I don’t leave without making the du’a for travel and the ease that follows is amazing.

We get to the airport early as mum has a thing about being early to everything and I mean everything!
The family comes to see us off. My younger brother only comes as he feels it’s his God given right to be treated to food and drink at the airport at everyone else’s expense.
We see everyone off and it’s not as emotional as when we left home thankfully. My nieces took it real bad.
We waiting for the gate to be announced and I find the time to write out my du’a list that people ask for.
A brother walks over to us as he saw the hajj tag on the bags. He makes du’a for us and wishes us all the best.

Those who know me know I'm prone to the occasional mishap and it just happen that I had one right then.
We sitting there and I’m watching for the first sign of any announcement. All of a sudden next to our flight the numbers 11-15 appear which I took to be the gate number so I grab all the bags and make mum rush to gate 11. There I was trying to explain to the airport staff that the gate had been announced and even took the bloke to the notice board before I realise that it’s not gate 11-15 but estimated time of boarding 11.15!
I sit down quietly and hope mum don’t ask me about it.

We finally learn of the gate and sit in the departure area waiting. People come over and start to offer us food. Everyone real happy and the smiles start to spread across everyone’s faces. The sprit of the whole adventure was falling upon us and you could genuinely feel it.

Our seats are right next to the small prayer area on the plane. Result!
I learnt an important lesson on that plane and that is don’t leave home without Masah! Trying to wash your feet in those plane toilets is truly best left to contortionists.
Just before I went into the toilet a man was coming out and I had to call him back as he had left his false teeth in there!

I am so looking forward to being liberated from my phone and having a break from the hustle and bustle of day to day life. In the words of William Wallace ‘Freeeeeeedom’!!

I am waiting to pray in the designated area when a man comes up to me and asks how the Ihram garments go on. After I show him another comes and asks the same question. I asked if they hadn’t tried it at home to which they replied in the negative. I was wondering how on earth you come for this life changing experience and not tried to put on these two pieces of cloth that if you get wrong will lead to a embarrassing moment that you will never ever forget.
I was flabbergasted when a third man comes over and asks also.

Praying on the plane was strange. I remembered the words of Yunus (as) when he said he wanted to worship Allah in a place that no man had ever worshipped before. He may have had the whole of the depths of the ocean to himself but I had that little plot high up in the sky. I was a happy man.

The miqat was coming up us and the announcement went out. I wanted to be the first to recite the talbiyah and I was.
The labbayk starts around the plane. It’s like a glue that holds us all together. Everyone united by this.

Here I am oh Allah! Here I am! You Alone made this possible! You know my mother’s wish and You Alone made it come true! Glory be to You for You call even the insignificant back to Your House!

We arrive at night

Mum is crying tears of joy. I have never seen her this excited. The look on her face truly sums up what all of this means to her and how years and years of making du’a, crying, sometimes thinking it was never going to happen and then counting down the days for the last six months has come down to this.
The plane lands before we know it and the doors open. As soon as you step out it’s like a massive hairdryer blowing hot air at you. Instant heat.
We get into the airport and it has definitely changed since I was here last. So so much better. Last time I came they had us on the bus from the plane to the airport for so long we missed the whole of Fajr! A bus full of hajjis and they didn’t think that maybe we wanted to pray Fajr! It was an absolute joke last time.
Finally I can stop my, ‘Don’t use the airport toilet’ warning!
They are passing us through the airport in no time. Just as soon as we sit down they tell us to get up and go onto the next part.
We pass this one part where it’s packed full of African hajjis.
Brothers! If you have never waved and given salaam to a room full of African brothers I strongly recommend you do it if given the chance! You will make an army of friends in seconds! Beautiful smiles MashAllah!
If it wasn’t for a small hold up at the passport desk due to the group in front trying to wander round the airport we would have walked right through and out the airport.
The guy that checks the passport desk calls my mum ‘Hajji Momma’ which makes us laugh.
We get out the airport and they take us to a waiting area. Our luggage is put in containers and pulled by a buggy and we follow it.
Mum brings my attention to a group of Africans who are having to carry their luggage to the waiting areas and trust me it ain't a short distance.
We get to the waiting area and just relax for a bit and pray our Isha.
Mum wanted some water and a brother overheard her and gave me a bottle.
Made a mental note to remember him so I can make it up to him later.
We are not there long at all when we told our coach is ready and we board. We hand over our passports as we get on.
From the moment we land to the moment we board the coach is just under four hours! A new Saudi record me thinks!
Next salah will be Fajr at the HARAM!!
What could possibly go wrong now?

All I remember is sitting on the coach and then nothing after that.

Mum wakes me up and tells me we got to pray Fajr at this mosque.
This leads to some questions.
1) How did I sleep for 8 hours straight on the coach?
2) Why does it take 8 hours?
3) Where the heck am I?

Mum tells me the driver’s lost and can’t find our hotel.
I wouldn’t normally bat an eyelid but for the small fact we are staying at the Hilton for the first night! How on earth do you not know where the Hilton is?

I get out and go make wudu. This masjid is really nice! It’s got a long back rest that runs along the front row. This encourages people to sit in the front row and read Quran. Might have to suggest this for me local back home!
I suddenly remember that I’ve left me phone on the coach. If I was back home I would have had to run and get it but here I don’t seem bothered. Very strange.

We finally arrive at the Hilton and drop our bags. I go on a little exploring mission and find a glass elevator so I take it for a spin. I want to know how high it can go and take it all the way to the top.
I’m petrified as I hate heights but it’s all worth it. I chuckle to myself thinking of Charlie and the glass elevator.
I see it! I see it! I see it in all its glory! There it is! There is the Ka'bah!
There are so few people doing tawaf it looks like a picture we have on the wall at home.
I run to find mum and tell her that we need to go now.

There was a second reason why this trip was so special and that was my mum has a brother who I last met when I was two years old.
He works in Saudi and he has travelled to meet us. We are just minutes away from meeting.
The look on mum’s face is priceless.

We meet him by Gate 1. It is such an emotional meeting for us all.
Mum is very protective over her brother for two reasons. First, she is the oldest of her siblings and the only sister. He is the youngest brother.
Second is that their mother died when my mum was seven years old and my uncle was a baby. Mum raised him and her two other brothers and had to drop out of school to look after the family as her dad was very ill also.

We walk in. Mum keeps her eyes closed and holds my hand till she is right in front of the Ka’bah before opening them.
If I was given nothing else in this life but to just look at the Ka’bah then that would be more than enough for me.
Here the true reflection of your soul will manifest.
Here is where you will find out so much about yourself.
Here is where it matters.

I had the tawaf all worked out in my head with mum right behind me holding my hand but thing about plans is they rarely go how you expect.

I forgot to factor in that my uncle is as protective of my mum as I am. He takes her hand and gets right into the tawaf.
I stay by mum’s side and keep her away from being carried away by the moment and following some of the foolishness we see like people rubbing the Maqaamu Ibraheem.
An opening comes up to touch the Yemani corner so I take it and take mum also.
The tawaf is done in no time at all. Advantages of coming a month before Hajj.
We start the Sai which is absolutely empty.
Cleaners are out and they splashing water mixed with a cleaning agent over my feet which upsets me as I’m still in Ihram.
We finish, snip our hair and make our way back to the Hilton to change our clothes.
I find all my roommates in bed! Crazy! We only here for one day before we set off for Medina so why aren’t people making the most of it?

Me, mum and uncle spend the whole day out. Meet amazing people and also wonder where on earth that massive green clock came from along with the plush complex under it.
Meet one lady who unfortunately has lost her teenage son the day before during salah and has been sitting in the same spot so that maybe he would find her.
They don’t have a hotel and sleep outside. She wouldn’t even take a cup of tea till mum forced her.
Spend ages looking for a public call booth but they seem to have done away with most of them. Buy chips for our phones and then try texting family in England but can’t get through. I take the chips back and the guy tells me that due to the amount of people trying to use the networks they have real problems with them which begs the issue why he didn’t tell me half an hour ago when I bought them!

Mum loving the endless supply of Zamzam and we really drinking our fill.

Amazed at how well behaved the youngster are at salah time. No fighting amongst themselves and they try to get to the front.

Lots of stray cats. Lots of pigeons also but I like both.

I see a big group of Hujjaj outside the Haram with their shoulder uncovered. I smile and correct them and every single one listens. Amazing what gentleness can achieve.

We go back to hotel and get sleeping stuff as I want to sleep outside the Haram tonight as does mum.

Let this be a lesson as to how hard we are in Luton! My elderly mum is giving up her comfortable bed in the Hilton to sleep on hard floor! In the end the ladies convince mum that we have a lot of travelling to do tomorrow so she will need a good night’s sleep so here I am at 10.55pm sitting with the Ka’bah a welcomed sight in front of me writing as the colourful trains of people go by. There is something so hypnotic about it all.

I was faced with a huge issue yesterday and I made du’a in the Haram for a resolution to it. Not only was it resolved but the resolution was far, far better then I could have ever imagined.
Glory be to you Oh Allah! You turned sadness to joy!

My calves are demanding a long shower to make up with me but I don’t think my feet are going to forgive me anytime soon. Think I am going to reminded of the pain they gone through for the next few days. I am going to try to bribe them with a nice Radox bath salt soak to try to win them over.

There are some new additions in the Haram that were not here before.
They now have see through bags that you can get inside the main entrances for your shoes and also fans that blow air and water at anyone in the vicinity.

I sleep outside and get woken twice by the cleaning machines. Nothing makes you jump up like a big machine driving towards your head! I have a great knack of being able to sleep almost anywhere so that definitely comes in handy.

I pray fajr and make way back to hotel. We need to get our things ready for Medina. I’m very chuffed that my bed has not even been laid upon.

Lads in my room want to go for a meal later in the week. Think I’ll have steak.

Getting ready to go Medina. Uncle going to meet us there.

On way mum reminds me about the hijrah.

We stop at some service station that looks like the scene from Terminator 2 after the whole area was wiped out.
I’m watching a cat. We all throw food for it and I watch it carry a whole piece of chicken in its mouth without taking even a bite from it. I couldn’t work it out until I saw it put it down and a kitten came and started eating while it stood guard. A mother’s love is a mother’s love.

Arrive in Medina. Time to hand over passports again but problem is we have six passports of people who not even on our coach and two people on our coach who don’t have passports. Looks like we are not going anywhere fast.

Alhumdulillah the group sorts the issue out very quickly and we off.
We arrive again at night and the beauty of Masjid Al Nabawi is there for all to see. Our hotel is literally next to it.
Mum is over the moon. So good to see her so happy.
The feeling of calm just sweeps over you.

Very organised system and we are in our rooms in no time.
We decide to go right to the masjid right away.
We go to give salaam to the Messenger of Allah (May the eternal peace of Allah be upon him) and his two noble companions (May Allah be forever pleased with them)
I remember the beautiful du’a of Imam Ali where he asked that they all be united in the Hereafter as he would always hear Allah’s Messenger talking about how he, Abu Bakr and Umar had done everything together.
A brother with us is so overwhelmed that he bursts into tears.
We decide to go back and pray in the rawda. I’ve never ever prayed in there due to the pushing and shoving that goes on and my fear of accidently hurting someone but I have two old uncles with me who ask me to go with them so I go. I take them in and it’s every bit as packed as I thought. Two huge Turkish brothers are forming a mini wall allowing people to pray one at a time in a small area. We take this chance for the two uncles and then the Turkish brothers tell me to pray. My first time and inshaAllah it won’t be my last.

Mum now has a little band of merry women who she goes round with.

She tells me not to worry about her. A huge weight off my mind.

My uncle is going to meet us after Fajr. We eat together.
Even though food provided as part of our Hajj package we like eating out. It’s another thing that makes me chuckle seeing as mum has never ever wanted to eat out when we back home.
We do some shopping and it’s quite funny how me and uncle both compete to keep my mum happy.

We come back to the hotel so mum can give her brother the huge bag of clothes she has brought over for him and other bits.
It’s amazing to see how he views things. No look at labels or price. Just happy with practicality.
A beautiful thing.

All the umbrellas open! Wow they have been busy! Umbrellas everywhere and good thing too as I’ve never seen so many people in Medina!
I was worried about the crowds in Mecca but this place is heaving!
I’ve never seen women pray outside the designated areas before but there are tons of them so the guards have their hands full ensuring the segregation is to the level we expect in Medina.

Man in my room old enough to be my grandfather. Really nice man truly he is but he keeps calling me ‘Bhai’ which means brother.
Either he is reliving his youth or I’m suffering without my Oil of Olay twice a day.

Think I’ll have my afternoon siesta outside under an umbrella.

I provide a cup of water for a person and he is very grateful yet Allah provides for all of these hundreds of thousands of people each day of their lives.

I don’t see a single sad face. Everyone is smiling and happy. I wonder if there is another place like this in the world.

I am enticed into entering a designer fragrance shop but a salesman quoting me £53 for something that costs me £40 back in England.
He couldn’t work out why I wouldn’t buy it so when I asked him for a reason as to why I should he said ‘More baraka in Medina one!’
He looked puzzled as I laughed and laughed my way out the shop.

A man stopped me and asked for a spare set of clothes but didn’t ask me for money. Maybe I am a style icon after all.

More relatives come to see us. Didn’t know we had so many here.

I love seeing people that look like people I know. That way I remember the person I know and make du’a for them.

I bought my uncle a watch. Got a master plan. Buying him a present will increase the love between us. Then on top mum will be very happy with me and then Allah is pleased because my mum is happy with me.
A watch is a small price to pay for that.

I got a surprise for mum also. Hope I can pull it off.

I’m not a big fan of shopping before Hajj. I hate thinking about it until I’ve done the Hajj but due to the fact we going back to England a couple of days after Hajj complete I don’t have much choice.

That night me and a brother couldn’t sleep so we grabbed a taxi and went to an area called Sultania. They have a Next, Dominos Pizza, KFC, McDonalds here and lots more. We have midnight burgers and swear each other to secrecy from the other lot in the group. No mention is to be made of this dastardly deed.

Amazing how you can get two hours sleep and still make it to the masjid for salah.

We are going Masjid Quba this morning.

It’s packed! Nothing like last time I came. I was expecting another Rawda-like situation but thankfully people praying and leaving, making room for others. We get to travel for five riyal there and back in a private van we hired. Bargain.

Apparently my late night munch buddy didn’t go to bed after we returned and went to the mosque instead. There he got smacked quite hard by a guard and he been whinging about it all morning and afternoon.

One thing I’ve learnt is people go nuts for anything free. No order or control. In this case its all for a free leaflet or book.
This Ummah needs more leaders and less followers.
All it would take is for one person to form order but they let mayhem ensue.

I have arranged mum’s treat for the morning. Don’t ask me how (because I won’t tell) but I have arranged for mum to be taken to the Rawda and to have her own space to pray for as long as she wants without being disturbed.

I too have the same deal and go to the Rawda and make du’a for so many people by name. I am here for so long that I am even given a chair. Strangers start to shake my hand thinking I am someone of importance!

Mum wants to go shopping. She sees what she likes and buys it. None of this ‘lets keep on looking’ carry on.
Like it, buy it and take it. Simple.
Another reason I love her so much.

A few of the lads decide we going for a midnight tour. We couldn’t have picked a more off-key driver if we had tried.
This guy did not like us and I am sure he was swearing at us and not under is breath either. It was a mad trip. We were having a laugh amongst ourselves and maybe he thought we was laughing at him. Who knows?
We did not leave on good terms.
Had another midnight munch.
We find another driver to take us back. He was an amazing guy with great conversation.
I was so impressed I actually tipped the guy and I never tip but I gladly break my rule for him.

Due to the time restraint we are unable to get mum to the Rawda at the agreed time. I am gutted but InshAllah she will be in there Friday.

I really have got to stop bringing books with me. I always worry I won’t find anything here so I bring my own and then end up with five times the amount that I bring with me.

We got to see the umbrellas close today. Amazing.

Me thinks that starting a conversation with a stranger is becoming a lost art. Many times I start the conversation by offering the man next to me some of my itar and off we go from there. I love it when someone beats me to starting the conversation.

I keep forgetting that for many this is a once in a lifetime first experience but I don’t think the feeling is all that different from how I feel. I don’t think you can ever get relaxed or not caught up in the moment in this sort of environment.

I don’t have ‘knock in nails’ feet like some other men here so my baby soft ones are taking a pounding.

Bought a bucket. I throw in my Radox salts, add hot water and soak feet.
Instant ‘aaahhhhhhh’.

I watch a young Bangladeshi who I assume works in the masjid. I watch him give dawah to a group of Bangladeshi elders. I didn’t understand a word but I understand adab and he had it in abundance. It was so plain to see Alhumdulillah. He engaged them in an amazing manner. He smiles throughout and lets them have their saying without cutting in at anytime. He asks them questions and answers theirs. When salah time came and he had to leave every single one of the elders gets up to hug him such was the effect he had on them. You could tell it wasn’t out of courtesy but sheer love.