Today is a big day for you as it's the beginning of Hajj.  It's the first day and you've made it to Mina.  For some reason the bus driver always gets lost on the way to Mina, but you can't really blame him because everything looks the same!  It can be a bit daunting venturing out of your tent alone too because any way you look, again, it's all the same.  But you soon get used to it as Mina is kind of like your base for Hajj.

These days we're very lucky or should I say spoilt because we have too many luxuries, even in the Mina tents.  You'll find that each tent is fully equipped with air conditioning as well as folding mattresses, pillows, blankets, rugs, a kettle, toaster and even a mini fridge too!  Now if that's not luxury in a desert, then I don't know what is!

All this just to make the Hajjis comfortable so that they can get on with their Ibadah.  Back when I was 10 it was a very different story and I'm so glad that I was able to experience Hajj without all the mod cons as well.

There were no white tents in Mina back then.  We had to make our own with the thick sheets that the tents in Arafat are made of.  Each space had sheets to build their tent and you could share your tent with your family.  That's exactly what we did.

We had a bit of scary moment when we unfolded our sheet and a massive spider or some kind of lizard crawled out.  Luckily, it ran off into the desert somewhere.  I remember screaming my head off!  It was like a proper camping trip!  Then we made a partition, one side for my dad, brother and uncle and the other side for me, my mum and auntie.  We slept on the ground, no mattress, no pillow.  We had a small stand up fan and a cooler.  Just the bare essentials.  But do you know what, it was the best Hajj and I would do it again like that.

We'd go out onto the main road when the truck would come filled with blocks of ice.  A man would sit there with a hammer and chisel and break chunks of ice for all the Hajjis to take back to their tent.  I used to love standing there fascinated by the massive ice block!  We would use the ice as if it were a bar of soap on our faces to help us keep cool.  Then another truck would come and they'd throw juice cartons for us to catch.  Those times were so much fun.  We didn't even eat proper food either and lasted on fresh fruit, water and juice everyday.

These days the Saudi Government provide food trays for everyone and I have to say they really do go out of their way to make Hajj as comfortable and worry free as possible.  They take very good care of you.  Outside each tent you'll also find tea stands so you can help yourself to a cuppa anytime you like.

You'll be spending your first night here as well as the final two days of Hajj so make yourself at home.  You'll be sharing a tent with the rest of the ladies in your group so having a mobile with you to call your husband, father, brother, uncle would be ideal, as there will be other men in their tent so going to their tent won't be such a good idea.  Usually your tents will be next to each other so don't worry, they're not very far.

Remember what I told you about the toilets in yesterdays post?  Well this is it.  As much as you don't want to have to face them, you're going to have to.  I tried not go but I needed to within an hour!  Nature called so I had no choice.  But don't worry, you've got your trusty bag with you so it should be a doddle.  But be warned they can get very busy especially just before Salaah time.  Be prepared and go 45 minutes or so early, get yourself sorted, do wudhu and be ready otherwise you'll be waiting in the long queues.  And if you take too long expect some good old knocking on the door too!

And forget about hijab styles, just keep it simple.  There'll be a mirror outside the toilets should you need one but you really don't want to be spending ages straightening your hijab and getting it right.  Simple is best and as long as your hair isn't on display then it's all good.  Also wear a hijab that you're already comfortable with.  Don't try out a new one because if it starts irritating you then it'll just keep bothering you. 

Forgot to mention all the toilets are the traditional Indian ones apart from the one on the end and it's the same in Arafat and Muzdalifah too.  I think that's enough of the toilet stories and time to move onto the more important stuff.

Your time in Mina will be spent reflecting and praying.  Make lots of dua and also try to get some rest too as tomorrow is going to be a very significant day.  Try not to stay up too late and get a good nights sleep so that you can stay awake and concentrate on all your prayers in Arafat.  The last thing you want, is to be falling asleep in the heat when what you really want to do, is fulfill what you set out to do.

So get some rest because we're off to Arafat after Fajr Salaah tomorrow.