Archive for November, 2009

Advice on Hajj and Old People

Posted on the November 3rd, 2009 under Reflections/Thoughts by

This year, I have the fortune to be on the Hajj or Muslim Pilgrimage. I am sharing this experience with many people, some of them double my age. Travelling with old people is both humbling and rewarding.

Humbling to note that despite their age and the accompanying reduced health and strength, they haven’t given up on undertaking this magnificent journey. Humbling because they are the ones who prevail calm, patience and sabr at long queues and bureacratic annoyances.

Rewarding because it provides us younger people with the opportunity to assist them in the holiest cities where the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The best of people are those who are most beneficial and helpful to people”.

On my journey, I’ve compiled a list of a few short tips aimed at the children of old people, and what they can do to make their parent’s journey much easier.


1) Provide them with a cellphone that has a distinct on/off button.

Cellphones need to be switched off on aeroplanes. To save space, some cellphones link the switching on/off button to an existing button, but this grouping confuses some old people

2) Disable the sim-card pin

Sim-card pin are there for protection, but it also means having to remember their number. Many are not aware this even exists, as they’ve needed to switch their phones on/off before.

3) Activate international roaming – even if just for sms

Some people have this activated, and they may not have. Explaining international roaming, and that it has to be done prior to leaving South Africa for it to be activated takes some effort.

4) Convert all essential contact numbers to an international dial out.

For example, a house number in Cape Town locally would be: 021 555 1234. Rather convert this to +27 21 555 1234. +27 is South Africa’s dialling code, 21 is for 021 minus the zero, and the rest is the number.

This way, older people do not have to remember to add the +27, and drop the one zero, etc.

5) If possible, provide them with a slide-out keyboard.

It’s painful to watch someone spend five minutes typing out an SMS


It would be easier said that done, but encourage them to travel with as few bags as possible, and rather a bigger overnight bag, than multiple small bags. South Africans are usually provided with a shoe bag which gets used as an additional stuffed travel bag. Take into account that they will have with them:

a) overnight bag
b) Haj operator bag for carrying passport/documents
c) Chair for Salaah
d) Shoe bag

Quite a lot to not only carry, but also manage.


Even one fitted to a cellphone will allow them to capture moments that are special to them. However, bare in mind they will probably have no place to download their photos to. My suggestion is to provide them with a large memory card or multiple memory cards so that they wouldn’t have to delete any photos they might have already taken.