Umrah Season open in UK
The Umrah season has opened in the United Kingdom as of 19th December 2012. There were some reports earlier on, on certain websites somewhere around 15th December, that first Umrah pilgrims had arrived in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia etc. but the official opening of the Umrah season for UK did not happen till 19th of December. Even then the announcement has come in conjunction with the Christmas holidays, so except a few, almost all the applications would be entered after 1st of January, 2013. The Saudi Embassy in London is supposed to remain closed till 1st of January, 2013 (including the day of 1st January, 2013).
So the first departures expected will be around 10th of January 2013. The Saudi embassy takes varying number of days to process visas, so give your Umrah travel agent at least two weeks’ time before your departure and plan your trip accordingly to stay on the safe side and avoid any difficulties. Most of the travel agents and intending pilgrims have been a little caught up off guard by the early visa opening. Some were although better prepared than others for sure. So look for an agent that has solid packages on for this period of time, as most had announced and had packages available from February onward.
It is also a great opportunity for those intending to go in the blessed month of Rabi-Ul-Awwal to celeberate Mawalid-e-Rasool (SAW) in Madinah. Last year Umrah visa had opened quite late after the date had gone. So take this opportunity to book now and save. Another advantage would be that quite a few people have traveled due to holidays, so this is a good time to book your Umrah packages and have an array of options at hand to pick the best suitable one for you.
Umrah tips for women and children
Although women are allowed to go to Umrah and Hajj only if they are accompanied by their Mehram. But in the Masjid Al-Haram and Masjid An-Nabwi there are separate portions for women and men. So eventually they will have to get separated from each other at certain locations. Children mostly will be accompanying their mothers so here are a few handy tips which will help during your Umrah.
- Always avoid Camera and Camera-phones. For security reasons, the management will confiscate it if you are found taking pictures. So it is best to leave your camera at home or give it to your husband or your Mahram with whom you are traveling. And always make sure that it is either switched off or silent so that there are no ringtones and disturbances during prayers.
- If you are accompanied by your children then make sure that there is no life like toy, actionfigure or dolls with them which could be considered as an idol. Make sure to leave these back at the hotel because at the entrance they will take it from your child and you would not want to take a crying child with you in the Grand Mosques.
- Make sure your children dress properly. Western type dresses or dresses which may attract other people should always be avoided. If your children are older, say about six or so, the best is to dress them in Ihram. Otherwise they can wear their everyday clothes. It is best for little girls to wear a Hijab.
- Avoid letting your children out of your sight and hold their hand. Keep them in front of your so that they don’t get pushed by others. If you are praying and you have a toddler with you, the best thing that most women do is tie elastic rope with the child and ties the other end with their foot so that they can move for a few steps but couldn’t go further.
- There are some places which are less crowded in both Grand Mosques. If you have to pray and you have small children with you, you can look for a spot where there are fewer people and pray. However there are some sections which are for women only and the guards will not allow any children in there.
- Try to avoid losing shoes. You can take your shoes inside the mosque with you, if you put them inside a bag. Most of the time people mistake other’s shoes with their own and this is the most common reason of losing shoes. However there are several shops around the Haram where you can buy them.
- In the Masjid An-Nabwi, there are classes for women and children during the Asr and Maghrib prayers. Children of up to 6 years of age can sign-up daily after the Asr prayers.
- Entering and leaving the grand mosques must be done properly. Always enter with your right foot and leave with your left foot. There is a Dua for entering and leaving the mosque and make sure you recite it. While leaving the Grand Mosques, hold your children tightly because it may get crowded and keep them in front of you to avoid any pushing.
Makkah Madinah high speed train to start service in 2014
UK Hajj Umrah News: Two of the most sacred destinations in Muslim world will be bridged together by a high speed train. Construction is ongoing for a passenger railway line between Makkah and Madinah and is expected to be complete and operational by Jan 2014. The project once completed will link Makkah, Madinah with Jeddah as well, which is the third most important city for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.
The first phase of the project is the construction of railway stations in Makkah and Madinah. This phase also includes the building of two stations in Jeddah including one station at the King AbdulAziz International Airport. Total length of the line is 480 Km and will be constructed specifically for high speed electric trains to bridge the three cities together and reducing the time required to travel between them.
The project is named Harmain Railway and is expected to transport more than 3 million passengers annually. In 2012 more than 3 million Hajj pilgrims were transported between the three cities and the number is expected to rise rapidly. In the same year more than 2.5 million Umrah pilgrims were transported between the cities. The Saudi Hajj Ministry has issued statistics that the number of Umrah pilgrims will rise to approximately 11 million within the next 15-20 years and the government is planning to accommodate the rising number of pilgrims in all possible ways. The Government also plans to increase the total of 1200 Km of railway in the country to 7000 in the next few years, bridging other
cities in north and south. These plans are for transporting passengers and cargo between the different parts of the country as a cheaper alternative to air travel and road transport.