Aside from my above ‘religious’ feelings that I experience, there are several things that I like to note which might be benefiting for you.
I went Umroh for 9 days, including the traveling time, which take 9 hours from Jakarta – Jeddah one way. My route was Mecca, Madinah, and Jeddah. In general, this famous land of Moslem is indeed an arid ecosystem with its extremely dry land. The driest area is Mecca, where its only point of interest is the mosque, Masjidil Haram. All of the people are always heading to the mosque, at no matter hours, especially during every five time of daily prayers. Many skyscrapers surround the mosque, where all of them are hotel to serve people going for pilgrimage. What I’m saying about skyscrapers here is more than 20 storey high soaring to the sky. The distance between each hotel is very tiny, or even considered nothing. Thus safety is a big question there, especially those hotels are mostly still in the stage of construction or renovation. Thus, many cranes are up there in the at least tenth storey taking up concrete and other building materials. So, you might want to be careful and hopefully everything is finished once you got there.
The sole source of drinking water in Mecca is from Zam Zam well and mineral water. They don’t have ground water and the precipitation is extremely low, only three times per year! You call Komodo Island to be the wonder of nature? Then you might want to ponder on this water source as well. You can find Zam Zam available in every corner of the mosque where people can have as many as they want. For those taking water for more than 1 liters, there are many source to do that outside of the mosque. Meanwhile, for other means of water they were desalinating the seawater.
Meanwhile, Madinah is more beautiful. All of the hotel and stores are built in blocks. It’s very neat, less dust, and pretty. There are still many Zam Zam water in Masjid Nabawi, but not as much as in Mecca.
In short, those general female Moslem clothes that you see in Indonesia? All of them is not wearable inside the mosque. People are mostly use the long skirt (similar to Gamis) but with very less color, mostly plain black, wearing long veil that gets to your buttock, and the clothe should be really loose. You can count with your hands people using two pieces and the bottom is tight trousers. Even if people using two pieces including shorts, the top is very long even covering your knee. Therefore, for Indonesians, it’s just save to use mukena.
This one my dear, is unfortunately not allowed in the mosque. While the only point of interest in Mecca and Madinah are indeed the mosques. Thus I bring the pocket camera with me, which is still manageable in Masjidil Haram, but surely cant in Nabawi because they were checking on your bag before entering the mosque. Rumor has it that the Masjidil Haram also sometime checking on the bag. The pocket camera is handy enough for basic pictures. Yet careful is a must because my friend saw people posing in Masjidil Haram and taking pictures, and they were fined. The fine is quite major, around USD 100. Although, however, I don’t find my interest to take pictures is as huge as me being in another place 🙂 Therefore, my DSLR is not really functioning there.
Same as above, I also don’t find my lust of shopping is similar to my usual behavior of traveling. I only manage to go around Mecca at my last day. After going to the tree cities, I conclude that you can find many cheap and low price materials in Mecca, although you will rarely find things originally from Arab Saudi. Most were coming from either China or India. In Mecca you will find many ‘mass’ things, for example paint for nail, hair, eyes, small bottle of local perfume, tasbeh (beads for praying, similar to rosario), rugs, and things like that. The rugs are better and cheaper in Mecca. There are many street vendors selling things for 5 Riyals (around 1.5 USD).
In Madinah, things are getting more expensive but the good is better. There are many stores selling jewels if you’re interested. For me I found the Quran is more pretty. While in Jeddah, the city is so like Batam in terms of shopping. You want to shop in Jeddah then you go find perfume, shoes, watch, and those kind of stuffs.