
    12th of Dhul Hijjah Mina to Jamarat 3 km (2 miles) 30 minutes
    12th of Dhul Hijjah Jamarat to Masjid al-Haram 5 km (3 miles) 1 hour 15 minutes
    Thousands of pilgrims walking on the Jamarat bridge.
    Thousands of pilgrims walking on the Jamarat bridge

    Please bear in mind that the above distances and times are approximations and may vary due to the location of your tent, whether you have any women, elderly or infirm pilgrims with you and the crowds present.

    Although you shouldn’t walk between each site and take the bus whenever possible, a significant amount of walking will still be involved. There may also be a fair distance from your bus to your accommodation, depending on how close the bus can get to your tent. You may find that buses may not be able to get anywhere near your tent due to crowding and congestion, leaving you no other option than to walk.

    If you elect to conduct your entire Hajj on foot, keep in mind the distances and time it would take to walk between each site. For instance, on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah, distances between sites will amount to at least 20 kilometres, which would take at least four hours to traverse.

    If you intend to walk for the vast majority of Hajj, if not all of it, make sure:

    • You are physically prepared and are able to manage the walking, ensuring it won’t affect other aspects of your Hajj.
    • You know your way between each site, or you have a guide that does.
    • You stay close to your group, ensuring you don’t get separated from them.
    • You are accompanied by your husband/Mahram if you’re a woman.

    There are a series of pedestrian tunnels between some of the sites, such as between Makkah and Mina. These tunnels make the journey easier by providing a direct route and shade from the sun. However, it can still get hot inside them. Refreshments, toilet and washing facilities, benches to rest on and medical facilities are also normally provided at regular intervals between sites.

    Accommodation

    Inside a tent in Mina
    Inside a tent in Mina

    Pilgrims in Mina and Arafat are divided into groups, and their accommodation is pre-allocated according to their country of origin. Streets and camps are numbered, so learn your camp number or note it down somewhere. Men and women normally stay in separate tents.

    Before 2000, tents in Mina were small and basic. However, after a major fire in 1997, which killed over 200 pilgrims and injured many more, they were replaced with fireproof tents that had air conditioning, electricity, lights, and electric plugs.

    The tents in Arafat are usually large and wide. Some tents have air coolers (which use the evaporation of water to cool the air) and fans, whilst other tents don’t have anything of the sort. It would, therefore, be a good idea to bring a portable cooling device as the day of Arafat can get extremely hot.

    The comfortability of your tent really depends on your Hajj package. Some tents are extremely busy and cramped, so it’s best to contact your agent if you have questions or concerns regarding your accommodation in Mina or Arafat.

    Accommodation tips for Mina and Arafat:

    Pilgrims praying salah in a tent
    Pilgrims praying salah in a tent
    • If you have a choice, don’t choose a tent near the toilets or a cooking area.
    • Try to choose a tent near the middle or back of the camp because the entrances to camps are usually busy.
    • If you are in a larger tent, choose a sleeping area closer to the back of the tent. The front and middle areas of the tent are normally used for salah, lectures, and eating, so you will avoid having to constantly move your things around to accommodate this, which can prove quite an inconvenience.
    • As soon as you enter your tent, claim your position by throwing your mat down in your selected area, sitting down, and laying on it. Avoid any confrontations or arguments for spaces in the tent. However, ensure you don’t take up too much space.
    • If you are performing Hajj with your spouse, you can choose the corner of the tent where you are both on either side of the partition. This allows for easier communication and sharing of food.
    • Don’t spend too much time discussing worldly affairs in your tent.
    • Don’t be too concerned about what is happening in other tents or which personalities are present in those tents.
    • Attend lectures in other tents if you feel they may be of benefit to you.

    In Muzdalifah, you will stay in an open area under the night sky. There are no tents or other accommodation facilities here.

    Sleeping

    In Mina and Arafat, an inflatable air mattress or sleeping bag would be useful if you intend to take one with you. If not, a straw Hajji mat can be purchased and used to sleep on. Some of the tents in Mina and Arafat are also strewn with carpets, which can be used for rest.

    In Muzdalifah, pilgrims sleep under the night sky
    In Muzdalifah, pilgrims sleep under the night sky

    You will notice many pilgrims sleeping in all sorts of places – on the streets, under bridges, in the tunnels and even on top of the mountains.

    In Muzdalifah, finding a space to sleep can initially prove quite troublesome due to the sheer number of people. When you find a space, ensure it’s with your group. If you take a sleeping bag, the night in Muzdalifah would be the ideal time to use it. If not, you should be able to buy a cheap mat, inflatable pillow and a blanket.

    Food

    Hajj packages normally provide food for the days of Hajj, although you may have to pay a little extra if it wasn’t included in your original package.

    You will need to check with your agent on the type of food that will be provided; meals can be pre-packed and come in a box, or they may be cooked and served directly to you. The time these meals are served can also vary, so be prepared to eat irregularly.

    There are a number of shops to buy food from in Mina, although the price of everything doubles during the Hajj period so be prepared to pay extra. There are no food shops in Arafat and Muzdalifah.

    It is a good idea to keep biscuits, dates, fruits, and water with you. Ensure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as it can get very hot. It’s also advisable to keep some sweets to provide you with energy when you need it.

    Boundaries

    Boundaries are well marked
    Boundaries are well-marked

    The boundaries for Mina are indicated by large green signposts. You must ensure you remain in the specified boundary of Mina during the 10th, 11th, 12th and possibly 13th of Dhul Hijjah.

    The boundaries for Arafat are indicated by large yellow signposts. You must ensure you remain within this boundary during the 9th of Dhul Hijjah.

    The boundaries for Muzdalifah are indicated by large purple signposts. You must ensure you remain within this boundary during the night of the 9th of Dhul Hijjah.

    Facilities

    Mosques

    Masjid al-Namirah in Arafat
    Masjid Nimra

    The main mosque in Mina is Masjid al-Khayf, located near the smallest Jamarah at the base of the mountain in the south of Mina. It is reported that the Prophet ﷺ, as well as 70 prophets who preceded him, performed salah here.

    The main mosque in Arafat is known as Masjid Nimra. It is in this location that the Prophet ﷺ camped and delivered his sermon during his final Hajj. If you go inside this mosque, be aware that a sizeable portion of the front of the masjid is outside the boundary of Arafat. There are clear signs within the mosque indicating the boundary.

    There is also a mosque in Muzdalifah known as Mashar al-Haram, which is on the site of what used to be a small mountain.

    Medical Facilities

    Mina Medical Centre
    Mina Medical Centre

    In the south of Mina, there is a hospital just opposite Masjid al-Khayf. There is an additional hospital near the old slaughterhouse.

    In Arafat, there is a hospital situated close to Jabal al-Rahmah (the Mount of Mercy).

    There are also various mobile clinics in and around Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.

    Toilet & Washing Facilities

    Washing facilities in Arafat
    Washing facilities in Arafat

    All the camps in Mina and Arafat have shower and toilet facilities. The toilets have been combined with shower facilities, which provide water 24 hours a day.

    Most toilets in each row are squat toilets, i.e. a “hole in the ground”, although there is at least one sitting toilet in each row.

    The toilet areas can get very busy, so be prepared to wait a while for your turn.

    There are also wudhu facilities available next to the toilet areas. Again, these facilities can get very crowded.

    Tips:

    • Be early and avoid the crowds to take a shower or perform wudhu.
    • Wake up at least one hour before Fajr in order to avoid the rush to use the washing facilities in the morning.
    • Avoid the washing facilities about 20 minutes before salah and immediately after having a meal.
    • Use the washing facilities when people are eating, sleeping, or listening to lectures.
    • Bring a suction hook to hang your Ihram when using the toilet or shower, as there may not be hooks in the cubicle.

    In Muzdalifah, toilet and washing facilities are available, but they will be crowded so patience must be exercised here. Sometimes, pilgrims are forced to use the bushes/mountains due to the long queues. For this reason, you are advised to use the toilet before you leave Arafat.

    Checklist

    Before you leave for Mina, pack a smaller bag with essential items that you will need for the days of Hajj. Below is a list of suggestions of items which you could take with you:

    • Prayer items such as pocket Quran, du’a book, du’a list, tasbeeh, prayer mat, compass for the Qibla and Hajj guide book.
    • Waist or neck pouch for your valuables.
    • Comfortable clothing and a pair of trainers/sneakers for when you’re out of Ihram.
    • Toiletries. Remember, items must be fragrance-free when in Ihram.
    • Suction hooks to hang your clothing when using the washing facilities in Mina and Arafat.
    • Medication. Medical facilities are also provided during the days of Hajj should you need them.
    • Snacks that won’t go off quickly, such as biscuits and sweets. These will be useful while travelling.
    • Inflatable air mattress/sleeping bag.
    • Inflatable pillow and light blanket.
    • Pebble bag or bottle to put your pebbles in for Rami.
    • Ear plugs and eye mask.
    • Foldable travel wudhu and Istinja jugs.
    • Money.
    • ID card for Mina and Arafat. This card shows the location of your camp in Mina and Arafat.
    • Mobile phone and charger. Top your phone up before you leave for Mina if you don’t have much credit left.

    You can view our full checklist for the entire journey here.

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    • By the grace of Allah my wife and I performed Haj this year i.e.2022.

      Many new facilities have been introduced and new methods have been adopted by the Government of KSA to avoid stampedes. The best thing they had done is the construction of Metro Trains and using them for transportation of pilgrims from Mina to Arafat, from there to Muzdalifa and then to Mina/Jamarat. They have three Metro Railway station each at Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifa
      (Mina 1, Mina 2 and Mina 3,
      Arafat 1, Arafat2, Arafat3, Muzdalifa1, Muzdalifa2 and Muzdalifa3); and one Railway station at Jamarath.

      The pilgrims are divided into 3 groups and each is assigned one railway station. For example people from Andhra Pradesh and a few other states were allotted Station No 1. It means we can board the train at Mina 1 and get down at Arafat 1 only. Again we boarded at Arafat 1 and got down at Muzdalifa 1. Again we boarded the train at Muzdalifa 1 and had to get down at Mina 1. The train would not stop at any other station. This prevented people from gathering at the same station. Even people using one railway station were taken at different times and in different routes there by reducing further congestion.
      Rami was also similarly organized. People had to use one road to go to any place and they were allowed to return by a different road. None were allowed to go in the opposite direction. Whenever the crowd seemed to be large at any site, for example Jamarat, people were stopped at intervals and after the crowd is reduced, they were allowed to proceed. So also pilgrims were not allowed to stay or rest at any place so that the flow is continued. Sufficient water was available at all places except Muzdalifa. I advise future pilgrims to collect at least 2 litres of water at Arafat before leaving for Muzdalifa. It is also advised that Tawaf-e-ziyarah may be done preferably on 11th Zilhajja between 11 am and 12 noon when the crowd will be very less. Carry an umbrella, enough water mixed with oral rehydration sachets and some fruit etc. I found a very healthy and well built young man fallen on the ground in Mataf as he was feeling dizzy because he had not eaten anything. We offered him orange juice and a few biscuits. It helped him to recover. Those suffering from diabetes should also carry food and candies as the distances covered and the stress may lower the sugar levels and that can cause great harm.

      Haj will be coming in Summer for the next decade. The temperatures may soar as high as 46°C. It was very hot and your energy may be be drained in an hour or two. So pilgrims are advised to be very careful.

      One thing the pilgrims should not forget is the use of LABAN. This is nothing but bottled Lassi. It is available in many flavors. If it is used abundantly, you may not suffer from cough. Many pilgrims suffer with cough because of dry throat. Many think it is due to drinking cold water or cold drinks. But the cough occurs because you lose much water and it is due to the dryness in the throat that a person experiences dry cough. Taking Laban or butter milk will go a long way in preventing such cough.