Hajj/Umrah Guide Part 111- Food Anxiety and Food Safety Tips

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Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Whosoever performs Hajj while having abstained from acts of lewdness, obscenities, and wrangling, shall come home like a newborn (washed clean of sins).”

 (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

 

 

Please Note: Hajj or Umrah poses a number of additional challenges due to the hot climate, the strenuous nature of its rites as well as the gathering of large crowds. Please be careful, take things easily and take extra caution.

 

 

Dear Readers,

 

Please find part 111 of our Hajj/Umrah Guide, Managing Food Issues. One of the big issues people face while traveling is related to food. Could there be a more perfect breeding ground for worry than food anxiety when traveling? You’re in a different country, with unfamiliar foods. Preparing your own meals is out of your control. Food anxiety when traveling is a common issue even among the most experienced travellers. We need to remind ourselves that travel and time away are always only temporary. Soon we’ll come back to our normal routine and we’ll be eating our normal foods.

 

Common food anxieties that come up:

  • Fear of getting too hungry while traveling
  • Worrying about unknown
  • Fear of not finding the foods we are accustomed to

 

People suffering from eating disorders have a huge problem with anything that is unfamiliar or different, they are often worried about the unfamiliar foods they might come across when outside. New place new foods can cause a lot of anxiety and we also have to be mindful that our choice of breakfast, specific brand may not always be available. In 2019, when I went for Umra, I did take lots of snacks with me. It made thigs easier but I also felt how it alienated me, I was simply repeating the same routine I had in UK.

However this year in Ramadan 2023, I didn’t pack any snacks with me from Pakistan. I purchased everything in Makka and in Medina and it opened me to new worlds of brands and foods. It also taught me how not to panic when things suddenly change and you are presented with foods you had never eaten before.

There’s so much more to health than being physically ‘well,’ and so much more to life than fitness overall. Your routine is only ever healthy so long as it allows you to live your life fully.

 

Yet, if you’re overly fixated on maintaining a rigid routine during your time, these experiences aren’t so easy to enjoy so freely. You might refrain from sampling certain foods and choose instead to eat only what’s ‘safe.’ There’s two different ways to tackle it: either you can bite the bullet and simply try new food when you’re abroad or you can build up to it slowly. It significantly reduces your anxiety before you travel, making the whole experience less stressful for you.

 

Here are few travel and food tips to alleviate that stress and make traveling much more successful for you:

 

Research foods you’re likely to encounter

A large part of food anxiety when traveling is simply a fear of the unknown.

What if it contains something you absolutely hate?

Make the unknown known.  Pilgrimage offers an incredible opportunity to learn about new cultures and practices, and food is often central to this experience. In Makka and Medina, food is a fundamental part of the people’s way of life and, to gain a deeper understanding of this world, partaking in mealtime rituals and sampling the local delicacies is an absolute must. Makka and Medina are so famous for their edible offerings that skipping these delights would be to miss out on a whole portion of the experience

Expose yourself to something similar before you leave

There’s two ways you can do this.

The first is by interrogating your local supermarket, restaurants

The second method is to peruse the recipes. Please keep in mind every cuisine from around the world is available here, problem however is looking for it and this can waste precious prayer time. As you’ll be traveling in group or with family, please be aware that hunting for your preferred meals/cuisine may not be open for option. You may have to go for typical local food at times.

Before you go, do sample local Saudi Foods like Mandi, fouel and tamees etc.

With both methods, you might still be nervous about trying them – they’re still unfamiliar, after all. But every bite is a win, a triumph over your anxiety – rest assured

Don’t expect to be completely over your food anxiety before you travel

Food anxiety when traveling is a sneaky beast, and generally rooted in fears that go back a long way. Don’t put pressure on yourself, and expect to be completely over it before you travel.

Retaining some anxiety is completely normal, and you’ll probably still have a bit of an increased heartbeat when you are exposed to something unfamiliar. But it’s important to remember that you’re not under any pressure – if you’ve been slowly researching and exposing yourself to these new flavors, you’re going to at least partially know what to expect. If you still don’t like the dish when you try it, that’s absolutely fine – but the chances are that you know what you’re eating, and you know it’s going to be okay.

 

On the Day of Travel

 

Eat ahead of time. If you know you are going to the airport, make sure you eat a well balanced meal ahead of time. That way, if you end up having to rush, you will already be fully charged /

 

Pack snacks. I highly recommend packing snacks for at least first three days. After three days hit the local super market and buy snacks from there. In Makka and Medina you will find everything. Protein bars are a satiating snack to have on hand. Pack Unsalted Almonds and Walnuts as these also provide the highest content of Omega –  Make your nut snack more fun by adding dried fruit, pretzels, or dried edamame to add color, crunch, and flavor.

 

Airport snack stops. Sometimes we are rushing out the door, and we cannot prepare the way we want to. Almost every airport has a “news stand” store full of snacks. Many of them have bags of nuts and selections of protein bars that you can snatch if you didn’t have time to pack them. You can also grab a greek yogurt or a hummus snack container from the refrigerated section.

 

Pass security and beeline for that WATER. One of the most important things to take on the plane with you is WATER. Buy sufficient supply of water. I recommend buying at least x3 500 ml bottles.

 

 

 In Makka and Medina

 

What to Eat

 

Like any country in the world Saudi Arabia has authentic food that they are known for and is worth trying for anyone who visits the country even if its just Makkah and Madinah you are visiting. Mind you, if you’re there for a few days only and for the purpose of Umrah, you may not get the time nor will you find too many authentic spots near the mosque itself. But if you get a bit of time or if you’re there for longer, then you may consider trying to find these dishes to try.

·      Mandi
·      Ma’soob (Yemeni Breakfast)

·      Foul and Tamees Foul (fava beans) is an Egyptian breakfast classic and it is extremely popular in Saudi Arabia too. Here it is consumed with a bread called Tamees.

Take snacks with you everywhere to the mosque to Ziyaras, everywhere because of the unpredictable nature of things. 

Pack some raw almonds or snack-sized cups of peanut butter,  greek yogurt, granola bars,  protein shake/. These will keep you afloat when you feel hungry or low in energy.  In both holy cities you will food shops, snack shops in abundance.

 

Tips to avoid stomach problems when traveling

 

Be careful with water

Only drink bottled water, and avoid drinks with ice in them. Copious amounts of water should be consumed during your stay. 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.

 

Take hand sanitizer and wipes

So many problems can be avoided just by using these!

elf-medicating with products like Imodium (buying it online saves blushes, am I right?), or Jianas Brothers Rehydration Salts.

To prevent food poisoning:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or use a disinfectant hand cleanser, especially after going to the toilet and before eating or handling food.
  • Don’t keep cooked food in buses when travelling between Hajj sites.
  • Wash raw vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating, especially those that won’t be cooked.
  • Don’t drink tap water.
  • Avoid unpasteurised milk or foods made from unpasteurised milk.
  • Avoid foods that have an unusual odour or a spoiled taste.
  • Avoid buying food from street vendors.

Keep away from uncovered food which is exposed to insects and pollution

Constipation

Constipation may be caused by a change in diet and/or a lack of hydration. It may result in haemorrhoids and fissures which may severely negatively impact your Hajj or Umrah. To prevent constipation:

  • Maintain a high-fibre diet e.g. high fibre cereal, wholemeal bread, dried fruit, fresh fruit, vegetables etc.
  • Drink lots of liquid.

 

Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is also common during Hajj or Umrah, often caused by consuming contaminated food or water. To prevent diarrhoea:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or use a disinfectant hand cleanser, especially after going to the toilet and before eating food.
  • Don’t share towels, cups, dishes and other cutlery.
  • Drink lots of liquid, preferably oral rehydrating fluids, such as Hydrol or Rehydrate.
  • Eat carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables.
  • Avoid taking anything to stop the diarrhoea if it is very frequent.

 

If you feel a panic attack coming on, let it happen

Even with all your preparations, food anxiety when traveling can sometimes get on top of you, and that can lead you into a panic attack.

If you feel a panic attack coming on, let it happen. It’s better to do that than to expend energy fighting it off, leaving you weak and miserable.

 

 

 

Managing Food Triggers at Haj/Umrah Part IIII coming soon. 

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About Author

Islam and Eating Disorders founded in 2012 – run by Maha Khan, the blog creates awareness of Eating Disorders in the Muslim world, offers information and support for sufferers and their loved ones.

3 Comments

  1. Umrah is truly a spiritual journey of a lifetime. I went on my first Umrah last year, and the experience was absolutely transformative. The sense of peace and connection I felt in the holy city of Mecca is indescribable. May Allah accept the prayers and efforts of all those embarking on this sacred journey

  2. I appreciate how you’ve emphasized the importance of respectful behavior and patience during Umrah. It’s crucial for all pilgrims to remember that we are guests in a sacred land, and our actions should reflect our faith and respect for the local culture. May Allah bless everyone with a safe and meaningful journey

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