I would first like to clarify that I am not being compensated in any way by Dar El Salam for this review.
We had heard from everyone that Dar El Salam was by far the best travel company for hajj in the USA. They were right. Our hajj was in every way the best and most comfortable experience that we feel it could possibly have been. It was very well planned and executed, and by the grace and help of Allah, everything fell into place beautifully. Allah also blessed us with wonderful roommates and group leader, Sheikh Kifah Mustapha ElMera’bi, Imam of The Mosque Foundation, Bridgeview, Ill.
We pre-registered for hajj because we had heard that the spots fill up very quickly, and it’s better to make sure you get the package you want. All the details were provided and we were kept informed of our progress. They took care of our visas and bookings, and supplied us with resource material and some travel accessories.
Right outside the airport on our arrival in Medina, we were greeted by their representatives. Group leaders and staff members were there every step of the way to guide us and answer questions. Staff members holding signs would stand at regular intervals to guide us and keep us from getting lost whenever we were going from one place to the other. Their buses were air conditioned and a lot of them were brand new.
We were given tags for our luggage, with the help of which Dar El Salam collected, transported and delivered our luggage straight to our hotel rooms. Before leaving for Mina, we gave our valuables to our group leaders in Mecca, and they were returned to us after hajj.
They had rooms in the hotels closest to the mosques in Mecca and Madina, and we literally had to just cross the street and we would be in the mosque. Breakfast and dinner buffets at the hotel were included in our package. Having large buffets in these two major cities was one thing, but they even managed to provide a large buffet menu in Mina and Arafat which was quite outstanding.
The tents in Mina were exactly opposite Jamrat, and were fully air conditioned. There was an absolutely unlimited supply of (cold) juices, soft drinks and water. There were plenty of bathrooms and the ground staff worked day and night to keep them clean and running.
We had air conditioned tents in Arafat as well. Bathrooms are very hard to come by in Arafat, but Dar el Salam provided its members with reserved bathroom facilities. That was a huge blessing and made things very easy.
All the travelling was well planned. Effort was made to avoid traffic jams and save as much time as possible. Meals were even provided in the bus while we were waiting for our papers to go through in Medina.
We were given the option of travelling by train for an extra charge and we took it. That was the best money spent ever! We got to places in minutes what could have taken hours by bus.
Sheikh Kifah was just awesome. He was level headed, calm and cool every step of the way. He kept his demeanor unperturbed no matter what the circumstances, and did not pass on any grievances or frustrations to us. He was friendly, approachable and helpful and gave us very sound advice.
But even if your hajj is not all smooth sailing and you face many difficulties, just be thankful that you were able to complete it, and Allah will compensate and reward you for all the difficulties you had to go through.