Asia / Saudi Arabia

Road to Umrah: Hard Beginnings

I made niyah to perform the Umrah some time ago. I intended to visit the other two holy mosques after visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This voyage proved to be the most difficult, but also the most rewarding, yet. Let me tell you how it all began…

Do not prepare yourself for a journey except to three Mosques i.e. The Great Mosque of Makkah, the Mosque of Aqsa and My Mosque.

Prophet Mohammed (SAW) (Bukhari 20:2)

The intention

I had planned to undertake Umrah during Ramadan because it is stated that during Ramadan this act of worship is equal to Hajj in terms of blessings. I investigated ahead of time to see if such an offer was available for this year. Umrah tours have been generally canceled in the last two years due to the pandemic. The IGMG Hajj & Umrah organization in Germany, on the other hand, has managed to organize some tours for 2022. I called the organization to inquire about the rates for the Ramadan tour, but the information had not yet been released. It was tough for me to schedule a trip on such short notice because I also needed to take time off from work.

Surprisingly, on the day the prices were released, I received a note from work informing me that I still had vacation days left over from last year and that I needed to use them by March. This also meant that I couldn’t take a vacation during Ramadan, which began in April. There was also an Umrah tour for March, although it began in less than two weeks. I quickly asked as to whether or not it was still possible to register for it. I was initially given a negative response, but I was told to ask the person in charge nonetheless. Then I was assured that I could still participate as long as I provided the necessary documentation until the next day. This included my vaccination certificate with two Covid vaccinations and one meningitis vaccination.

Getting the documents ready

I had the former, but my most recent meningitis vaccination was over ten years ago, making me ineligible for entry. That meant I needed to get vaccinated the same day. When I called my doctor, he stated it was still possible, depending on the vaccine type. I went to the doctor, but he didn’t have the necessary vaccination on hand. I had to go to a pharmacy to acquire it. We called the local pharmacies with the nurse, and only one of them could order it in time for the same day. So I went home and waited for the vaccine to arrive, then went back to the doctor to get vaccinated. This issue had been resolved, and I had all of the necessary documentation.

The following day, I was expected to give the documents to the mosque during Friday prayers, because a representative was going to Cologne to the organization’s headquarters that day, and the documents would thus arrive in time for logistics such as visas and flight tickets. On my way to the mosque, I was called by an organizer, who informed me that this person would not be able to travel to Cologne after all. The only option was to send the documents via express mail. I had to accomplish this by 4 p.m. so that it would arrive on time by Saturday evening. After almost an hour of standing in line in front of the post office, the documents were handed soon before 4 p.m. Now I had to wait, and after a few days, I received the message that everything was in order. The documents had arrived, and the Saudi visa and airplane tickets were ready.

The passports were ready for departure

Finally travel day (or not?)

Let us fast forward to March 12th. I had packed my baggage and was on my way to the Munich airport, full of enthusiasm. I met the other pilgrims there, and the local imam briefed us on what to expect on the journey. Egyptair would take us to Madinah, with a quick stop in Cairo. The imam provided me everyone’s flight information, making me the temporary group leader until we met the other groups in Cairo. All that remained was for us to check our bags and pick up our boarding passes. I went to the counter, thrilled that I could bear some responsibility on this trip, just like on private travels.

After waiting in a long line at check-in, I handed over my passport to the lady and waited for my ticket. Then I experienced the big shock: my name was not on the passenger list. I initially felt like this was a technical mistake and went to the other senior travelers to assist them with checking in by translating the appropriate steps. After everyone had received their tickets, I returned to the desk to inquire about the issue. I advised the others to head to the gate because we only had approximately one hour until boarding. I assumed my name wasn’t on the list because I registered for the tour late. When I called the travel representative, I was told that this problem was being addressed immediately.

Relief and departure

Unfortunately, after a lengthy nervous wait and countless phone calls, we received no response. Egyptair did not appear to have recorded my ticket in their system. The tour organization eventually resolved the problem, but the flight check-in had already closed. I was the only one of roughly 60 participants who did not make it to the flight. I sat in the airport for a while, feeling a little sad but also knowing that this is most likely a hidden benefit or test from Allah. Soon after, I received a phone call from the organizer, informing me that my flight had been rebooked for the next day. Naturally, I was overjoyed and spent the night in a hotel near the airport (at the organizations cost).

The hotel I stayed at for one night

The next day, after several prayers and moments of overthinking, I was back at the airport, hoping to travel to that holy city. At the check-in counter, I was warned that my new flight was only displayed from Munich to Cairo. However, this issue was resolved following another phone call. Alhamdulillah, I had my tickets and was on my way to the city of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ , Madinah Al-Munawarah.

With these tickets in my hand I felt a little safer

After a few hours, the time came for me to board the first flight to Cairo. When I landed in Cairo, I had to find the Umrah travelers’ transfer gate. This proved to be more challenging than anticipated. I met some other Umrah pilgrims after walking back and forth multiple times. Among them were some guys of Macedonian heritage that came from Sweden. One of them was Ibrahim, he was 31 years old and it was his first Umrah as well. When I mentioned that I was Turkish, he grinned and stated that they were also Ottoman grandchildren. We talked about how excited we were about this journey and had a nice conversation. We were finally escorted to the special Umrah terminal after experiencing the craziness of the Cairo airport.

Start of the Umrah

Excitement grew as I realized I was now among others who shared my goal: to begin a journey by dedicating oneself solely to Islam. Throughout the voyage, I absorbed books and movies about Islam, on the one hand to broaden my understanding for this pilgrimage and, on the other hand, to keep the excitement high. The time had arrived, I stepped off the plane in the dead of night, took my baggage and exited the terminal without knowing if someone would pick me up. To my amazement, someone had already arrived to drive me to the accommodation. I arrived at the hotel at 2 a.m., and the plan for the next day was to get up at 4 a.m. for fasting. As a result, I did not sleep and instead waited until Sahur. There, I was greeted by the other members of my group, and the Umrah could begin

My personal IGMG Umrah ID Card

What to take away

This story may appear to be urging people not to take any chances and to avoid performing Umrah during the pandemic. However, the truth is quite the reverse. First, keep in mind that this only happened to me out of all participants, thus there is a very minimal chance that it will happen to you. Second, I learnt a lot from this trial, and it also brought me closer to Islam as a preparation for the Umrah. I was contemplating all the things I could have done to deserve this hardship and whether or not there was something I was doing incorrectly. I was also praying a lot more because this could be a crucial point in my life (spoiler: it really was).

When I think back on what happened and compare it to the journey itself, it seems so little that I considered not writing about this experience. The verdict of all of this is to trust in Allah and not be bothered by minor or great inconveniences. “So, surely with hardship comes ease” (Quran 94:5)

PS Thanks for everybody at the IGMG Hajj & Umrah organization for enabling this amazing Umrah despite the difficulties, may Allah bless you all. For anybody from Germany that wants to do perform Umrah, check them out at

No Comments

    Leave a Reply