Chronological Stories from the Lesser Pilgrimage Trip (Umrah) – November 2023

I just got back from Saudi for umrah with my Mom and Dad. We’ve been planning this since beginning of the year and supposed to fly out in August but because of some mismatch on the scheduling, things got postponed to this early November.


We took the 9-days package from our agent, which consists of 2 days of travel, 3.5 days in Mecca, and 3.5 days in Madinah. Our departure was by Saudia SV819, so it’s an early evening flight (19.05 WIB) and after 10 hours being up in the air, we landed right after midnight in JED (01.05 AST). We then checked in to a transit hotel because we couldn’t check in to our Mecca hotel yet, and had a small Jeddah city tour by bus in the morning till noon.


As my first impression of Saudi, Jeddah was fine. Lots of mega construction projects being build. We saw Jaffali Mosque (Masjid Qissas), Tomb of Mother Hawwa, sightseeing the old town of Al-Balad, stop for small shopping trip in Toko Indonesia Market strip and dined in Bakso Mang Oedin in Cornish (the vibe is exactly like when you do study tour in Jogja and your bus stops by Pabrik Bakpia), and stop for dhuhr + ashr prayer in Al-Hamra’a mosque.

Then we go back to our transit hotel in late afternoon to change into our ihram clothes because we’re going to check into our next hotel and go to the Masjidil Haram to do our first umrah. It took about 1.5 hours of bus ride from Jeddah to Mecca. Once arrived, we checked in (our hotel was Makarem Ajyad), had our dinner, did Maghrib + Isya prayers in our rooms. We chose to do the umrah rituals after people finished their Isya prayers in the Masjidil Haram so that theoretically it’d be less crowded (spoiler: it’s not).

The umrah itself consists of 4 major activities (if you want to call it that). First, we had to arrive from outside of the Holy City border already wearing special clothing called ihram. Men and women have different rules for their ihram. Second, we did the tawaf, which is to walk around or circling the Holy Kabbah seven times in an anti-clockwise direction. Next, we move to the hills of Safa and Marwah (adjacent to the Kabbah) to do sa’i, which refers to walking back and forth in between those two hills in 7 trips, starting from Safa-to-Marwah that counts as one trip, and from Marwah-to-Safa (counts as the second trip), and continue it until the 7th trip (it would be the 4th Safa-to-Marwah trip). Lastly, after we’re done with Sa’i, on the top of Marwah hill we do tahallul, in which we clip or shorten the hair to free ourselves from the obligation of wearing ihram. And that’s it, that’s what counts as one whole umrah. If you’re a quick walker that needs little rest, the tawaf and sa’i would take you around 2.5-3 hours to finish.


As I mentioned, if you want to do the umrah ritual, you have to go out of the Holy City borders first and then re-enter wearing the ihram. So, on day-3, we went out again by bus to do city tour around Mecca, sightseeing Jabal Tsur, Arafah, Mina, Muzdalifah, and Jabal Nur. We then stopped by the Ji’ranah mosque nearby the Holy City border to change into our ihram. We went back to our hotel, dined in, and did the umrah ritual all over again. It was pouring rain on this day.


This was our last full-day in Mecca, so in the morning we went out again to do a tour to Tha’if City, which was 1.5 hours away from Mecca. The quiet town is on a higher elevation, so the temperature is even lower, it was a bit chilly outside. We stopped by to taste fresh camels milk, visited Abdullah Ibn Abbas mosque, Al-Rasheed perfumery, and had lunch at Kabsah restaurant. The mosque we used to change into ihram this day was Qarn Al-Manazil. After that, we traveled back to Mecca, re-enter the Holy City border, dined at our hotel, and did our last umrah in late evening.


Since we’re about to leave the Holy City of Mecca today at noon, it’s highly recommended to do tawaf wada or farewell tawaf to the Holy Kabbah. Just tawaf, without sa’i and/or tahallul. We did it right after the fajr/ subuh prayer. So, we went out of our hotel at around 4am (our hotel is only a 6 minute walk to the Masjidil Haram courtyard), settled our place to do the prayers, did the fajr prayers, and went on to do the tawaf wada, which we finished everything at around 7am. We then had our breakfast, packed our bags, checked out and went to the train station at around 10am.

The bullet train takes us from Mecca to Madinah in only 2 hours. There are still travel agents who use buses to travel from Mecca to Madinah (or the other way round, depending on the itinerary) and it would take about 5 hours. The 3 hours difference is quite substantial in my opinion if you chose the 9-days package, so if you’re into being time-effective, the train is the way to go. Warning: the train is freezing cold, so if you’re traveling with elders or you’re not into being shoved into a moving freezer for 2 hours straight, prepare and wear warmer clothes.

After we got to Madinah, we did another city tour visiting Jabal Uhud, dates market/ plantations, and the Quba Mosque. In the early evening, we checked into our Madinah hotel (Concorde Al-Khair) which was only a 3 minutes walk to Masjidil Nabawi courtyard. And we rested for the night.


Raudhah is a place inside Masjidil Nabawi, between His Holiness Rasulullah’s mimbar/ podium and Rasulullah’s house. Only less than 1000 person can stay in this area at one time, with men and women strictly separated, so the Saudi authorities make it mandatory for Raudhah visitor to apply for a permit beforehand. This was what we did for the whole morning of D-6.

We, the women of the group, were gathered by our guide at 7am to walk to the entry checkpoint of the Raudhah, and we queue for a total of 4+ hours. We were inside the Raudhah for only about 4 minutes max to do Dhuha prayer there, shoulder-to-shoulder, very crowded, couldn’t even get proper room to do sujuud, but it is what it is. Raudhah is said to be the garden of Paradise on earth, so any of your prayers there was said would go straight to heaven. That’s why people queue for so long just to spend very little time there, it’s such an important place. My group got out from the Raudhah area by 11.30am.

The rest of our days in Madinah consist of just going to the Masjidil Nabawi for prayers and have a little shopping here and there.


Free day. I went back and forth to Bin Dawood supermarket to fulfill my cravings of dry dates, Lay’s, and Coca-Cola.


Our last day in Madinah. We checked out of our hotel at noon, to then went to the Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport (Madinah Airport). Our flight to Jakarta was by Saudia SV820, which took off at 4.40pm.


We landed safely in Jakarta at 6.20am.

There are a bunch of “what I wish I knew beforehand” stuffs and other notes from the trip, but that would be on a different post altogether.

My rating of the trip is 4.8 out of 5.
It was a super cool experience to see and meet so many people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, gathered to do the same rituals together out of faith to a teachings that had been here for 1400+ years.

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