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Hajj: My personal journey

BBC West Yorkshire's Khush Sameja
By Khush Sameja
BBC West Yorkshire

Hajj 2009
Over two million people took part in Hajj, despite fears of swine flu.

When my husband announced he wanted the two of us to go for our Hajj pilgrimage, my first reaction was "I'm not ready."

Many pilgrims leave Hajj until their twilight years, knowing that should they die while performing the fifth and final pillar they will go to Heaven.

The journey is supposed to cleanse you of your sins, and you return home with a clean slate, like that of a new born baby. So it wasn't surprising that I wanted to undertake this journey when I was in my forties, a time by when I thought I would have accumulated my many sins and would be ready to make life changing choices.

I was also told by many people that the experience does change you, but I wasn't sure what sort of effect it would have on me.

When you undertake the pilgrimage, it's a calling from God.
Khush Sameja, BBC Journalist

My other concern was safety. Growing up I got used to seeing annual Hajj disasters on the telly. With so many millions of people crammed together trying to perform the same ritual at approximately the same time, it was hardly surprising. I told my better half, why not go next year, or maybe the year after that?

But my husband was adamant and said it was something he had always wanted to do, and after giving it a great deal of thought, I agreed.

I've read somewhere when you undertake the pilgrimage, it's a calling from God. So whether you're ready or not, if circumstances lead you towards it, it's a sign. And me being a great believer in signs, I took this to be a huge one.

After some quick research we both found a Hajj tour group we liked and booked it, hoping for the best.

The camps in Mina

To be honest we were both clueless. I had been to Saudi Arabia for Umrah, a lesser pilgrimage when I was a teenager with my parents. Back then I was taken aback by it and thought it was an amazing experience and wanted to return for Hajj, but again I thought: "When I'm forty."

But now with just a matter of weeks to go, I had to be prepared. We'd both had our jabs for flu, thanks to swine flu the Saudi authorities were being extra careful.

I also had a lot of friends who've been to Hajj who were on-hand to offer me plenty of advice. 'Join the gym, you'll need to be fit,' said one. 'You'll be walking for miles', said another, 'So take your trainers'. But with less than three weeks to go, I didn't think any personal trainer could help get me into shape, so stocking up on glucose tablets was my only hope.

The pilgrimage of Hajj is in fact only for five days. But spending time in Mecca and Medina, the two most holy places on Earth for Muslims beforehand is part of it and before I knew it the date to fly had arrived.

Read my 2009 Hajj diary by clicking here

In Pictures: Hajj experience 2009
08 Dec 09 |  Religion & Ethics
Hajj diary 2009
08 Dec 09 |  Religion & Ethics


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