May 18, 2012

A woman traveling on her own to Mecca

Every year over three million people descend upon Mecca from all corners of the world to obey one of the five pillars in Islam. It is not a trip for the weak-hearted, but an enormous and strenuous undertaking. Women cannot travel to Mecca without a mah’ram which can be a brother, a father, a nephew or a male relative in the family. This article will deal only with dress code, behavior, and what is and what is not allowed in the holy city of Mecca.

Behavior in the holy city

At hajj classes a few months before leaving for Mecca, the imam leading the group said something I will never forget: “One of the most important requirements for this trip is sab’r – patience – and you will need a lot of it. From the moment you arrive in Jeddah you will be tested. You might have to wait four or six hours for a bus to take you into Medina, and then when the bus arrives, the driver first has to have his tea and his cigarette. And when he is ready he leaves. Here, when you are traveling, you are traveling by South African rules. There, you are traveling by their rules. Don’t try to be smart with the Arab.”

Do’s and don’ts

• Think carefully about your accommodation and spend an extra thousand for a room just for you and one other person.

• If you are a smoker do not travel with a non smoker. Women are not allowed to smoke on the street and end up smoking in their rooms.

• Travel with someone you know well and have been friends with for a long time. This makes it easier to negotiate things.

• Make sure that what is in the contract is what you get; it is too late when you are standing in front of a hotel and your name is not on the list.

• Negotiate things like showers and whether the air conditioning should be switched on before or after prayers at the Kabaa. The same with switching off the light at night. Some people pray the whole night and leave it on making it difficult for the other people to sleep.

• Travel light. You need only two bras, two sets of ihram, three panties, two pairs of socks as things dry easily. You wash out one pair and wear the other.

• Take all your vitamins and medications and make sure you have enough to last the whole six weeks you are gone. Have a doctor’s prescription as they are strict with drugs.

• Have a bladder prescription from the doctor and an all-round antibiotic in case you contract bronchitis or pneumonia from going in and out of air conditioned premises.

• Pack in a box or two of glycerine suppositories, especially for those outdoor toilets where you have to squat.

• Buy a good pair of walking shoes for that long road through the tunnel.

• Have a cloth bag with a good shoulder strap where you can keep the rolled up prayer mat, bottle of water, and dates.

• Bring along a piece of elastic to tie around your waist so that your robe can be hoisted up around your hips when you go to the outside toilet which is wet.

• Have enough bottled water and toilet paper if you are going to visit a site which will take longer than an hour.

• Drink lots of water and avoid sugary drinks.

Should your kids sleep with you in the same bed?

Your kids should definitely not sleep in the same bed as you and your husband. Besides the fact that it is the place where you come to rest and sleep at night after a full day’s work and activity, it is your sanctuary. Sleeping in your bed is also not good for children as it encourages co-dependency and other habits. I am not referring to a child waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares and wetting the bed. That is a different case. It would be all right under those circumstances to clean him up and bring him into your dry bed, and only for the night. He is a child and should not be in bed with his parents. Your bedroom is private.

Reasons why a child should not sleep with his parents

• It encourages co-dependency and he will get used to sleeping with you and the habit then will be harder to break.

• Your child’s presence in the bed will interfere with intimacy.

• You all will feel cramped and will not have a good night’s sleep. In the morning all of you would be cranky.

• You can’t watch television as he is in the bed with you and will wake up.

• He is a child and should go to bed at the right time for his age. You could leave the door ajar so he does not become afraid.

These are only some of the reasons why he should sleep in his own bed besides what a child psychologist will tell you. Bedtime is an important thing for a child especially if he is already highly strung. Take him to bed at his regular time, read him a story, and put off the light. If he gets out of bed, put him back again. If he starts to cry and goes into your bed, get him and put him in his own bed. Do not shout or scream at him, and don’t spank. Tell him to go to bed and tell him that if he does not stop you will close the door. Raise the tone in your voice a little to let him know you are serious and tell him again that he has his own bed and that mommy and daddy sleeps alone. Don’t bribe him or offer him chips or sweets. He has to brush his teeth and go to bed.