Q3. There are many Hajj companies, which one do I choose?
The most important step after your intention to perform Hajj, is to choose the right company to service you and act as the best guide in Saudi Arabia. To do that, please consider the following facts:
Fact 1: The company MUST be authorized by the ministry of Hajj with a license from the Saudi Embassy in Canada. Do not choose a company that isn’t licensed and get their packages from another licensed company. And definitely don’t book your package with a company that is abroad in USA or in London England. This way you have rights, and can report any issue to the authorities who take action. To find a list of these companies, please visit the Saudi Embassy website by clicking here to view the whole list.
Fact 2: In North America there are two type of Hajj service providers.
In Canada there are only 2 authorized companies that offer VIP services, no matter what other may claim or advertise, out of these 2 companies, Falcon Travel is the largest VIP Hajj service provider in the country with the largest varieties of Hajj packages.
To understand the difference between both services (VIP & Non-VIP), we have to mention that Umrah is about choosing good hotels across of the Haram, as all the rituals of Umrah take place at the Haram. Where Hajj rituals are performed in Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifa over the period of 5 days of Hajj (From 8 Dhul Hijja to 13th Dhul Hija). Therefore, the facilities provided in these 5 days are what make the difference between VIP and Non-VIP.
Here are a quick comparison to show the differences in the services provided during the 5 days of Hajj:
Location in Mina:-
VIP: Across of Jamarat (The place where we perform the rituals of Hajj) in an area called Majjar Al-Kabsh “Drag of Ram” the history mentions that in this area, when our prophet Ibrahim was going to sacrifice his son prophet Ismail and Allah (SWT) replaced prophet Ismail with a ram. This the area where the ram was dragged and slaughtered as a sacrifice.
Non-VIP: 4 KM away from Jamarat in an area called Al-Mo’aisam. In Mina there are no transportation because of the crowed, therefore Hajis staying in the area of Al-Mo’aisam MUST walk 45 minutes to an hour under the hear to reach Jamarat and perform the rituals of Hajj
Transfer Between Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifa (the areas where we perform Hajj):-
VIP: By train which is 10 minutes each way. Also private A/C buses are available for Hajis with special needs that can’t walk to the train station.
Non-VIP: By government buses called Taradody Buses. Taradody in Arabic means it goes and come back to the same point. In Saudi let us say there is a company of 100 Hujaj, the ministry of hajj will give them 1 Taradody bus, this bus will take 50 Hujaj from one Mina to Arafat, then will return to take the other 50 Hujaj. And so on… that causes waste of time and effort.
Washrooms in Camps:-
VIP: Private washrooms to the companies in the camp. Dedicated cleaning staff. North American style washrooms including (Toilet, shower, and sink).
Non-VIP: Public shared washrooms. No dedicated cleaning staff. Some are western style and some are hole in the ground
Food in Camps:-
VIP: Private. Open buffet catered by certified catering companies. Multi cultural food choices to suit everyone including vegetarians. 24 hours drinks including coffee, tea, water, sodas, and juice.
Non-VIP: Dry food boxes provided by the Saudi authorities. No choices in the box, sometimes there is Pizza and sometimes there are chicken nuggets. Companies are not allowed to bring in their own food.
Access to your room during Hajj days:-
VIP: Yes in selective packages through buildings in Alshisha area which is 10 minutes walk from the VIP camp in Mina. Some VIP providers provide a room in a hotel across of the Haram which is a waste of money as the Haram is 45 minutes away from Mina so it doesn’t make any sense to pay for something you won’t be able to use. Building in AlShisha is more expensive than the hotels at the Haram area, therefore only VIP companies book these buildings. Al Shisha is different than Azizia…Azizia and Kudai are areas in Makkah that are 45 minutes away from Haram and from Jamarat as well, where AlShisha is in Makkah on the border of Mina which is 10 minutes away from Jamarat.
Non-VIP: Access either in Azizia or hotels across of Haram which again not practical as it becomes very far to use while in Mina for the 5 days of Hajj.
Now that we talked about the two service options, let us talk about what else is important after we chose a route (VIP or Non-VIP):
Finances: of course the financial aspect is important, that is why after knowing which route you will take (VIP or Non-VIP) you look for a company that offers package that suit your budget. And has no hidden cost. Meaning everything should be included and should be advertised from the beginning this way you can plan your trip better.
Religious Guidance: It is a privilege but not an essential. It is nice to travel with a Shaykh/Imam/Mawlana/Religious Guide that you like, but any licensed religious guide that is familiar with the different Madhhabs (the 4 Islamic schools of thought) and has performed Hajj multiple times before should be sufficient to guide you on this scared journey. But it is not essential to pay extra for a Hajj package that you don’t really need just to be with your preferred Religious Guide.
Team of Experienced Group Leaders: From our experience, having an experienced group leader to guide you, solve any problem you may come across, assist you and your family during this sacred trip is one of the most important things. Therefore, group leaders should speak at least English, (English and Urdu or Arabic preferred). Group leaders should be young, healthy and have performed Hajj at least 3 times as group leaders.
Airline: Not important at what airline you take on your way going to Hajj but the less stops the better the trip is. Remember the idea is to always save your energy for worship as you are going on a sacred journey and may or may not be able to go on such journey again, so the more energy you have, the more focused you are on your Ibada (worship).
Photo Albums: Any professional company take photos of their facilities during Hajj, in Makkah, Madinah, Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifa. Ask to see these photos so that you can see the reality of the situation in Saudi and NOT just what is written on a website or a flyer.
With all this in mind, you can easily choose a company that suits and covers your needs. Please take your time asking the company sales representative questions about everything mentioned above, they have to answer all your questions so that the picture is clear of what they can offer and what they can’t offer, then make your decision.