Sorry this post is looong!  But I had to include everything becasue I don't want you to miss out, so sit back, relax and take it all in.

When you finally reach Makkah it will have been almost 24 hours since you've been travelling so I would advise you to take some time to have a good rest and re-energise.  Don't rush into doing your Umrah especially if it's your first time.  Don't think, 'oh, I can get out of my Ihram if I do my Umrah'.  There's no harm in waiting a couple of hours to get yourself prepared and ready to take on the next part of your journey.   Think about the reward instead.

After all, you'll be seeing the Kaaba for the first time and you want that experience to be one that you can enjoy and not be tired at the same time.   Take everything slowly and enjoy each moment as your time in Makkah is very precious.

I can still remember the first time I saw the Kaaba and as I write this I can see it all in front of me again.  How we walked into the Masjid and looked down until we got closer and closer.  And when I finally looked up and saw the Kaaba it was a magnificent sight.  It took my breath away.  It was during the day and it was very bright.  That's the picture I see in my head right now.  Oh, how I wish I could be there and see it all over again.  The Kaaba looks so different during the day and night too.  You're probably wondering how that's possible but when you go, you'll see.  

Try to perform as many Tawafs as possible.  You won't get the opportunity to do Tawaf anywhere in the world except in Makkah, but don't over do it.  Do what you know your body is capable of.  And try your best not to compare as there may be people telling you that they can manage four Tawafs in a day.  Remember it's quality over quantity.  Performing just one Tawaf a day that is perfect as opposed to three or four rushed ones is going to be more beneficial for you spiritually.

Due to the intense heat as well as the large number of people especially as the days get closer to Hajj, we found that Tawaf in the evenings about an hour or so after Isha were a lot more relaxed.  It's still hot but more manageable and a lot calmer than during the day.  We didn't restrict ourselves to just one part of the Haram as we wanted to experience what it was like in the Mataf as well as the middle floor and the top floor.

Usually people advise you not to do Tawaf on the top floor as it's a lot longer but I found that it's a lot better, especially since these days more and more people are going to perform Hajj.  There's plenty of free space to walk and it's cooler too.  You can save yourself from being too close to non mahram as in the Mataf it can become very crowded the closer you are to the Kaaba.  Your bodies are literally touching and there's not much you can do as you can't even be in control of where you walk.  The crowd is basically moving you around.  And because of the crowds it can be very hot and sweaty too.

The middle floor is where there'll be a lot of wheelchairs and scooters.  Watch out for the wheelchairs when it gets crowded though, as they can't see your feet and when they get your heel it can hurt!  Although there's lots of space here too, bare in mind that there are also pillars which you'll have to dodge, so if you want to be free and just keep walking then the top floor is for you.

If you do decide to perform Tawaf in the Mataf then take a moment to have look at the crowds and see if there's space for you to walk around with ease.  You don't want to be pushing people or bumping into them whilst you're trying to do a good deed.  If it's possible to, then perform your Tawaf but try to stay around the edge rather that going in.

It's pretty much the same with Saee too.  The top floor is very quiet and with hardly anyone there and we managed to do our Saee in no time at all.  Although you won't be able to see Mount Safa or Mount Marwa and so if it's your first time then perform it on the main floor so that you can experience it from there.

Don't be afraid of exploring the Masjid.  Go and pray Salaah on all the floors and do Tawaf on each one if you like.  Go and have a look at the Kaaba from all the different floors, each one gives a different view and you'll enjoy watching all the people moving around and spotting those who are part of a group because they're all matching. You have the chance to be there so make the most of it.  Come home knowing that you saw the whole Masjid and not just the part where you prayed Salaah everyday in the same place.  Each part has a different atmosphere and you'll see that when you're there.

We would walk around the Masjid and one time we were on the second floor during the day and found a couple of Madressah classes with small children up to the age of 10 learning Quran.  All I could think was how lucky they were to be able to come to Madressah in the Haram and learn in front of the Kaaba.  I wanted my Madressah to be there too!

Drink as much Zam Zam as you can, it's fresh so make the most of it! You'll find water everywhere and if you've got a sore throat there's even lukewarm Zam Zam.  Unfortunately, you can no longer see the Zam Zam well.  Alhamdulillah, I was lucky enough to go before they sealed off the basement in the Mataf, where you could go down to drink Zam Zam.  The steps led you down into the basement where there were rows of small sinks with metal beakers attached to chains on each one.  It was so refreshing to drink the ice cold water.  On the men's side you could actually see the well and where the water was being pumped from.  Because I was only 10, my uncle decided to take me when it was quiet and I had the chance to see it too..   

Before I finish, I have two tips for you.  When you go to the Haram, take an across the body bag so that you can take your mini Quran and other small Kitabs or duas, with you.  Although there are Qurans there that you can use, it's better to take your own so you can mark where you have prayed till and also you don't have to go and look for a Quran either.  Along with my Quran and Kitabs, I would also take with me a Tawaf tasbeeh, a normal tasbeeh and some energy tablets should I need them.  I also had some small change, but not too much and my phone, in case of emergencies.  Your Hotel card is something you should also carry with you too, just in case you can't find your way back, then someone can help you on your way.

You can also take a prayer mat with you as during Hajj they will take the carpets away in some areas of the Masjid because of the large number of people.  Having a prayer mat with you will make it easier for you to allocate enough space for yourself to pray.  But be warned some people will try to squeeze in between you and the person next to you even though there's hardly any space!  During this time it's best not to get annoyed and try and keep calm.   

As well as my across the body bag, I also had a drawstring bag which I used to put my flip flops in.  Even though there are small shelves for you to put your shoes on, keeping mine with me meant that I didn't have to go and look for them, no-one was going to mistakenly take them and I could leave the Haram from any door as I had mine with me at all times.

And finally before I forget there are escalators and lifts all around the Haram should you need to use them.  Going bare foot on the escalators is a whole new experience!  We're so not used to doing that here but it's all part of being there and you'll see for yourself.  We take a lot for granted but you'll see people from all over the world coming to perform Hajj and some of them have never seen an escalator in their life!  For them even that is a whole new experience, and so when you witness these things it makes you reflect on how you should appreciate everything, even the smallest things you have in life.

I know I said I had two tips for you but I just remembered something I can't miss.  Everyone wants to touch the Kaaba, touch the Black Stone and have the chance to pray in the Hateem.  During Hajj season it's very difficult to get these opportunities but it's not impossible.  Don't think to yourself I'm just going to go for it no matter what, because although having that outlook in life can be fantastic, during this time you have to play it clever.  Use a bit of wisdom.

There will be lots and lots of people so keep that in mind.  Although the Haram will be busy most of the time, take a moment to have a look when it gets a little less busy, that way you have a better chance.  Expect to be pushed around and squashed even, but by all means strictly no pushing and shoving from your side please.  Take the punches but don't hand them out!  Keep calm and do sabr.  Start by praying the third Kalima and continue to keep praying and you'll see it will become easier by the grace of Allah.  Move in the direction of Tawaf and inch your way closer as you see gaps opening.  Don't move in the opposite direction as you won't be doing yourself any favours.  Inshallah you should reach the Kaaba and be able to make your dua there.

It is the most humbling experience ever!!  How much more closer can you get than when you are standing right by the Kaaba?!  It feels like it's just you and Allah and you're talking to him only.  It's like there's no one else there but you.  I can still feel the bricks and fragrance and just thinking about it make me want to go all the more.

Now for the Black Stone and Hateem.  I'll be honest with you, I don't even try to kiss the Black Stone because as soon as you see the people around it you can't.  There's no way to get close unless you knock someone out!  And that's the last thing you want to be doing there.  Don't take any chances as you could get hurt and squashed and it's likely that there will be men and women there and with everyone so packed you don't want to be so close to a non mahram either.  So save yourself from sin.

Alhumdulillah, I had the chance to kiss the Black Stone when I was 10 and that's because there were less people and the police guard helped me as I was still very young.  After that I've never done it again.

As for praying in the Hateem, I would advise you to pray at the back as people are coming in and going out at the front.  It's likely that someone might step on you and you won't be able to pray properly.  There will be a lot of people here too so be patient and when you see a space, pray your 2 rakaats, make dua and then give someone else a chance.  If however, you don't find the opportunity to pray 2 rakaats then use the time in Hateem to make dua instead as duas are accepted here too.  

Makkah is a beautiful place with so many blessings as you know, so make the most of every single moment you spend there.  It's also very busy and you'll notice the atmosphere as soon as you get there.  Watching the everyday hustle and bustle in Makkah brings to life everything you've read about in all the Kitabs and history books.  You soon get used to being called 'Ya Hajjah' by everyone that's trying to get your attention.  Makkah is so very different to Madinah and it's clear that Madinah is wonderful in its own way, but I'll tell you more about that later because I think it's time to get ready for Mina.