May the peace and blessings of Almighty Allah be upon you.
I did my second Umrah in 2022 alone (first one was in 2017 with my family), All praise goes to Allah! Here it is how I did it with help from lord of the Universe.
It was a fine Sunday (I believe, I forgot when I write this, but I am more or less sure because I meet my friends on weekends), I was in half sleep and laying on my bed and the Reddit notification (How I got my multi-entry Saudi eVisa as the UAE resident) was popped up on my phone. Yes! You heard it right. Reddit!
It triggered my brain to focus on it. The Reddit post goes with step-by-step instructions, how the one posted has applied his/her Saudi multi-entry evisa by being resident of the UAE (Yes, you heard it right. If you are resident in the Middle East, you are eligible for Saudi eVisa irrespective of any passport you hold). I am already aware of Saudi Tourist visa enable someone who hold it to perform Umrah (Unless non-Muslim). I had gone through the post one more time, and it is time for me todo my own research.
After my due diligence, it is time for me to kick-start the process. I registered the profile in Saudi Visa Portal and went to meet my friends as usual. I didn’t have my laptop on me. Furthermore, I asked my friend to give me his laptop, and I just logged in again to the Saudi Visa Portal and completed the application. In the next couple of seconds, a valid multi-entry one year eVisa was in my inbox. There are people suggesting another website. But the one I registered is the official website from Saudi Government where you can validate your eVisa at later stage.
There are few things to be considered here; Saudi enabled a couple of years before
- eVisa and/or Visa on arrival for US, UK, or one of the Schengen country valid visa holders (irrespective of tourist or business visa used at least once)
- eVisa for Permanent Resident holders from US, UK or Europe Union
- eVisa and/or Visa on arrival for around 50 countries passport holders
The new addition is the one who has valid residency from GCC with certain eligible professions (my profession is eligible from the list) can also obtain eVisa recently. Coming to my point, I don’t have either one of the above :)
But what makes me to still go ahead and apply for eVisa? I hold UAE Long-Term multi-entry 5 years valid visit visa. Then it is with Allah to help me to visit his home. I called my wife (She is not with me that time) and I told her that I am going to Umrah. In sha Allah!. She said, “What? Are you serious?”. I said, “Yes, if he (Allah) wants”. She said, “Okay, May Allah make it ease for you!”. One of the common mindset my wife and I share is “No need to fear of changes, let’s face it. It is Allah who make it ease for us. In sha Allah”. It must be the mindset of every Muslims too, to have faith in Allah and the destiny hereafter.
Now it is time to book my flights. I don’t have plan to rush for Umrah (Even though, my intention to do it at the earliest). I had a couple of personal errands lined up for the next one month. Hence, I searched for flights after one month travel itinerary. Singapore to Jeddah it was so expensive in Scoot. So, I checked Saudia Airlines it was good deal, and it’s my first time to experience with Saudia Airlines hospitality too. Hold on! Before book my flights I have to decide and ensure my stay in Makkah, because it is DIY Umrah
I called my hometown friend, who is working in Makkah for around a decade. I told him that I am coming for Umrah, In sha Allah!. “Yes, you can. You always have a place to stay. Just tell me your arrival date” He replied. I said, “I haven’t decided yet. But it won’t be more than 5 days”. He said, “Try to be here on Friday, so I will be free. Also, make sure at least stay for a week if you can’t land on Friday. So we can goto Medina on following Friday for Jummah. In sha Allah” and we hanged up.
I curiously looked into such suggestion provided by my friend and booked my flight accordingly. I am landing on Sunday in Jeddah, King Abdul Aziz International Airport, Terminal 1. Return flight exactly one week after, landing on Saturday in Singapore, Changi Airport. I called him again and given my flight detail. I later focused on my other errands until my date of flying. Meanwhile, I bought my Ihram when I went outside along with my wife. The one I used last time was used by my father and I don’t know where it has gone :)
Enroute to Jeddah
On the departure day, my other friend in Singapore accompanied me to Airport. We took the MRT to airport since I don’t have fancy stuffs to bring there, and I always travel light. After reaching airport, I got my boarding pass and we both went for a Tea. Few mins before boarding time, we bid adieu near departure gate. I finished my immigration in Singapore Changi airport’s egates and proceeded to gate directly. I called up my couple of other friends and told them that I’m heading for Umrah. In sha Allah!
Boarded flight, I have done my Isha prayer on board. Saudia Airlines is famous for a praying area on board. The hospitality and services were great. It was early in the morning when the flight just crossed Oman and Saudi border, I have 45 mins before reaching Miqat (principal boundary at which Muslim pilgrims intending to perform the Hajj or Umrah must enter the state of Ihram). I changed to my Ihram and start to recite the Talbiyah with my heart and soul silently on board. (I was prepared for the state of Ihram before I was boarding the flight)
The Immigration in Jeddah Inernational Airport
It is the new Terminal, Saudia Airlines operate from here. I went to the immigration officer and said Salam and handed over my passport and eVisa paper. He asked my UAE Resident card, I said that I don’t have one, but I had given my UAE 5 Years Long-Term multi-entry visa. He was confused for a moment and phoned his colleague in Tourist Visa lounges for visa on arrival passengers.
Not only that, but he took me to the Visa on arrival lounge and explained to me that since I don’t have GCC residency, I am not eligible for eVisa. But the Saudi eVisa was issued to me based on my UAE Visa. So he said that he can allow me this time, also he suggested to don’t use the same eVisa next time in the one year though it is valid. I said, “Jazakhallah” and he smiled and blessed me. He took me to his immigration counter again and chopped my passport with Entry seal and wished me. I said Salam and went to baggage counter to collect my luggage.
Meanwhile, I was chatting with my friend the moment the flight landed, and he is waiting for me in the parking lot. I proceeded to meet him in the airport visitors area. He paid the parking fee, and we headed to his home in Makkah in his car. It was dawn, time for Fajr prayer when we were nearing Makkah Governorate (non-Muslims not allowed to enter into this protected zone). There is small Mosque near to his house, we joined in Fajr prayer on time.
After prayer, we just headed to his home. He made Tea (his family was back in our hometown), I brought some snacks from Singapore. We had Tea, and I slept. He left to his work around 0800. Around, 0900 I woke up and prepared to goto Umrah. One of his other friend, who is also from our hometown, dropped me in Masjid-ul Haram on his way to his work. There is no parking space in Masjid-ul Haram.
I continued my Talbiyah (The Talbiyah is a Muslim prayer invoked by the pilgrims as a conviction that they intend to perform the Hajj or Umrah only for the glory of Allah. Talbiyah is repeatedly invoked during the Hajj or Umrah, upon putting on the Ihram, so the pilgrims can purify and rid themselves of worldly concerns), until I see the Kaabah.
The lower floor is only accessible for people with Ihram due to Covid safety measures. It was the same in 2017 when I did my first Umrah (but there were civil constructions going on at that time inside the Masjid). I booked my Umrah slot in Nusuk aka Etamarna app formerly before I depart from Singapore. My friend told it was not mandatory nowadays. None of the security guards in the Masjid-ul Haram stopped me or anyone as far as I know to check the Nusuk Umrah slots.
I went ahead to my Umrah Tawaf, when I see Kaabah I stopped reciting Talbiyah and started my Tawaf. After I completed my Umrah Tawaf. I went to pray two Rakahs behind Makkam Ibrahim. After prayer, I asked my needs (It is very personal between me and my almighty, can’t share here) to my lord. I had ZamZam water and proceeded to do Sa’aee between Safa and Marwa. During my fifth Sa’aee it was a call for Zuhr prayer, by this time I reached Marwa and prayed Zuhr. By the grace of Almighty, I completed my Sa’aee within one hour.
But, it was different experience during my first Umrah. It was third part of night, my elder daughter was sleeping on my shoulders, younger daughter (a toddler) was sleeping on my wife’s shoulder. This is more or less what happened to Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings upon him) and his wife Hajar (may Allah be pleased with her); how it’s relevant to dealing with our own problems and our own hardships. We all know the story to a certain extent. But maybe we do not stop to contemplate on how this is relevant to us today.
I finished my Umrah (haven’t trimmed or shaved my hairs yet), and went to meet my another friend who is working in the hotel in Masjid-ul Haram premises. He arranged me a Cappuccino, we chatted for a bit and my other friend called me to pick me up from Masjid-ul Haram. I went to the pickup area on his return from work. He came, and we went to home, had lunch and after Asar prayer I went to trim my hairs to come out of Ihram. That’s it Umrah is over. Alhamdhulillah!
I have my Revolut, Wise and Youtrip cards on me. I’ve no single Saudi Riyals in my wallet when I landed except some Singapore Dollars and UAE Dirhams. Upon reaching my friend’s home, he handed over to me SAR 400. I used my Revolut card to buy local sim card for SAR 81 after I met my another friend in Masjid-ul Haram. I’ve my Airalo eSim on my phone before I depart Singapore.
Furthermore, I avoid using Wise overseas due to some exchange fee. Youtrip sometime I do but not mostly. I always prefer Revolut overseas except on weekends. Before departing Singapore, I exchanged SAR 400 in my Revolut (So you can avoid weekend exchange fee). Wise and Youtrip do not support SAR for exchane in advance, but you can still use them for payment on live exchange rates.
I spent the cash on me to buy some other daily groceries, we cooked our own food. I transferred the money to my friend, he gave me through SWIFT to his Saudi Bank account. He was charged with intermediary bank fee of 10% from his Bank. I covered his loss with the cash on me.
I searched the Revolut Community (the community update the Bank ATM overseas, which do not charge ATM fee), there is no detail about Saudi Arabia. Not only that, but I tried some ATM to fetch money, the ATM didn’t work. So I went to Al Rajhi Bank ATM near home to withdraw some cash. There is Zero ATM Charge. Remember the name Al Rajhi!
I am an occasional foodie, we cooked in home most of the time. Two times we went to Al Romansiah for their Mandi and Madkoodh (One time in Makkah, another in Medina). I love seafood (only Fishes and Shrimps). One day, we went to a local fish market and bought Shrimps, came home, cleaned the Shrimps and cooked. The other day bought Lamb and cooked.
The Medina Trip
On Friday, before Fajr we started to Jeddah to pick up another friend. Prayed Fajr in Jeddah and started to Medina through Tuwal route and had our breakfast on the way. Reached Medina few minutes before Jummah. We prayed in Masjid-ul Nabwi, and we were to head to Al Romansiah for lunch. We back to Masjid-ul Nabwi and prayed Asar and spend sometime in Masjid-ul Nabwi itself.
Furthermore, we did Jammu and Kasr for Magrib and Isha with Magrib prayer and started to Jeddah to catch my late night flight.
The Return flight
There is no ZamZam counter in Terminal 1 aka South Terminal. So we first head to North Terminal to buy ZamZam (no passport or visa asked. I just paid SAR 8.50 with cash on me). We reached Terminal 1, my friends bid adieu and I went to the Boarding Counter. My phone battery is already dead by this time. I gave my passport and Singapore EP (there is no expiry date printed on my EP). The lady asked to show the expiry date. I stepped out of the counter and charged my phone a bit and went to same lady on the different counter (she changed counter) with my SG Work Pass App screen showing expiry date.
She printed my boarding pass and luggage tags on my baggage and ZamZam. She asked me to drop ZamZam in different counter (she didn’t check my Saudi eVisa, there were others on tourist visa were denied to check in their ZamZam). Furthermore, she only checked-in my luggage. That’s it!
I called my friends who are waiting in the parking lot for my smooth boarding. They started to return home. I proceeded to Immigration and Security check to board my flight back to Singapore. Upon reaching Singapore, in luggage collection belt there were other Umrah passengers in group pasted their ZamZam with their tour group name stickers. But mine is plain vanilla. I searched for my ZamZam with my name luggage tag. After collected my luggages and Zamam I came out of Airport.
My friend, waiting at the car parking, picked me up and dropped me at my home.
The above writing I pen down to show that how the Umrah has become easy nowadays after the Saudi Government allowed to do it on our own without any third parties. It may not applicable as same situations for everyone. Each one of us has our own hurdles to make it happen.
Take one step towards Allah, and He will pull you towards him. May Allah reward the people who helped me in this Umrah for each one made this journey smooth for me. Aameen!