“I’d never taken part in a pilgrimage before, but my mother Farha wanted to go - it wasn't her first time - and I felt ready to experience the religious ritual too. We went with my brother Faiq, 23, for a week in March, as you can perform Umrah at any time throughout the year.
Travelling was exhausting because we had a five-hour flight from Islamabad, Pakistan to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and then a three-hour bus ride to Mecca. The tiredness soon fades because of the overwhelming sense of satisfaction you get on every step of the journey. I did three Umrahs, each one an hour long, on different days. Normally people take painkillers with them to Umrah or Hajj, just like an athlete does for a marathon.
If you’re considering Umrah or Hajj, let me share with you what I wished I packed: After one week I was very golden brown. I should have brought strong suncream with me! Also, my journal. I recommend taking a book detailing your travels so you can remember it for the rest of your life. When reflecting on the experience, it definitely changed how I view life. Pilgrimages work in different ways for different people, but one thing is certain: every person who goes there with a problem - either on the surface or embedded deep within themselves – will find a response. It satisfies the soul.
Some people believe that worship should not be fun, but my family and I both believe that humour should not be left at home when you attend worship. Whenever we go and worship, we go as our whole selves.
I will try Hajj when the opportunity arises in my life. While it is mandatory for every Muslim to perform Hajj, realistically you need three things for it to happen: intention, affordability and a relation (one male is necessary whatever the number of females might be), to go with. People save for years and still can’t afford to do Hajj pilgrimage, but I really hope I'll get the chance to do it one day."