All pilgrims stay in tents in Mina. Mina now has permanent fire-proof tents with air-conditioning and electricity. They are quite comfortable compared to the previous tents. For most the bed is either a carpet or a thin foam mattress. The tents are designed so it can be sub-divided, depending on the size of your group. Men and women are in separate tents.
All pilgrims are housed in large canvass tents in Arafat. They are not as comfortable as the Mina tents. Then again, you do not need comfort in Arafat.
Your night stay in Muzdalifah will certainly make up for anything that you may have complained about. If the 5 star accommodation you were promised did not eventuate, or even the 2 star place, in Muzdalifah you will have as many stars as you like, when you lay on the ground looking to the sky and counting the stars. Yes, all pilgrims spend the night in the open in Muzdalifah.
Accommodation problems cause so many disputes and frustration for the pilgrims. This is due to many reasons. One of the most common reasons is that the agents make too many promises they cannot keep. Another reason is that the pilgrims' expectations are sometimes too high and unrealistic. One cannot compare this trip (in accommodation, transport facilities, etc.) to any other trip. Hajj is unique!
Even though there are 5 star hotels (at 10 star prices), most accommodation in Makkah is geared to be functional rather than fashionable. Most of the rooms/apartments are sparsely furnished with the bare minimum, yet clean, neat and tidy. Do not expect the same standard 5 or 4 stars, as most are about 2 stars, if not less. Some are minus 2 stars, so be prepared. How you rate the accommodation will depend on what you are used to. Those that are used to luxury may be in for a shock. Try to always think of those that are worse off than you.
You must clarify with your agent exactly what you are paying for.
There are various types of packages with a varying range of accommodation. Let your agent explain to you in detail what type of accommodation they provide. If you are told your accommodation is close to the Haram (mosque), ask how high up. There are plenty of hilly streets, and although you may be “close”, the hills can be very tiring and strenuous. This is especially important for those with leg or back ailments as well as the not-so-young pilgrims.
There are some packages that move the pilgrims from Makkah to Aziziah (a suburb in Makkah, near Mina) about ten days before the actual Hajj. Other packages move the pilgrims after the Hajj (12th). These packages normally cost less as the building in Makkah is rented out again. This is a good option if you are on a low budget. The drawback is that you will not be near the Haram as it is not within walking distance. Transport by bus is normally provided.
Like most things, the more you pay the better the accommodation. If you prefer en-suite type rooms, or only two persons per room, then it will cost you much more. Most accommodation has separate quarters for men and women. Don't let the name of the accommodation (Makkah Palace) fool you.
Many pilgrims have a sort of comradeship attitude when planning and making their bookings. They are all very keen to live in the same building or to share rooms. Once in Makkah, it is another story. Take what is convenient for you and your partner and avoid making decisions based on others requirements. Trust us, even if it is with close family!
If you are able to choose the floor you can be on, choose the lower floors as the elevators get extremely busy. This way you can use the stairs when needed. One drawback though: if the hotel is located in a busy street, the noise of the cars can be very disturbing at night when you are trying to sleep.
If the package has an option to include food, we suggest you take it. If you choose not to, at least choose to include food for the Hajj days.
If the package has an option to include the sacrifice, we suggest you take it.
Do not take anything for granted; ask questions so you know what you are paying for.
Most of the accommodation facilities (Makkah, Mina, Arafat) have the “eastern toilets”. If you have been reared in the west and are not familiar with these “flat toilets“, the trick“ is to sit and lean (rest) slightly more on your left leg.
Ask your agent or any person recommending accommodation at least the following questions. These questions are applicable to both Makkah and Madinah:
- How far is it from the mosque (by time)?
- Are there any hills or hilly streets on the way?
- Are there any stairs to climb to get to the building?
- How many persons will share a room?
- Are the men and women separate?
- How many bathrooms are there per room?
- How many elevators are there?
- On which floor will you be and how many rooms per floor are there?
- Is the hotel located in a busy or a main street?
- Do the rooms have telephones, refrigerators, air-conditioning, etc.?
- Do the people (receptionists) who manage the hotel speak English?
- Do they provide a room cleaning service?
- Do they provide laundry facilities?
- Is food included? If yes, what type of food is provided? (If I choose not take the food option, is food provided for the Hajj days?)
- Are there kitchen/cooking facilities in the rooms?
- Who will represent the agent during the trip?
- Will you be moved to Aziziah prior to Hajj?
- Will the rooms be available during the Hajj days?
- Will the rooms be available after Hajj?
Let us give you some reasons why these questions are important. Many smaller hotels only have one phone line, so the chance of anyone calling you from home getting through to you is zero, as the line will always be busy; many receptionists don't speak a word of English, so the chances of getting anything done or getting any telephone message are zero. Most of the big 5 star hotels, are rented in the following manner for Hajj:
Up to 1st Dhul-Hijja - Group 1 (country 1)
1st to 7th Dhul-Hijja - Group 2 (country 2)
8th to 13th Dhul-Hijja - Group 3 (country 3)
14th onwards – Group 4 (country 4)
So if you wondered why the facilities in these hotels are in such bad shape, you know now why.
If you have the option of paying a deposit and paying the rest once you are in Makkah, take advantage of this option.
Once you have decided about your Makkah and Madinah accommodation, don't forget to ask:
- What the format of the actual Hajj package is:
6 days - 8th to Mina until the 13th
5 days - 8tth to Mina until the 12th
5 days - 9th to Arafat until the 13th in Mina
4 days – 9th to Arafat until the 12th in Mina
- How many will share a tent in Mina?
- Are the buses air-conditioned?
- How far is your tent from the Namira mosque in Arafat?
- How far are you from ”Jabal-Rahmah” (Mount of Mercy) in Arafat?
- How far are you from the jamr'at in Mina?
- Will the group spend the night in Muzdalifah?
- Will food be provided in Muzdalifah?
- On which day will the group return to Makkah to perform Tawaaf-al-Ifadah? Is transport provided?
The agent in your country may not have all the answers, but they should be able to give you a fair idea of what to expect. Keep in mind that there are many things that are beyond the control of the agent, so always try to see the issue from both sides.
There are many roads and it all depends on which road you take, what time you leave, where your camp is located, etc.
Another important point to keep in mind: the owners of the hotels, buildings, tents and the agents are not necessarily in the same “spiritual state” as you are. This is their business and livelihood, so do not expect them to be very compassionate or to lose money on the deal. If they do not make sufficient money, then the service you get will suffer. (Maybe you believe they make too much money. Well, that's another story!)
If you are not too fussed about things and have a tight budget, we suggest you take the package that costs the least. This way you will not worry and complain about how much things cost you. Even if you pay a lot, say "Alhamdulillah" to whatever comes your way.
One final note: after all the precautions, preparations and planning that you may have done, still be prepared not to get what you paid for or have been promised. The later (closer to Hajj) you arrive the more likely it is that this will happen.