Our last overseas Ziyarat trip was to Iran, during pre-COVID in 2019 and it still feels like a dream. So when the opportunity arose to travel again this year to Iraq, we were thrilled. It’s a different feeling to be able to go with an intimate group from our masjid, which feels like extended family to us. Traveling post-COVID with young children was a difficult decision to make. But with rules changing for the better, we became confident that we made the right decision by the end.
Flying Qatar Airways
This was our first time flying Qatar airways with our children, and I’m pleased to say it was a good experience all around. The only small setback was stopping at Qatar airport and the small layover that we had left us very little time at the airport and tons of security checks to go through. Not easy to do with little ones, we were basically rushing to get to our gate. Who knew that even in transit there were multiple checkings we had to go through!
Kids Meal/Kids Pack
I had requested two of my kids to have a kids meal, but the requests were unconfirmed and based on availability. On the way there, we were able to get just one kids meal throughout the flight. For dinner they served chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, bread and chocolate cake. Then for breakfast they served blueberry pancakes, muffin and fruit. It was served in a cute little box with characters.
On one flight back, the kids were given an activity pack each and my toddler was given a stuffed animal too. The activity pack included a zipper pouch containing a booklet with three crayons that were erasable. It kept my kids happy for some time and something for the kiddos is always a nice gesture in my opinion.
We were very happy with all of our accomodations during the entire trip. Each hotel we stayed at had amazing food buffets, comfortable and very spacious rooms, clean bathrooms and just a wonderful stay altogether.
Aqeelah Hotel, Kadhimain
Al Hayat 2, Karbala
It was surreal taking the girls to the places that we’ve talked about over and over again. To walk the same land with them and see the beautiful structures through their eyes. Each shrine is so magnificent and grand, and walking through the wide, open spaces was an honor. It was a short walk from the hotels to the harams, and then once we would get our shoes put away, I’d always walk as far in as I could until I found a large wide open space where my kids wouldn’t be cramped, could run around and I could pray in peace.
Tips to Visiting with Children
When taking the kids to Iraq, our main objective was keeping them healthy, pacing ourselves and visiting as much as we possibly could without overworking them. Some ways that we were able to make this possible…
- Keeping them on a schedule that suits them. My kids generally stayed on their NJ sleep schedule, it was just a week so not enough time to get them adjusted to the jet lag. They would sleep after fajr (5am) daily and wake up at 2-3pm each day.
- Because of this schedule, they missed 1-2 items that were planned for the group, but that was okay with us. Also because daytime was very hot outside.
- Packing snacks that were from home helped when the kids were picky, even though we had plenty to eat throughout the trip, it was easier to give them something familiar. And keeping them hydrated of course!
- Packing extras of everything- under garments, clothes, shoes, plastic bags, socks!
- Explaining each step of the way so the kids could anticipate and comprehend what they were about to experience
- All types of medicine- cold, sore throat, allergy, motion sickness
Honestly, I have to give credit to my kids for making the trip enjoyable and being patient throughout all the delays and long walks. Most of the time we would divide up the girls, the elder two would be with my husband and I would have the little one in my arms. This worked well in visiting the shrines because the men’s side isn’t as pushy, the girls were able to reach/touch the zari much quicker and so was I. They spent a lot of time playing in our hotel rooms in the downtime that we had. Keeping a slow pace enabled us to do a lot with the kids, and inshallah it won’t be our last trip with them.
I compiled this Iraq Journal for my kids to use, feel free to download for your visit!