If Muslims aren’t travelling for business or leisure, they might very well be fulfilling another important pillar of Islam: the Hajj or the Umrah. The act of Umrah is known to purify one’s soul from past committed sins and refurbishes the mind, on top of the other innumerable blessings it comes with. This spiritual journey to Mecca (the site of the holy Kaaba) and Madinah is highly encouraged, especially for those who can afford it.
In recent years, there has been a shift in the way that Umrah is carried out. In the past, Muslim travellers usually book via local travel agents who would settle visa, accommodation, food and even transport based on the chosen package. Everything is planned out and one simply follows the Ustaz (religious leader) or main leader of the group, without having to worry much.
The benefit of traditional Umrah packages is that everything is accounted for and one can solely focus on the journey – both mentally and emotionally. The hassle of planning and booking would have been avoided entirely.
However, with changing trends and the Umrah process evolving, it seems that modern millennials would rather embark on a DIY Umrah. They can plan everything independently because there is greater flexibility and lots of room for customisation too.
Tapping on the advances of the digital age, Muslim travellers can also customise their ideal Umrah itinerary according to budget, duration of stay, flight schedules, high-speed railway options and preferred hotel choice. In other words, they are no longer tied down to specific packages and have greater freedom in deciding what will work best with their personal needs.
The current ease of obtaining a visa online has also made it easier for independent Muslim travellers to settle their Umrah agendas at their own time and pace. Even though this must still be done via a local travel agency, the rest of the Umrah journey is carried out exclusively.
Another fascinating aspect of Umrah is the introduction of VR (Virtual Reality) Umrah, that is aimed to introduce and familiarise travellers with certain rituals prior to the actual trip. Currently, Umrah agents are seen as the key training providers for the pilgrims. Classes help pilgrims to understand the proper way of performing the Umrah, which is now spearheaded by Shahidah Tour and Travels.
The use and proliferation of VR will assist Muslim travellers and give them the confidence to manage their own Umrah pilgrimages through realistic experiences. The extra dimension incorporated will guide them on the steps and rites needed to be observed without much reliance on the religious tour leader.
Fun Fact: Attendees get to experience something extraordinary, which is to experience being inside the Kaaba itself.
Another gamechanger involves an app known as Mecca 3D. This interactive app can assist potential Muslim pilgrims to practice the rituals via a virtual Umrah before proceeding to the real location. Both Muslims and non-Muslims can immerse themselves in the virtual reality of the Islamic culture, religion and experiences to better fathom Islam as a whole.
Whether you’re in the midst of planning for your next Umrah or just wondering more about how the Umrah scene is changing, it’s good to know how technology has heavily influenced this spiritual journey. The whole Umrah journey a decade ago is no longer the same as how it’s like today. Is it for the better of the Ummah? You decide.
Also read: What to Pack for a Hajj or Umrah Pilgrimage