Hajj/Umrah Guide Part 11: Health
and Safety Tips for those in
Recovery and Suffering from Eating
And complete the Hajj or Umrah in the service of Allah
(Al-Baqarah, Chapter #2, Verse # 196)
Please find our Hajj/Umrah Guide Part 11: Health and Safety Tips for those in Recovery and Suffering from Eating Disorders.
For centuries, pilgrims have travelled to Makka for spiritual and religious reasons. Hajj and Umrah are two significant important parts of Islam. Umrah is a short pilgrimage that you can do at any time, whereas Hajj takes longer, involves more rituals, and can only be performed at a specific time of year in the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah.
Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam, which every Muslim must perform at least once in his or her lifetime provided, they are financially and physically able to do so. All Muslim’s willingly visit this sacred place because ALLAH has given this place a priority over any other place in the world.
Umrah offers an opportunity for Muslims to renew their faith, seek forgiveness, pray for their needs, and be cleansed of their sins. Additionally, in order to gain closer to Allah Almighty, Umrah is considered one of the best deeds one can perform.
If you are suffering from eating disorder and in recovery, then traveling to Umrah/Hajj can be very difficult. A change of place, food and routine whilst on pilgrimage often leads to heightened anxiety because it’s a change from our usual routines.
Given the fact that both pilgrimage (umrah/Hajj) especially Hajj requires a lot of walking and sees people from all across the world congregate in one spot to fulfil their religious duties, sporadic outbreaks of various diseases and infections among the pilgrims are somewhat of a common occurrence, it has become more important than ever for the pilgrims to take care of themselves and stay healthy during pilgrimage.
There’s no reason that your Eating Disorder should stop you from embarking on such a blessed spiritual conquest. Forward planning and research will help make your pilgrimage easy and enjoyable.
While it can be difficult, it is completely doable if you’re prepared. Here are a few tips for Hajj/Umrah while in recovery.
Research Research Research
Spend some time doing research about the benefits of embarking on the journey of pilgrimage and learn the history and importance of the holy sites that you will get a chance to visit. This will reduce the levels of anxiety considerably and also you’ll get in the Know. Knowledge is power.
General tips for those in recovery and suffering from Eating Disorder:
- Consult your doctor/treatment team at least 3 months before your journey to assess your health situation.
- Closely follow the instructions of your doctor.
- Take your medication with you, ensuring they are stored properly.
- Take your medicines when required, as instructed by your doctor.
- Designate persons in your group to help you with your illness – inform them of your health issues, medication, what to do in an emergency and who to contact etc.
- Seek medical attention immediately if an emergency arises.
- Rest sufficiently.
To better support your loved one’s recovery during the pilgrimage:
- Practice Open Communication
- Do Not Make Food the Focus
- Reduce Stress
- Surround Them with Support
Prepare Your List of Duas
Before even arriving to Makkah, make sure to prepare a list of all the Duas you want to make during your trip. Ask your family and friends and you can make Duas on their behalf too. Doing so may help you make the most of seeking the love, blessings and mercy of Allah SWT.
Do not Leave without these Essentials
On top of the vital documents such as your passport, vaccination certificates and flight tickets, here is a list of items you should bring with you:
Pilgrims are encouraged to bring a reasonable supply of over-the-counter drugs for common ailments, as well as first aid supplies to deal with issues such as muscular pain, stomach problems, cuts, nausea, headaches, etc.
- Regular prescription medication
- Vaseline to avoid chafing
- Diarrhoea and dehydration relief for upset stomachs
- Paracetamol and ibuprofen (painkillers and for colds)
- Vitamin, energy and heartburn relief tablets
- Antihistamines for allergies
- Eye drops for dry eyes or conjunctivitis
- Deep heat patches and mentholated ointment for muscle pain
- Lozenges for sore throats
- Non-scented lip balms and antibacterial gel
- Handheld, portable fan for Mina
- Extra pair of comfortable sandals or slippers for walking
- Water spray to beat the heat
- Soluble Vitamin C: Top tip: add it to your water bottle for an extra boost.
- Blister Plasters
- Fragrance free Alcohol Free Sunscreen, soap, lotion. La Roche Posay Spf 50+ is the best.
Take hand sanitizer and wipes
So many problems can be avoided just by using these!
Pack your own Snacks
This is must. Hajj/Umrah can be unpredictable, there are delays and things may not go according to plans. Also new place means unfamiliar foods at times. Please keep in mind, at times you won’t have complete control of what and when you eat. Keep snacks with you at all times and in every bag – from plane snacks for traveling, to purse snacks for sightseeing, to suitcase snacks for when you’re in your hotel. That way, regardless of the eating challenges you encounter, you can supplement with your own food.
We will be discussing the food guide for Hajj/Umrah in Part 111.
Pack Sensible Clothes for Comfort and Ease
Although there are certain rules to follow when it comes to clothing during Hajj, you can still make sure you’re picking the most breathable fabric for the trip. Hajj for next five years will take place in hot weather; average temperature will be 40.c. Warm weather means packing lightweight coloured loose fitting clothes. Make sure your outfit is loose enough so it maximizes the flow of air through the clothing, allowing heat and moist air to escape.
- Abayas: wear one that is right for your height- don’t wear anything that is too long and flowy which may cause someone to step on you. Long dresses work just as well. You could just wear a skirt and top if you prefer, but one pieces are easier to handle.
The best fabrics for tropical climates are lightweight and made from natural materials such as cotton or linen. Avoid black as it can trap heat more quickly during the summer months. Bring a Light Sweater or Cardigan. Even in warmer climates, the temperature can drop in the evening or in air–conditioned buildings.
November to January means slightly cool weather, pack a light sweater and a shawl. Opt for cotton clothing.
Top tip: The two Holly mosques are fully air conditioned; Temperatures are low and can be cold for many people. Always keep a light shawl and light sweater with you.
- Bathroom slippers
- Easy to walk in slip-on shoes (like Crocs) for the majority of the time. Trainers for longer walks or for visiting the Cave of Hira
- Cotton socks
- Slipper-socks to put on in the Haram: these make Tawaf and Sa’i incredibly easier on the feet.
Support and Buddy System
Surround yourself with Support
By putting certain measures in place and asking for support from those around you – you can have a Pilgrimage packed with love, light and blessings while keeping your recovery intact.
Since the holy city will be packed with pilgrims, travellers can adopt a buddy system during the pilgrimage to help them on their travels. This is particularly helpful for those going to Hajj for the first time. It’s very easy to lose our sense of direction and it can get harder to navigate a new environment. A buddy system can help you get in and out of the mosque area as fast as possible and keep you safe during peak times.
As an added precaution, keep a piece of paper on your person at all times containing important details such as your name, hotel, country of origin and emergency contact number (preferably someone on the trip with you).
It is advisable to always buy and regularly top up a SIM card whilst you are out there in case of emergencies.
Also, always carry a photocopy of your passport or IDs and leave any official documents in a safe at your hotel or another secure place, to avoid losing it in large crowds of people.
Finally, despite being at the house of Allah and endeavoring a sacred journey, unfortunately large crowds generated by Hajj and Umrah can often attract predators and thieves. Make sure that you and other female members of your group are constantly alert during the entirety of the trip, stick together, keep your belongings with you and do your best to not travel alone in the surrounding areas.
There are a number of steps you can take to prevent heat exhaustion or to minimise its effects:
- Drink plenty of liquids (water, juices etc.) to stay well hydrated.
- Avoid prolonged exposure to the heat and the sun (although sometimes this may be unavoidable).
- Use an umbrella (preferably light-coloured) or head cover (if you’re not in the state of Ihram) and keep in the shade as much as possible.
- Wear loose, light clothes.
- Avoid making excessive effort.
- Rest sufficiently after performing Hajj and Umrah rituals.
Being sufficiently hydrated is vitally important to prevent heat exhaustion and other health risks. Copious amounts of water should be consumed during your stay.
Please be advised that tap water isn’t safe to drink in Saudi Arabia, although bottled water and Zamzam water is readily available.
Due to the hot conditions, the body conserves more water by concentrating urine and therefore, the need to pass urine is reduced. You must drink enough water such that the urine is clear, indicating good hydration.
As a general rule, you should aim to consume about three litres of liquid a day, with the vast majority of it coming from water although fruit juices and soups can be included in this amount. Tea and other caffeinated beverages may lead to dehydration because they can have a diuretic effect, so must be avoided or consumed in minimal amounts.
There are a number of preventative measures you can take to reduce the chances of contracting or spreading these infections:
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing, sneezing or using tissues.
- Avoid close contact with those who are ill.
- Wear a facemask, particularly in crowded places and importantly, if you suffer from an illness which has resulted in decreased immunity.
- Use single-use tissues.
- Cough or sneeze into your arm rather than your hand and turn away from people when doing this.
- Don’t share towels, cups, dishes and other cutlery.
Due to the intensity of the heat, a heat rash may appear on people who have sensitive skin. It occurs when the skin’s sweat glands are blocked which causes inflammation as sweat cannot reach the surface of the skin leading to a rash. The skin can become reddened and itchy and can prove quite a nuisance. If a rash does develop, calamine lotion can be used to soothe the skin and loose-fitting clothing should be worn.
As a result of travel, worship and the rites of Umrah and Hajj, it will prove difficult to sleep for more than 4 hours at a time. Sleep deprivation causes irritability, excessive drowsiness and yawning, which can interfere with balance, coordination, and decision-making abilities.
You will almost certainly experience some sleep deprivation and tiredness during your journey, so you must try to formulate a decent sleeping routine, ensuring you don’t omit any Hajj rites or compromise on your worship.
Here are a few tips if you find yourself in a crowd:
- Avoid peak times – Some Hajj rituals, such as Rami al-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 you 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 going on 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, especially if you’re a woman. It’s nice to have that bit of support, especially if you’re someone that struggles 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.
Practice sabr, sabr, sabr
Performing Hajj/Umra is a spiritual journey that involves a great deal of patience and perseverance. With the large number of people involved, there are bound to be difficulties that will arise during the trip. It is crucial to remember the importance of Sabr or patience and how it is a part of our iman.
When you are in difficult circumstances, remind yourself about the significance of Eid al-Adha, particularly Prophet Ibrahim’s (as) sacrifices and the overall objective of Hajj. Here at Homage, we hope you have a blessed Hajj and may this holy journey bring you closer to your faith.
Dua for Sabr
With these tips and good preparation Inshallah you will have a trip of a life time. This is a place where you all need to be, it’s a place of immense blessings and healing. If there’s one place which we highly recommend you travel to, it’s indeed Makka and Medina. Enjoy and Don’t forget to Pray for Everyone.