Some 20 years ago, I visited Makkah and Madina for the last time before moving back to Pakistan. 20 years forward, I went for Umrah again with my parents this year. I remember many things from the past, but some memories had started to fade a bit. The journey was rediscovery of my memories, and a collection of new ones.
Previously we had always done Umrah from Saudi Arabia, with every detail in our hands from what time to leave home, how many stops to take during the journey, when to arrive at Makkah or Madina, when to leave for Riyadh etc. Now, we had to rely on a travel agent to make most of our plans. After lots of research we settled on Hujaj Travel and Services (Adamkath group) for 2 reasons. One: the package they offered was good in terms of cost plus the distances of hotels from the Holy Mosques were less than what others were offering; Two: one of their office was near our home and given the number of times we had to visit them, it was a sensible choice.
At both places, the hotels offered were 150m from the Holy Mosques in both the cities. The hotels were not too lavish, but they weren’t bad either. They were comfortable and reasonable. There are multiple airline options as well, we chose Emirates because it is reliable and the price was lesser than Saudia Airlines. The only downside was connecting flights, as it always transits at Dubai. If we had planned the trip some months ago, we would have opted for Saudia Airlines, which offer a direct flight to and from Jeddah; it would have costed us less.
We got a customized package for ourselves from the travel agent. The travel agent offers 15 days of Umrah packages divided into 3 legs; 3 nights in Makkah, 8 in Madina and then 3 again in Makkah. This means at least 2 days are wasted travelling between cities. We opted to go to the Madina first and then to Makkah, and decided to stay longer in Makkah. The choice depends on traveller, most people just don’t opt to get a customized package. The cost also changes according to customization, so it has to be carefully thought. Saudia Airlines has a connecting flight for Madina; the flight transits at Riyadh.
After all the preparations, we left for Madina on 12 March 2015, with anticipation and excitement to go to the very place we loved from the depths of our hearts… (continued…)