Most Muslims desire to visit the resting place of the Prophet Mohammed. It's a long trip but, as Haneen Dajani found, one on which travel companions become friends and you experience the aura and beauty of a holy city
Travelling with strangers is the best way to experience the Haj.
Your companions quickly become a group of supportive friends with whom it is easy to share, talk and laugh, and the closeness never results in arguments. Everyone is on their best behaviour.
"There is no lewdness nor abuse nor angry conversation on the pilgrimage," Allah says in the Quran.
Pilgrims try their best to control their tempers and be patient with others despite high tensions, stress, exhaustion and the lack of personal space.
We performed the journey most Muslims long to experience, from Mecca to Madina to visit Al Nabawiya Mosque and the grave of the Prophet Mohammed.
The trip was exhausting - five hours each way by bus - but our group remained friendly and stops along the way kept us entertained.
Everyone hoped to enter Al Rawda Al Nabawiya, the area between the Prophet's chamber and his tribune, which he described as a garden from heaven.
I was hesitant at first because of the long distance, but then I remembered how the Prophet and his companions had to go on foot as they ran for their lives from non-believers in Mecca.
Unfortunately, we arrived after they closed the gates to Al Rawda and only half of us managed to find a way in.
One of the few who managed to sneak in, Ishraq, said: "They told me, 'keep running until you see the green carpet'. I felt so light, I prayed 10 ruka'a without feeling them."
Even though I did not get to enter Al Rawda, the aura of Madina was not lost to me. I was especially surprised by how elegant the masjid looked.
People had told me Madina made them feel like they were in the most beautiful city in the world. They were not exaggerating in their descriptions of these emotions.
The return trip to Mecca was unforgettable. As organisers desperately searched for a restaurant that could accommodate the entire group, they found a small, nondescript establishment called Al Farqadan for our final feast together.
We were ushered through the back door and divided up to eat in small private rooms filled with iron pots and food we did not recognise. All we did was laugh.