mecca

What are the requirements for traveling to Mecca? passport and rules

What are the requirements.

Muslim pilgrimage to the Mecca once a year. The most important of them all is the so-called Hajj, pilgrimage that takes place in a particular month. During the rest of the year, other pilgrimages take place, but these are considered minor and are not mandatory. 

There are some requirements to travel to the Mecca and make the pilgrimage. The first one is almost tacit: to be a Muslim. Non-Muslims ‘unfaithful’ or are banned from this city. The next requirement to travel to the Mecca is to be an adult, male or female and have the possibility, whether economic to make the pilgrimage.

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requirements for traveling to Mecca

The following requirements to travel to the Mecca are quite , such as being healthy and being an adult, means mature, in order to understand the meaning of the pilgrimage to Mecca. In addition, the believer must be free and be able to make the pilgrimage without any problem at all. 

Another group of the requirements to travel to Mecca is of a financial nature: being able to pay for the round trip, as well as supporting your family during the time the believer is absent from the house. This is one of the most important requirements since the pilgrimage to Mecca is expensive. To carry out this Muslim rite matter, several believers dedicate an important part of their lives saving money to make it possible.

Some believers do not have the chance to raise enough money to perform the rite. That is why there are several foundations and organizations around the world that donate money to pay for travel and lodging for some rigorously selected believers, during the days when the pilgrimage lasts. In some cases, the foundations get money from the sponsors, while in other cases, they get it from the government. 

For the sponsors, offering the pilgrimage of another believer, it is like giving them a blessing, since they are giving them the opportunity to live a unique experience and that will be of great benefit to their spirituality. Among the requirements to travel to Mecca under this scheme, it is precisely not having the money to do so. In addition, you have to be over 40 and converted to Islam. This foundations treat believers to live the spiritual experience this rite gives, and the idea is to favor the less privileged. For example, they try to pay for the trip to the elderly, since it is considered that he or she will be less likely to make the pilgrimage in the remaining time of their life.

These are not the only requirements to travel to the Mecca. Apart from the economic barrier, there is another important barrier, which is the permission to enter the country. Saudi Arabia does not issue a tourist visa, nor is tourism allowed on its border, because of this, a limited amount of fees are given to each country, in proportion to the number of Muslims living in the country, so that they can Make the pilgrimage. In this way, Muslims who do not live in Mecca or Saudi Arabia can enter to make the pilgrimage.

There are other requirements to travel to Mecca of a religious nature. This is due to the fact that there are three ways to make the pilgrimage: one for those who live in the same city, another for those who live outside, as long as they do not live more than 88 kilometers from it, and another for those who live more than 88 kilometers of it. As the latter is the most important, important characteristics will be mentioned.

It has two parts, the first one has 5 defined rites, like consecration as a pilgrim, circling around the Kaaba, praying after turning around the Kaaba, running between two points and finally shaving the mustache and with the haircut. The second part has more requirements. 

During the first rite of the pilgrimage, the believer has to have every intention of finding God during the pilgrimage, wearing a special costume and saying the prayer. For the second rite, seven laps must have around the black stone, with departure and arrival in it. Immediately after that, the prayer must take pleasure in front of a monument. After the run between the two points between which it is believed that Agan ran to get water for Ishmael takes place. To end the rite, the fifth stop is to have a little haircut, shave your mustache or beard.

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Makkah Visitors Guide

Religious and Historical Sites to Visit

  • Important Principles
  • Prayer Salat
  • Prophets of Islam
  • Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr
  • Hajj and Eid Al Adha
  • M.Ed., Loyola University–Maryland
  • B.S., Child Development, Oregon State University

Whether you are traveling for a pilgrimage (umrah or hajj), or simply making a stop through, Makkah is a city of significant religious and historical significance to Muslims. Here is a list of must-see sites in and around the city of Makkah. Most of these sites are official stops during pilgrimage, while others may take you off the beaten path.

The Grand Mosque

The first stop for many visitors, the Grand Mosque ( al-Masjid al-Haram ) is located in the heart of downtown Mecca. Prayers are said here around the clock, with space for nearly a million worshippers inside the building itself. During peak visiting periods, worshippers also line up in rows along the courtyards and streets surrounding the mosque. The current structure of the Grand Mosque was built in the 7th century AD, and through various imam's leadership has gone through several renovations and expansions since then.

The Ka'aba

 Basil D Soufi via Wikimedia Commons

The Ka'aba (literally "the cube" in Arabic) is an ancient stone structure that was built and re-built by prophets as a house of monotheistic worship. It is located in the interior courtyard of the Grand Mosque. The Ka'aba is considered the center of the Muslim world, and is a unifying focal point for Islamic worship.

The Hills of Safa and Marwa

These hills lie within the structure of the Grand Mosque. Muslim pilgrims visit the hills in remembrance of the plight of Hajar, wife of the Prophet Abraham . Tradition holds that as a test of faith, Abraham was ordered to leave Hajar and their young son in the heat of Mecca with no provisions. Facing thirst, Hajar left the infant in search of water. She reportedly raced to these two hillsides, back and forth, rising up each one to get a better view of the surrounding area. After several trips and on the verge of desperation, Hajar and her son were saved by the miraculous springing of the well of Zamzam.

The hills of Safa and Marwa are approximately 1/2 kilometer apart in distance, connected by a long corridor within the confines of the Grand Mosque.

Plain of Arafat

This hillside ("Mount Arafat") and plain is located just outside Mecca. It is a gathering point on the second day of Hajj pilgrimage rituals, known as the Day of Arafat . It was from this site that the Prophet Muhammad gave his famous Farewell Sermon in the final year of his life.

Zamzam Spring Water Well

Zamzam is the name of a well in Mecca which provides natural spring water to the millions of Muslim pilgrims who visit each year. Traditionally dating back to the time of the Prophet Abraham, the well is located a few meters east of the Ka'aba.

Looking for additional sites to visit? Consider Station of Abraham, Mina, and Muzdalifah.

  • The Architecture and History of the Kaaba
  • The Stages of Hajj, the Islamic Pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah)
  • What Is the Ka'aba in Mecca?
  • Madinah City Guide
  • Meaning and Significance of the Day of Arafat
  • The Specific Dates for the Day of Arafat from 2017 to 2025
  • Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham)
  • Top Islamic Art Museum Collections
  • The Crescent Moon Symbol on National Flags
  • The Imams of Mecca: Well-Educated, Mild-Mannered, and Very Busy
  • Islamic Marriage and Involvement of Friends and Family
  • Converting to Islam
  • Introduction and Resource Guide to Islam
  • Seven Modern Muslim Musicians and Recording Artists
  • These Islamic Charities Are Helping People All Over the World

Download GPX file for this article

  • 1.1.1 Early history
  • 1.1.2 Medieval times
  • 1.1.3 20th century
  • 1.1.4 Grand Mosque seizure
  • 1.1.5 Modern history
  • 2.1 Visa requirements
  • 2.2 By plane
  • 2.4 By train
  • 3.1.1 Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro
  • 3.3 By foot
  • 4.1 Main attractions
  • 4.2 Hajj sites
  • 5.1 Factories
  • 5.2 Museums
  • 7.2 Mid-range
  • 7.3 Splurge
  • 10.1 Overcrowding and stampedes
  • 10.2 Extreme weather
  • 10.3 Pickpocketing
  • 10.4 Construction-related accidents
  • 10.5 Female travellers
  • 11 Stay healthy
  • 12.1 Local etiquette
  • 12.2 General etiquette
  • 12.3 Photography

Mecca , officially known as Makkah al-Mukarramah ( Arabic : مكة المكرمة, Makkah al-Mukarramah ), is a city in Saudi Arabia and the holiest city in Islam .

Mecca is the birthplace of Prophet Muhammed , the founder of Islam, and Muslims believe the Qur'an was first revealed to Muhammad here. The Great Mosque of Mecca, known as Masjid al-Haram is considered to be Islam's most sacred mosque and Muslims anywhere face toward it when they pray.

Each year, millions of people from around the world flock to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage, which is an obligation for all Muslims. This makes Mecca the most visited city in all of Saudi Arabia .

Understand [ edit ]

History [ edit ].

Mecca is generally considered "the fountainhead and cradle of Islam".

Early history [ edit ]

Muslims believe that the history of Mecca goes back to Abraham (Ibrahim) who built the Kaaba with the help of his eldest son Ishmael around 2000 BCE. In 570 CE, Muhammad was born in Mecca. Since those days, Mecca's history and identity has been inextricably linked with Islam.

According to Muslim traditions, in 610, it was in Mecca (inside the Hira cave on the mountain of Jabal al-Nour) where Muhammad the age of 40 received his first revelation from Allah, through the Angel Gabriel. Muhammad then begin preaching. In 622, Muhammad left Mecca for Yathrib (now called Medina ) for fear of being assassinated by the local Quraysh ruling clan, who had declined to accept Muhammad and his beliefs and started persecuting followers of Islam. As Muhammad migrated to Medina and settled there, several armed conflicts followed between followers of Muhammad and local tribes of Mecca, particularly one during which the followers of Muhammad attempted to return to Mecca in 628 for pilgrimage but weren't allowed to enter the city. A peace treaty was eventually signed that allowed followers of Muhammad to return to Mecca. In 629, Muhammad along with thousands of his followers migrated back to Mecca from Medina (where he had lived for 13 years) for a Hajj, known as the first pilgrimage. According to Muslims, the peace treaty was to also include ceasefire for 10 years but after 2 years, the Quraysh violated the truce by slaughtering a group of Muslims. Muhammad and his followers, companions and allies now much stronger in number, so instead of fighting back, they simply marched across the city of Mecca and thereby triggered the surrender of the Quraysh of Mecca. Eventually, Muhammad Islamicized the city and made it the center of Muslim pilgrimage, Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Medieval times [ edit ]

Mecca has been ruled by various dynasties over the last 1500 years. Starting in 1517 CE, with only one short interruption, Mecca and the rest of the Hejaz were under the control of the Ottoman Empire . From the 10th century, the local religious and temporal leaders were the Hashemite Emirs.

20th century [ edit ]

The Hashemites, working with the British intelligence officer Lawrence, led a successful revolt against the Turks during World War I . After the war, (at least as Arabs see it) the British betrayed their allies. Despite wartime promises, there was no independent Arab state in the Levant , only British and French protectorates.

In 1924, Mecca was conquered by the ibn Saud family following a short battle. This was part of the process of founding modern-day Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, the British helped put Hashemites on the thrones of Transjordan and Iraq .

Grand Mosque seizure [ edit ]

On 20 November 1979, armed extremists attacked and seized the Grand Mosque, calling for the overthrow of the Saudi royal family. The siege lasted two weeks, until the armed forces of Pakistan and France intervened to assist the Saudi authorities.

The seizure of the Grand Mosque had a profound impact on the Muslim world and changed the course of Saudi Arabia's societal and political direction; after the extremists were captured and executed by the Saudi government, Saudi Arabia adopted a more conservative stance, giving more power to the religious authorities and enforcing Islamic law more strictly. The role of women in Saudi society was completely reduced (female TV presenters were a common sight prior to the seige) and travel to Saudi Arabia became more restricted and regulated.

Modern history [ edit ]

Like any other city around the world, Mecca has its fair share of issues and problems. The Saudi government is routinely criticised for downplaying the severity of incidents during the Hajj, poorly managing the city, and demolishing Islamic heritage sites in the city. It has been estimated that 95% of Mecca's historic buildings, most of which were more than a thousand years old, have been demolished by the Saudi government. Many people from around the world have expressed anger and frustration at this, seeing this as cultural vandalism and an attempt to erase and eradicate Islam's origins and identity.

The Saudi government claims they're trying to accomodate Hajj pilgrims and make them feel comfortable, but some do not agree with that, claiming that the Saudi government is more interested in making Mecca a tourist destination. The Saudi government routinely rejects criticism of how they're managing the city, hitting back at critics by telling them that they are "playing politics" or "interfering" in state affairs.

One notable critic of the Saudi government's management of the city is the Turkish government. A number of Ottoman Empire structures in the city have been demolished, which the Turkish government sees as an attempt to diminish their historical legacy in the city. In 2002, the Ajyad Fortress , an Ottoman citadel that stood on a hill overlooking the Grand Mosque of Mecca, was demolished by the Saudi government to make way for the Abraj Al Bait, a $15 billion project designed to accommodate the vast and growing number of Hajj pilgrims. The Turkish government, as well as others in the international community, unsuccessfully tried to prevent the Saudi government from demolishing the fort.

Recent events, such as the 2015 Mina stampede, have drawn strong responses from governments in Muslim-majority countries. Iran, a country that has long been at odds with the Saudi government, has banned its citizens from going to Mecca for the Hajj a few times (only to reverse the bans later on) after several Iranian pilgrims were killed in separate incidents.

Get in [ edit ]

who can visit mecca

Visa requirements [ edit ]

For more information on Saudi immigration regulations, please refer to the "Get in" section of the Saudi Arabia article.

If you plan on visiting during the Hajj , you must apply for a Hajj visa.

By plane [ edit ]

Since Mecca is deemed as a sacred and holy land, Mecca is a no-fly zone . There are no airports in the city, and commercial planes are strictly forbidden from flying over the city.

By car [ edit ]

Once you've landed in either Jeddah or Taif , the next step is to drive to the city. Mecca is served by two major highways: Highway 40 and Highway 15 .

  • If you are driving from Jeddah, go along Highway 40 . Highway 40 is a well-maintained, modern, multi-lane highway and the journey will take you at least 60 minutes depending on traffic conditions. Expect this highway to be completely jammed and packed during the Hajj or the Umrah , however.
  • Another easier way to enter Mecca is through Taif . Just drive along Highway 15 and you will reach Mecca in 60 minutes. Since most Hajj pilgrims fly into Jeddah , expect this highway to be completely free of traffic. If you desire to enter Mecca quickly, it is recommended that you take this route.

If you don't have your own car, you can consider doing the following:

  • Hail a taxi at the Jeddah airport to take you to Mecca. You can share the costs with other pilgrims if you choose to do so. Prices might be higher during the Hajj season, so stay alert.
  • Hail an Uber to take you to Mecca. Uber works in all major cities in Saudi Arabia.

By train [ edit ]

The quickest way to enter the city is by train. A train ride to Mecca from Jeddah will take you at least 30 or so minutes. The Haramain high-speed railway links Mecca and Medina via Jeddah, and you can directly go to the city from the train station at King Abdulaziz International Airport .

  • 21.4176 39.7893 3 Mecca railway station . ( updated Oct 2022 )

By bus [ edit ]

The Saudi Arabian Public Transport Company (SAPTCO) offers bus services to and from the city. A bus ride from Jeddah to Meccah would normally take you 1¼ hours depending on traffic conditions.

SAPTCO also offers a VIP service to Mecca. VIP buses are a lot more comfortable, have free Wi-Fi, and are more spacious. If you're not a citizen of a GCC country, make sure you have a valid passport and the right visa before boarding a VIP bus.

There are many ways in which you can book a bus ride to Mecca. You can do it at a SAPTCO branch, on the SAPTCO app ( iOS , Android ), or on the website. The SAPTCO app is only in Arabic .

  • 21.497723 39.794102 4 SAPTCO Station ( ابتكو محطة حافلات الطائف ), Tan'eem neighborhood - Madina road - near Makkah Medical Center Hospital , ☏ +966-12 5204949 , [email protected] . SAPTCO station in Mecca. You can use it to go to your next destination in Saudi Arabia . ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.430444 39.817449 5 SAPTCO Al-Haram Station , ☏ +966-515234427 , [email protected] . SAPTCO VIP Bus Station. ( updated Jan 2022 )

Get around [ edit ]

Mecca's transportation network is well developed, however, expect getting around to be a literal hassle during the Hajj; millions of pilgrims are in every nook and corner of the city, and it can take ages to get to one place from another.

By metro [ edit ]

who can visit mecca

The Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro line ( Arabic : قطار المشاعر المقدسة الخط الجنوبي) is the only operating metro line in the city. The metro was built in the year 2010 by a Chinese railway construction firm (China Railway Construction Corporation Limited). It is believed to have the highest capacity of any existing metro in the world, which, truthfully, should come as no surprise to you, considering how millions of pilgrims flock every year to Mecca for the Hajj.

There are plans to fully add another metro network in the near future and this new network, known as Makkah Mass Rail Transit , will consist of four lines: line A, line B, line C, and line D . A total of 88 stations are expected to be served by this intended expansion. Although this sounds impressive, construction contracts have still not yet been awarded as of yet. Once construction contracts get awarded and the project gets finished, you can expect to get around Mecca with ease and convenience. But that's ages from now.

Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro [ edit ]

The Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro line has nine stations and is used as an exclusive shuttle train for pilgrims between holy sites in Mecca, Mount Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina. As is the case with all transport modes during the Hajj, the metro can be densely crowded and packed, so plan and prepare accordingly.

  • 21.418818 39.870853 6 Jamarat (Mina 3) ( قطار المشاعر - محطة منى 3 - الجمرات ), King Abdul Aziz Rd, Al Mashair . The very first station of the Metro. It is approximately 5km away from Masjid Al-Haram. You can reach Masjid Al-Haram in less than five minutes (if going by car) or two hours (if going by foot). ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.406404 39.89089 7 Mina 2 ( محطة منى 2 ). ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.401115 39.898095 8 Mina 1 ( محطة منى 1 ). ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.391611 39.900632 9 Muzdalifah 3 ( قطار المشاعر - محطة مزدلفة 3 ). ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.383721 39.907089 10 Muzdalifah 2 ( قطار المشاعر - محطة مزدلفة 2 ). ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.379205 39.918193 11 Muzdalifah 1 ( قطار المشاعر - محطة مزدلفة 1 ). ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.346792 39.961351 12 Arafat 3 ( قطار المشاعر - محطة عرفات 3 ). ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.340996 39.969459 13 Arafat 2 ( قطار المشاعر - محطة عرفات 2 ). ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.335853 39.975191 14 Arafat 1 ( قطار المشاعر - محطة عرفات 1 ). ( updated Jan 2022 )

Being served by two major highways, you can very easily cover the entire city by car. Mecca's road transportation network is well-maintained, organised, and well developed. Roads typically tend to be free of any traffic after the Hajj.

Uber works in Mecca. If you don't feel comfortable driving on Saudi roads, or if you don't have your own car, you can hail an Uber.

By foot [ edit ]

During the Hajj, expect to do lots and lots of walking. A lot of attractions in the city center are within walking distance.

See [ edit ]

As the holiest city in Islam, there are numerous attractions.

who can visit mecca

Main attractions [ edit ]

  • 21.43374 39.75438 8 Al-Haramain Museum ( متحف الحرم شریف ). This museum has a lot of historical artifacts from different eras.  

Hajj sites [ edit ]

Do [ edit ].

who can visit mecca

There's a lot you can do in Mecca if you plan on sticking around for long.

Factories [ edit ]

  • 21.435346 39.756497 1 The Kiswa Factory of the Holy Ka'aba . The only place in Saudi Arabia where Kiswa is traditionally made to mark the beginning of Hajj. ( updated Jan 2022 )

Museums [ edit ]

Parks [ edit ].

  • 21.384002 39.876342 5 Hussainiya Park . ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.381195 39.877341 6 King Abdullah Garden , Al Mashair . ( updated Jan 2022 )

Buy [ edit ]

While in Mecca, many pilgrims purchase trinkets to remember their time and souvenirs to bring back to family and friends. Zamzam water is available free. It is consumed in Mecca and brought home as a souvenir.

Other items to buy in and around Mecca are: prayer mats and hats, prayer beads and perfume.

Eat [ edit ]

Being one of the most visited cities in the world, you can sample food from all over the world!

Budget [ edit ]

There is an Al-Baik Restaurant adjacent to the Sacred Mosque. You can also try the fullset-chicken with cheap price, even cheaper than KFC.

  • 21.419618 39.822361 1 Five Guys , Conrad Hotel, Ibrahim Al Khalil Rd, Ash Shubaikah . A branch of the Five Guys fast food chain. ( updated Jan 2022 )

Mid-range [ edit ]

  • 21.419516 39.826416 2 Faisalabad Restaurant , ☏ +966 55 202 7444 , [email protected] . Pakistani restaurant. ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.359783 39.792998 3 Relish Joy of Taste , ☏ +966 53 020 9000 . Lebanese restaurant. ( updated Jan 2022 )

Splurge [ edit ]

  • 21.420606 39.825879 4 Al Qasr ( 10-15 minutes from Makkah Haramain train station. ), ☏ +966 12571 7888 , [email protected] . Features a wide variety cuisines: Arab, Indian, Moroccan, and Western. ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.4206 39.822057 5 The Oasis , The Oasis, Jabal Omar, Ibrahim Al Khalil Street ( Near Masjid Al-Haram ), ☏ +966 12 557 1234 . Serves a wide range of cuisines. SAR 250 (average price for two people) . ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.421784 39.822533 6 Al-Rehab Restaurant . 1pm - 11 pm . An Islamic-themed restaurant that offers a great view of Masjid Al-Haram. ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.421744 39.822833 7 Al-Tayebat Restaurant . 6am - 10am . A restaurant at the Intercontinental Dar Al Tawhid. Offers a great view of Masjid Al-Haram. ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.352921 39.895264 8 Gurkan Şef Steakhouse , ☏ +966 55 928 8684 . One of the four branches of a Turkish steakhouse chain. ( updated Jan 2022 )

Drink [ edit ]

who can visit mecca

During the Hajj, you can try some Zamzam water , which is believed to be divinely blessed. As this is Saudi Arabia, the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages is virtually non-existent.

  • 21.421944 39.822447 1 Zamzam Cafe . 9AM–1AM . A cafe at the Intercontinental Dar Al Tawhid. You can enjoy cold drinks, tea, coffee accompanied by lovely snacks on the side. ( updated Jan 2022 )

Sleep [ edit ]

Mecca has a plethora of hotels. Prices vary depending on the hotel's proximity to the Holy Mosque. Some of the world's greatest hotels are situated in Mecca, and are full year-round. Make sure to book early, as soon as you know your dates of travel.

  • 21.421784 39.822533 2 Intercontinental Dar al Tawhid Makkah ( The Inter-Continental ), Ibrahim Al Khalis St ( Just Outside of Mecca ), ☏ +966-2-541-1111 .  
  • 21.42328 39.819759 4 Hilton Makkah Convention Hotel , ☏ +966 12 526 0000 . Offers majestic views and is close to Masjid Al-Haram. ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.402013 39.878921 5 Park Inn by Radisson Makkah Aziziyah , 2516 Al Masjid Al Haram Road AlMursalat District , ☏ +966 1255 99100 . ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.419163 39.823975 6 Swissôtel Al Maqam , King Abdul Aziz Endowment , ☏ +966 (12) 577 5888 , [email protected] . ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.381127 39.874021 7 Four Points by Sheraton Makkah Al Naseem , Third Ring Road, Al Naseem District at Al Rajhi Mosque , ☏ +966 12 550 8999 . ( updated Jan 2022 )
  • 21.420067 39.824648 8 Pullman Zamzam Makkah , Abraj Al Bait Complex, King Abdel Aziz Endowment , ☏ +966 15715555 , [email protected] . Located in the Abraj Al Bait complex, adjoining Masjid Al-Haram. ( updated Jan 2022 )

Stay safe [ edit ]

Mecca in general is a safe city, but one should take extra precautions during the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

The various safety tips found in the Saudi Arabia article will come in handy. Refer it to often to stay out of trouble.

Overcrowding and stampedes [ edit ]

who can visit mecca

Overcrowding and stampedes are not unusual in Mecca . Since the development of air travel, pilgrims have been able to access the city much easily than before (earlier people used to travel to Mecca by boat or by other means), and as a result, the city's capacity can be completely overwhelmed.

If you're travelling with family members or with a friend, stick together . Supervise your children (if you have any) closely to make sure they are close to you and are not lost among the crowd.

In September 2015, approximately 2,236 pilgrims were trampled upon and killed in Mina, an incident regarded as the worst ever stampede in the city. The stampede drew extremely strong responses from Muslim-majority countries, with some blaming the Saudi government for being negligent and downplaying the severity of the incident, and the Iranian government (Iran had the highest casualty toll in the stampede) was angered to such a great extent that they went as far as banning their citizens from performing the Hajj in 2016.

Extreme weather [ edit ]

Mecca has a hot desert climate and temperatures regularly reach as high as 50°C (120°F) during the summers.

As is the case throughout the Middle East , always check weather conditions and hydrate often; you can very easily get exhausted, lethargic, and dehydrated if you do not take the necessary precautions.

Pickpocketing [ edit ]

There are many dishonest people and groups that often try to take advantage of the Hajj pilgrimage and/or the Umrah to deprive people of their personal property. You should not assume that Mecca only attracts the honest.

When traversing through the crowds, keep your valuables safe. Err on the side of safety and don't take any unnecessary risks. If you have been the victim of theft, call the police. Saudi authorities treat theft very seriously, largely because of a zero-tolerance justice system.

Construction-related accidents [ edit ]

The Saudi authorities invest heavily into construction projects designed to cater to Hajj pilgrims, and this has, on occasion, caused a few construction-related accidents.

In 2015, a crawler crane in the Grand Mosque collapsed, killing 111 pilgrims and injuring dozens of others. In the event something is being renovated or constructed, do not walk close to any construction site. Give all renovation sites a wide berth.

Female travellers [ edit ]

Since 2018, female pilgrims have spoken up about sexual abuse and harassment experienced on the Hajj. Although it is unlikely you'll experience severe harassment, don't be afraid to create a scene and don't feel the need to be polite in the event someone harasses you; no woman would be expected to put up with rotten behaviour like that.

The Hajj is time-consuming and can take a huge toll on your physical health. Many pregnant pilgrims suffer miscarriages during the Hajj. If you are expecting soon or if you are recuperating from an illness, it is strongly recommended that you postpone your trip.

Stay healthy [ edit ]

There are several hospitals in Mecca.

  • 21.436028 39.853968 1 King Faisal Hospital , ☏ +966 12 526 3200 .  

Respect [ edit ]

As the holiest city in Islam , appropriate religious prohibitions and attitudes should be in order. When you're here for either the Hajj or the Umrah, remember to eschew from the following: smoking, engaging in sexual relations, using foul language, shaving your hair and cutting your nails .

Local etiquette [ edit ]

The various respect tips found in the Saudi Arabia article are of immense help. Familiarise yourself with Saudi etiquette before entering Mecca.

Refrain from pontificating about the Saudi government's construction campaign in the city; the issue is very sensitive among some.

General etiquette [ edit ]

You are bound to meet people from all over the world. Be open to new experiences, and don't feel afraid of communicating with anyone. Approach people with a positive attitude and you are apt to make friends; a gruff, impatient attitude may generate resentment.

Photography [ edit ]

It's actually forbidden to take photographs inside the Masjid Al-Haram , but the rules are not rigorously enforced. In fact, it is quite common to see people clicking away happily with their smart phones inside the mosque. You would, however, arouse suspicion from the staff if you come in with a fancy camera.

There's some disagreement on whether or not people should take photographs inside the Masjid Al-Haram. Although some don't see it as a big deal and will happily share their photographs with others, many others consider it incredibly disrespectful .

If you feel the need to take a photo, don't engage in "touristy" behaviour (i.e. acting like you're seeing a place for the first time in forever) and don't conduct yourself in a way that would be perceived as disruptive or annoying. Always be considerate to the people around you; chances are, other people take things more seriously than you do!

Connect [ edit ]

The four mobile operators in Saudi Arabia, incumbent Al Jawal , Emirati rival Mobily , Kuwaiti Zain (Vodafone Network) and STC newcomer Jawwy [dead link] are fiercely competitive, with good coverage (in populated areas) and good prices.

You should be able to get a prepaid SMS at major airports, or at local shops nearby.

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If you plan on spending some time in the Mecca Province, consider visiting the following cities:

  • Medina — Islam's second holiest city. Unlike Mecca, Medina is open to non-Muslims.
  • Taif — the unofficial summer capital of Saudi Arabia. Non-Muslims are allowed to enter.
  • Jeddah — the second largest city in Saudi Arabia, known for the traditional coral houses in its old town.

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Mecca is only accessible by Muslims, who often describe the moment they first lay eyes on the city's sacred Kaaba as an overwhelmingly emotional experience. For those living outside the Kingdom, a visit to Mecca – generally spelt 'Makkah' by Muslims and in Saudi Arabia – is a lifelong dream. Coming here to perform the hajj pilgrimage is a religious obligation for all Muslims who are financially and physically able to do so.

Attractions

Must-see attractions.

Al Masjid Al Haram

Al Masjid Al Haram

The focal point for every Muslim and the biggest mosque in the world, Al Masjid Al Haram is able to host a million worshippers and covers an area of 356…

Exhibition of the Two Holy Mosques

Exhibition of the Two Holy Mosques

This little museum is brimming with relics from the two holy mosques, Al Masjid Al Haram in Mecca and the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. These include…

Cave of Thor

Cave of Thor

This small mountain (761m) is where the Prophet hid for three days with his companion Abu Bakr from the Quraysh tribe. According to Islamic custom, an…

Jabal Al Nour

Jabal Al Nour

The 640m-tall Jabal Al Nour is the location of the tiny Hira cave and one of the most important Islamic pilgrimage sites. According to Islamic tradition,…

Jabal Rahmah

Jabal Rahmah

Also known as the Mountain of Mercy, this granite hill is an important part of performing the hajj as pilgrims leave Mina for Arafat on the ninth day to…

Makkah Museum

Makkah Museum

Formerly Al Zahir Palace, the 3435-sq-metre Makkah Museum has a collection ranging from images of Saudi Arabia’s important archaeological discoveries to…

Jannat Al Muallaa Cemetery

Jannat Al Muallaa Cemetery

Many of the Prophet’s family are buried here, including his first wife, Khadija, his sons Qasim and Abdullah, his uncle, Abu Talib, and his grandfather,…

Masjid Al Bay'ah

Masjid Al Bay'ah

These remnants of Masjid Al Bay'ah mark the spot where tribal leaders pledged their allegiance to Muhammad in AD 621. Simple in design, an arched entrance…

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Pilgrims walking around the Ka‘ba at Mecca

Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca

Postcard showing the Ka'ba, Mecca. Printed by Sarawat Printers & Designers, Saudi Arabia, c. 2011.

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Millions of Muslims make the journey to Mecca each year. Here are a few of the key things you should know about this incredible pilgrimage.

What is Hajj?

Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca (in modern-day Saudi Arabia), which every Muslim must make at least once in their lifetime, if they are able. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and a religious duty central to Muslim belief.

Hajj occurs in the month of Dhu al-Hijja, the last month of the Islamic calendar. The Muslim calendar is lunar, which means that the Hajj takes place progressively across all four seasons of the year rather than at one specific time of the year.

It involves a series of rituals which are performed in and around Mecca over a period of 5-6 days. Muslims believe that the rituals of Hajj have their origin in the time of the Prophet Abraham. The Prophet Muhammad led the Hajj himself in AD 632, the year of his death.

The Hajj now attracts around three million pilgrims every year from across the world.

Pilgrims walking around the Ka‘ba at Mecca

Hajj for me was a dream come true, walking on the holy land where once prophets have walked and talked. It was a magic journey.

Naureen Khan, Sheffield

Why is Mecca so important?

The city of Mecca is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, and where he received the message of Islam, which transformed Mecca into the holiest city in the Islamic world.

Mecca has been a sacred site from ancient times. Even before Islam, Mecca was an important site of pilgrimage for the Arab tribes of north and central Arabia. During the sacred months, such as Dhu al-Hijja, violence was forbidden within Mecca and this allowed trade to flourish and as a result Mecca became an important commercial centre.

The sanctuary at Mecca (Masjid al-Haram) with the Ka'ba and the well of Zamzam at its heart is the place towards which Muslims pray every day. The Ka'ba, which literally means 'The Cube', is a square empty building which is otherwise known to Muslims as the 'House of God'.

The first House [of worship] to be established for people was the one in Mecca. It is a blessed place; a source of guidance for all people.

Qur'an 3 – Al 'Imran: 96

What does Hajj involve?

Hajj involves a series of rituals that take place in and around Mecca over a period of five to six days, some of these include:

The pilgrim must travel to one of the designated Miqat , or 'stated places', a boundary where they must don their pilgrimage clothes: Ihram . This consists of two pieces of unstitched white cloth for men, and any modest clothing for women. Ihram is not only clothing, but the intention to perform hajj in a peaceful manner.

The first of the rituals is tawaf in which pilgrims walk around the Ka'ba seven times in an anticlockwise direction.

When my grandfathers spoke to me as a child about their experience of Hajj, they told me of the physical attraction they felt towards the Ka'ba, that they felt drawn to it by an almost magnetic pull.

Artist Ahmed Mater al-Ziad

Artwork depicting the Ka‘ba with a magnet and pilgrims walking around it with iron filings

This is the traversing between the two hills of Safa and Marwah. The area in which the activity takes place is called the mas'a (the place of hurrying), and is now set within the mosque at Mecca. This ritual represents Hagar's search for water after being left in the desert by Abraham.

Five hajjis, including the Khedive, running through a crowd of people at Mecca

Wuquf 'Arafat

Literally meaning 'standing', this ritual refers to the most important vigil that takes place from noon to sunset on the 9th of Dhu al-Hijja on the plain of Arafat.

The stay at Arafat was the most surreal moment in my life. Millions of people around me... quietly contemplating or loudly crying for forgiveness. As the day moves on, silence descends and the sun feels hot no longer... I will never forget the sound of warm afternoon wind which seemed to ignore so many around me – how can a place so crowded with millions be so quiet?

Umair Ghori, Gold Coast, Australia

At Muzdalifa

According to tradition, Muzdalifa, situated between Mina and Mount 'Arafat, is where pardon is granted and where Muslims gather the pebbles used to throw at the Jamarat (pillars) in Mina. Here pilgrims collect a minimum of 49 pebbles. The Prophet Muhammad stated that stones should be neither too big nor too small, approximately the size of a chickpea.

These stones are used at the three pillars set within the valley of Mina close to Mecca which represent the three times that Satan attempted to tempt Abraham. They are known as Jamrat al-'Aqaba (the largest), Jamrat al-Wusta (the middle one) and Jamrat al-Sughra (the small one).

Rows of tents set up for Hajj pilgrims at Mina

This photographic print shows tents at Mina, set up for the pilgrims as they spend three or four days here.

Eid al-Adha

This 'festival of sacrifice' takes place on the 10th of Dhu al-Hijja, a great feast throughout the Muslim world. On Hajj, the pilgrim must make a sacrifice and another obligatory ritual is the taqsir or halq (cutting or shaving) of the hair. This act of devotion symbolises the shedding of worldly attachments and a new beginning.

Shaving my head after completing all Hajj duties I felt reborn with a pure soul.

Mr Hussain, London

Final tawaf

Muslim pilgrims dressed in red, green, blue and yellow entering the Haram (sanctuary) at Mecca

This colourful print shows pilgrims performing the final tawaf . Pilgrims are streaming through the Bab Bani Shayba, the red-and-white-striped gate in the centre.

When it was time to leave Mecca, I went to look at the Ka'ba one last time after the Zuhr prayers. I took in the light and the sea of people in motion, it was more powerful than anything I had seen before.

Zaheen Shah, London

The journey to Hajj

When pilgrims undertake the Hajj journey, they follow in the footsteps of millions before them. Before embarking on Hajj, pilgrims must settle all debts, make provision for any dependents and ask forgiveness from others.

Today, millions of Muslims from over 70 nations arrive in Mecca in Saudi Arabia by road, sea and air every year, completing a journey faster that those before them.

Artwork showing a figure on a camel, a satellite dish and a modern building

In the past those travelling overland by camel and on foot congregated at three central points: Kufa in Iraq, Damascus in Syria, and Cairo in Egypt. Pilgrims coming by sea would enter Arabia at the port of Jeddah.

This work by the contemporary Saudi Arabian artist Maha Malluh draws on the contrasting experiences of travelling on Hajj in the past and present.

Wishing safe travels to all those taking part in Hajj 2017!

The accompanying book Hajj: Collected Essays , a major multi-disciplinary study of the history and significance of the Hajj, is available from the British Museum Shop online.

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Saudi Arabia lifts a ban on foreign pilgrims heading to Mecca.

Starting this week, pilgrims fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by certain vaccines from outside the kingdom can apply to join the umrah pilgrimage.

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who can visit mecca

By Asmaa al-Omar

  • Aug. 10, 2021

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Saudi Arabia has resumed allowing travelers from abroad to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the kingdom announced this week, a new easing of the restrictions imposed last year to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at the Islamic holy sites.

Aspiring pilgrims from many countries can now apply to perform the lesser pilgrimage to Mecca, known as umrah, as long as they can provide proof that they have received a coronavirus vaccine approved by the Saudi authorities, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday. The new policy took effect on Monday.

The kingdom has approved the vaccines made by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. Foreigners who have received two doses of either the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines can enter only if they have also received a third shot of one of the four approved vaccines.

As the pandemic spread last year, Saudi Arabia barred travelers from abroad from the main pilgrimage, the hajj, which attracts millions of pilgrims in normal years, spreading disappointment across the Muslim world . Devout Muslims who are physically and financially able are required to perform the hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, at least once during their lives.

Last year, only a few hundred pilgrims who were already in the kingdom were allowed to go.

Foreign travelers were also barred from this year’s hajj, which was in July.

Umrah can be performed at any time of the year. Allowing vaccinated foreign travelers to apply for it represents a step toward restoring the prepandemic status quo at the holy sites.

The number of permitted foreign visitors will initially be limited and will increase over time, with the goal of eventually allowing two million pilgrims a month.

Other restrictions, including limiting the number of worshipers in mosques and on buses, will also be enforced to decrease the chances of infection. As of Monday, Saudi Arabia had averaged 732 new cases a day over the last week , a 40 percent decline from two weeks ago, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Saudi Arabia still bans direct travel from a number of countries that it has deemed viral threats. Pilgrims from other countries must observe a mandatory seven-day quarantine on arrival. About 29 percent of Saudi residents are fully vaccinated , according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.

Besides having deep religious significance, the pilgrimage is big business and the ban on foreign worshipers hurt companies across the Islamic world that cater to pilgrims.

Before the pandemic, Jamal Ali, who works at a Beirut travel agency that specializes in religious tourism, sold a range of packages including plane tickets and hotel stays. The ban on foreign pilgrims cut his income by about 90 percent, he said.

He hoped that the resumption of foreign trips to Mecca would be a step back toward normalcy.

“We understand that Saudi Arabia is trying to achieve general immunity,” he said. “We are waiting for relief from God, and for this pandemic to end.”

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Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, explained for non-Muslims

It’s like Burning Man, but for Muslims. Okay, it’s nothing like Burning Man.

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Muslim pilgrims on hajj perform the final walk (Tawaf al-Wadaa) around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca on November 30, 2009.

At this moment in mid-August, 1.5 million people from dozens of countries around the world are in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to perform the hajj, the Islamic religious pilgrimage.

It’s a huge event — in terms of both its significance in Islam and the massive logistical challenge of having that many people from all walks of life and every corner of the globe descend on one relatively small place all at once.

But what actually goes on at the hajj? What is its religious and political significance? How do they handle all those people? And what is inside that big black box?

We've got you covered: Here are the most basic answers to the most basic questions about the hajj.

What is the hajj?

The hajj — Arabic for “pilgrimage” — is a five-day religious pilgrimage to Mecca and nearby holy sites in Saudi Arabia that all Muslims who are physically and financially able must perform at least once in their lives. It is one of the five pillars, or duties, of Islam, along with the profession of faith in the one God and Mohammed as his prophet, prayer, charitable giving, and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan .

The hajj takes place only once a year, in the 12th and final month of the Islamic lunar calendar; pilgrimages to Mecca made at other times in the year are encouraged but do not count as the hajj. Because the Islamic lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than the 365 days of the standard Gregorian calendar, the timing of the hajj moves backward each year.

Over the five days of the hajj, pilgrims perform a series of rituals meant to symbolize their unity with other believers and to pay tribute to God. On the last three days of the hajj, pilgrims — as well as all other Muslims around the world — celebrate Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice. This is one of the two major religious holidays Muslims celebrate every year. (The other is Eid al-Fitr, which comes at the end of Ramadan.)

At the end of the hajj, pilgrims return home and are often given the honorific “hajji,” meaning one who has performed the hajj. (One interesting note here: During the Iraq War, US troops frequently used the term “hajji” as a derogatory term for any Iraqi, Arab, or other person of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent. So although they certainly didn’t mean it this way, and it almost certainly wasn’t taken this way by the person on the receiving end of the slur, US troops were inadvertently applying a term of respect and honor to these individuals.)

What is the religious significance of the hajj?

People may be surprised to learn that the hajj has very little to do with the Prophet Mohammed. Rather, it mostly commemorates events in the life of the Prophet Ibrahim — that is, Abraham. Yes, that Abraham.

If you’re from a non-Abrahamic faith tradition or if it’s just been a while since Sunday school, Abraham is a venerated patriarchal figure in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Baha’i faith. He is perhaps best known for being willing to personally kill his beloved son when God commanded him to do so. At the last minute, so the story goes, God stepped in and told Abraham to sacrifice an animal instead, rewarding Abraham’s unwavering faith.

In the Judeo-Christian narrative, the son Abraham almost sacrifices is Isaac. In Islam, however, it’s Abraham’s other son, Ismail (Ishmael), who is almost sacrificed. Muslims consider both Abraham and Ismail to be prophets of God, and Mohammed’s ancestry is said to be traced back to Ismail.

There is another event involving Ismail and his mother, Hagar, that looms large in the hajj. The story goes like this: God commanded Abraham, as a test of faith, to take Hagar and the infant Ismail out to a barren desert area located between the two hills of Safa and Marwah in Mecca, and leave them there alone with only basic provisions. Eventually the water ran out, and the increasingly frantic Hagar ran back and forth from hill to hill seven times searching for water for her parched child.

Then a miracle occurred: A well, later called the Zamzam well, sprang from the ground, saving both of them. The story of how the well was discovered differs: Some accounts say it was the baby Ismail’s distressed kicking of his feet that scratched away the dirt and revealed the water source. Other accounts hold that the angel Gabriel (Jibril in Arabic) tipped his wing into the dirt to reveal the well.

Abraham and Ismail later went on to build the Kaaba, the black cuboid structure in Mecca that Muslims face when they pray, together, as a place of worship of the one God. (Abraham eventually came back and retrieved his family from the desert, evidently.)

Soon after they built the Kaaba, tradition holds, God commanded Abraham to proclaim a pilgrimage to the site — in other words, the hajj — to all mankind (well, all monotheists) so that they can come together in one place to show their devotion to God.

Okay, seriously, what’s the deal with the big black cube?

Muslims around the world face the direction of the Kaaba — Arabic for “cube” — when they pray, but they don’t worship the Kaaba (or the Black Stone). Rather, it is a place of worship of the one God. It is also a focusing mechanism, a central point on the globe toward which all Muslims, in a symbol of unity, direct their thoughts and prayers to God.

According to Islamic tradition, the site of the Kaaba was originally a sacred place where angels would worship God in the days before man was created. Later, Adam (yes, that Adam, partner to Eve) built a shrine to God on that spot, but it too was destroyed by the ravages of time. When Abraham came along, he and his son Ismail rebuilt the Kaaba on the foundations of Adam’s earlier shrine as a place of worship of the one God.

The structure consists of four walls and a roof, all made from stone from the hills surrounding Mecca. The four corners roughly face the four points of the compass. The building is often referred to as a “cube” (that’s where “Kaaba” comes from, after all), but this is not technically correct. To be a true geometric cube , all its edges must have the same length, and every corner in the cube must have an angle of 90 degrees.

The Kaaba’s edges are not all the same length, so therefore it is best described as a “cuboid,” not a “cube.” It is covered by a black silk cloth decorated with verses of the Quran in gold-embroidered Arabic calligraphy. This cloth is known as the kiswah, and it is replaced yearly, on the second day of the hajj.

While Abraham was building the Kaaba, so the legend goes, the angel Gabriel came down and gave Abraham the famous Black Stone, which he placed in the eastern corner of the structure.

There is another squarish stone on the ground a few feet away from the Kaaba with what look like two footprints in it. This is known as the Station of Abraham and is said to be the stone where Abraham stood while watching over the construction of the Kaaba. Today it is encased in a beautifully ornate golden glass-and-metal structure.

There is a famous story in Islam about Mohammed and the Black Stone. By Mohammed’s time, the Kaaba had again been damaged and was being repaired (it has been damaged or destroyed and rebuilt or repaired numerous times over the centuries). The story goes that when construction was finished and it came time to place the Black Stone back in the eastern corner, the final step, the tribes of Mecca argued fiercely over who would get to do the honors.

They decided to ask the next man who walked by to decide for them, and that man happened to be Mohammed. His solution was to put the stone on a large cloth and have each of the leaders of the four tribes hold a corner of the cloth and carry the stone to its place. Mohammed himself then placed the stone into its final position.

This was back before Mohammed had received his first revelation from God. The next time Mohammed was involved with the Kaaba, though, would prove to be much less ... harmonious.

Islamic tradition holds that although Abraham built the Kaaba to worship the one God, over time the Kaaba had been more or less co-opted by the various pagan tribes in the area, all of whom had placed idols to their preferred deity inside the Kaaba, thereby “corrupting” it.

One particularly popular idol was a figure of Hubal, a moon deity worshipped by many in Mecca at the time. Access to the Kaaba (and thus the idol) was controlled by the powerful Quraysh tribe, of which Mohammed was a member, and they basically capitalized on this to get rich, charging fees and selling wares to pilgrims coming to worship the idol.

When Mohammed began receiving revelations from God (he received his first one about five years after the incident with the Black Stone) and preaching his message of monotheism, the rich Qurayshi merchants started getting a little antsy. Worried that the growing popularity of his decidedly anti-idol worshiping message could potentially hurt business, they ran Mohammed and his small band of followers out of town.

Ten years later, Mohammed and his now much larger and more powerful army of followers defeated the Quraysh tribe and took control of Mecca. One of Mohammed’s first acts upon taking control of the city was to go into the Kaaba and smash the idol of Hubal and the hundreds of other idols to pieces, rededicating the shrine as a place of worship of the one God.

Today, the Kaaba is kept closed during the hajj because of the overwhelming number of people, but those who visit the Kaaba during other times of the year are sometimes allowed to go inside. It’s quite beautiful: The walls are white marble on the lower half and green cloth on the upper half. There is very little inside it, though — just three tall stone pillars, a small table, some hanging lamp–looking things, and a staircase to the roof.

Oh, and aliens.

These aren’t the aliens. They’re just Arabs on cellphones. Inside the Kaaba.

Just kidding.

What are the main rituals performed during the hajj?

The most well-known ritual is the tawaf (literally “circumambulation”), during which pilgrims circle the Kaaba counterclockwise seven times at both the very beginning and the very end of the hajj. Although it’s not entirely clear exactly why it’s seven specifically, many believe it has to do with the motion of celestial bodies. Seven is also a prominent number associated with the divine in many religions, including Christianity and Judaism.

Other rituals include a ceremony where pilgrims throw small pebbles at three large stone walls, called jamarat, to symbolize the stoning the devil that tempted Abraham to defy God, and the slaughtering of an animal (usually a sheep) to honor the animal Abraham slaughtered instead of his son.

The meat is then given to feed the poor and needy. These days, pilgrims frequently elect to purchase tokens to have an animal slaughtered for them.

who can visit mecca

There is also a ritual called Sa’ee, in which pilgrims walk back and forth between the two hills of Safa and Marwah seven times to commemorate Hagar’s frantic search for water for her infant son.

Today, both hills are enclosed within the Masjid al-Haram (Sacred Mosque) complex (which also houses the Kaaba), and the path between the hills is a long, beautiful indoor gallery with marble floors and air conditioning. Many also drink from the Zamzam well located there.

The only ritual that is solely related to Mohammed is the climbing of Mount Arafat, which is where Mohammed preached his last sermon. On the second day of hajj, pilgrims wake at dawn and walk a short distance to Mount Arafat, where they spend the remainder of the day on or near the mountain in quiet worship and contemplation of God.

Can non-Muslims do the hajj?

No. Although Christians and Jews believe in the God of Abraham, they are not allowed to perform the hajj. Indeed, the government of Saudi Arabia forbids all non-Muslims from entering the holy city of Mecca at all.

who can visit mecca

The Saudi government takes this very seriously, so the odds that a non-Muslim would be able to slip in unnoticed among the throngs of pilgrims undetected or pretend to be Muslim and get in that way are extremely small. It’s not completely impossible — it has happened a handful of times over the centuries — but given the millions who attend every single year, the rate of success is miniscule. The Saudis have been doing this for a long time, and they’re not idiots.

Legal entry into the country is extremely tightly controlled, and the paperwork required to get a hajj visa is incredibly detailed. Pilgrims must book their hajj trip through a Saudi government–approved hajj travel agent. For a Western Muslim convert to be allowed to go on hajj, he or she must present documentation from an imam (Muslim religious leader). The imam must testify in writing that he knows the person in question and that the person is a true convert.

Trying to come in on a regular tourist visa and then stealthily making your way to Mecca is also a nonstarter. Getting a tourist visa as a Westerner is notoriously hard, and the likelihood of you being able to just slip away from your Saudi government minder and travel undetected all the way from the capital Riyadh to Mecca — more than 500 miles away, on the other side of a vast desert — is basically laughable.

The only way for a non-Muslim to get in is essentially to play the long con, pretending to convert to Islam seemingly sincerely enough to convince the local imam that you’re for real. That has happened before: In 2015, WND published a three-part series written pseudonymously by someone who claimed to be a white British non-Muslim man who successfully fake-converted to Islam and went on hajj.

So it’s not impossible. But you have to really, really, really want to go to all that trouble and risk potentially being deported and banned from the country (not to mention causing a major international incident and pissing off just about every Muslim on the planet) just to get into a city to see some sites that aren’t even of religious significance to you.

What about women and children?

Parents may choose to bring even their very young children with them, but the hajj won’t “count” toward fulfilling the child’s personal religious obligation, as that requires the child to be mature enough intellectually and spiritually to understand the significance of the hajj.

Women are also allowed — indeed, required, just like every other physically and financially able Muslim is — to perform the hajj. However, they have to be accompanied by an appropriate male guardian (called a mahram). Here are the rules, per the US State Department:

Women below the age of 45 must be accompanied by a “mahram” (e.g. close adult, male relative such as a husband, son, father, or brother) for Hajj. Women must be met by their sponsor upon arrival. Women who are traveling alone and not met by sponsors have experienced delays before being allowed to enter the country or to continue on other flights. Women over 45 may travel without a mahram in an organized group, provided they submit a notarized letter of no objection from the husband, son, or brother, authorizing travel for Hajj with the named group. Violators face deportation.

Women who are members of the minority Shia sect of Islam (the majority of the world’s Muslims are Sunni), on the other hand, are not required by Saudi authorities to have a mahram when attending hajj and are allowed to travel alone. This is likely because Shia scholars have, unlike Sunni scholars, ruled that a woman may travel alone on hajj if she feels that she will be safe.

And since it’s basically impossible to talk about women in Islam these days without someone bringing up the issue of how much clothing they’re required (or not required) to wear, here’s a fun fact: Although women must cover their hair with a scarf, the face veil, known as a niqab, and the burqa, the garment that covers from head to toe with only a mesh-like panel through which to see, are not allowed during hajj.

Yes, you read that right: The two pieces of clothing that are the most controversial and are seen by many anti-Islam critics as symbols of the pervasive and pernicious cultural intrusion of Islam and its inherent oppression of women, are not allowed during one of Islam’s most sacred rituals, even though men and women mix freely during it.

Some women still wear them, though, despite the prohibition, and it doesn’t seem to be something that’s actually enforced. Some have also come up with rather creative workarounds, such as wearing large, darkly tinted sunglasses and those paper face masks doctors wear.

So why the prohibition? The reason is basically that while Mohammed’s various statements regarding women’s dress are hotly debated among Muslim scholars (Mohammed lived a long time, after all, and he said a lot of things over the course of his life), his statement on women not covering their faces (or hands) during hajj is crystal clear: A woman in the state of ritual purity for hajj “should not cover her face or wear gloves.” Not a whole lot of room for debate there (though, of course, people still do debate it, because humans).

Men also wear special clothing during hajj. Male pilgrims wear two pieces of clean, unstitched cloth (usually plain white) — one wrapped around their waist and one wrapped around their torso — and plain sandals. The purpose of making all men dress in this same simple garb is to strip away all indications of wealth and status so that all pilgrims are seen as equal, as they are in the eyes of God.

How in the world does Saudi Arabia handle such a massive number of people each year?

In general, the Saudi government does a pretty good job at managing things, all things considered. But not always: Over the years, there have been many horrific examples of large numbers of people dying.

1.5 million people are attending the hajj this year. That’s way bigger than the Olympics (10,500 athletes and 500,000 foreign tourists went to Rio for the 2016 Olympics), Burning Man (the annual gathering in the Nevada desert currently has an attendance cap of 70,000 ), and the average Taylor Swift concert combined.

It’s not the biggest world event — that honor probably goes to the Kumbh Mela Hindu religious festival held every three years in India (in 2013, some 100 million people are believed to have attended) — but it’s still pretty impressive. For instance, the Saudi government’s target for the number of people performing tawaf (circling the Kaaba seven times) last year was 107,000 an hour .

But considering there are an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet, all of whom are required to perform the hajj at least once in their lives if they are financially and physically able, the numbers could actually be a lot higher. The main reason they aren’t is because every year the Saudi government sets quotas for each country on how many pilgrims they’re allowed to send on hajj.

To manage the people who do get to come, the Saudi government has invested billions of dollars in building a vast and elaborate infrastructure in and around the holy sitesa massive hajj terminal at the main airport in Riyadh, a complex network of roads to bring pilgrims to the city of Mecca, wide foot bridges to carry the tens of thousands of pedestrians who move from place to place at preset, staggered times to minimize traffic flow (personal vehicles are prohibited, for obvious reasons, so most people walk everywhere, though some — mostly the elderly — take shuttle buses), multi-tiered galleries around the Kaaba and the jamarat (the stone walls where the symbolic stoning of the devil takes place), and more.

Perhaps the most stunning logistical feat, though, is the vast tent city at Mina, located just a few kilometers from Mecca, where more than 160,000 air-conditioned, fireproof, Teflon-coated fiberglass tents provide temporary accommodation for pilgrims. Men and women, even married couples, sleep in separate tents. The majority of the tents can accommodate about 50 people, and the average price for each pilgrim is $500, according to Al Jazeera’ s Basma Atassi.

However, luxury tents costing as much as $10,000 per pilgrim — including some equipped with jacuzzis — are available for those few wealthy enough to afford them. As Atassi writes, though, the Saudi government in recent years has taken steps to ban them, stating that they “defied the spirit of the Hajj.”

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For 51 weeks of the year, the tent city, roads, and other infrastructure built to accommodate pilgrims are almost completely deserted. Then for one week each year, they seethe with humanity.

There is also an extensive security apparatus in place to monitor every aspect of the hajj — to maintain order and safety, but also to ensure that proper Islamic protocol is followed by all in attendance. This year, the Saudis have deployed tens of thousands of security forces to control crowds and help keep pilgrims safe.

Unfortunately, that same number of security forces wasn’t enough to prevent catastrophe from striking in 2015: That year, more than 2,400 people were killed when a stampede occurred at the intersection of two pedestrian walkways leading out of the tent city toward the jamarat bridge.

Though this was the deadliest hajj disaster in history, other disasters have occurred. As Al Jazeera’s Atassi notes:

A 1990 stampede inside a pedestrian tunnel killed almost 1,500 people, while stampedes in the stoning of the devil area in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2003, 2004 and 2006 claimed the lives of hundreds. The eruption of a fire in 1997 burned thousands of tents and killed over 300 people.

Health issues are also a major concern during the hajj. So many people from all corners of the globe gathering in such a small area means the chances of contagious diseases spreading through the population are very high. There is also a high risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and sunburn, especially when the hajj falls in the summer months (as it does this year). For instance, in August 1985 , 2,000 cases of heatstroke were reported, and more than 1,000 of the sufferers died within a few days.

To try to prevent this from happening, the Saudi government makes all pilgrims adhere to strict guidelines regarding vaccinations, especially for particularly contagious diseases such as meningitis. Pilgrims are also advised to drink lots of water and to be mindful of the perils of the blistering desert heat.

The Saudi government also provides complimentary water distributed from refrigerated trucks, air-conditioned tents at Mina, large sun-blocking canopies, and thousands of fine-mist sprinklers, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

Medical facilities are also available in and around the main hajj sites. As Asaad Shujaa and Sameer Alhamid write in the Turkish Journal of Emergency Medicine , in 2012 there were 25 hospitals with 4,427 bed capacity (500 critical care and 550 emergency care) and 141 health centers with 20,000 qualified specialized personnel. They also note that all health care is provided at no cost to all pilgrims.

And, finally, there’s the politics.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have for years been in a sort of proxy struggle for dominance of the Middle East and the broader Muslim world. Saudi Arabia's government is officially Sunni, and Iran's is officially Shia. Both countries frequently exploit this by pushing a sectarian worldview of Sunni versus Shia. And that often comes to a head over the hajj.

The political legitimacy of the Saudi royal family rests largely on its religious credentials, which it gets at home from the support of the country's ultra-conservative Wahhabi religious establishment, and internationally from being the "custodian" of the two holiest places in Islam, the Prophet Mohammed's mosque in Medina and Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.

Iran, then, has long sought to portray the Saudis as incompetent custodians in an effort to damage their credibility, and has even called for an international body to take over administration of these places. When a horrific stampede occurred at the 2015 hajj, Iran jumped at the chance to blame the Saudis.

More than 400 Iranian pilgrims were reportedly killed in the incident. But before most of the victims had even been identified, Iranian leaders issued statements blaming the Saudis for the accident.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei stated , “The Saudi government is obliged to accept its heavy responsibility in this bitter incident and meet its obligations in compliance with the rule of righteousness and fairness; mismanagement and improper measures that were behind this tragedy should not be undermined,” and declared three days of mourning for the victims of the stampede.

The fight bled into the 2016 hajj. Khamenei issued a blistering statement on his website calling the Saudis murderers for their handling of the stampede last year and suggesting they may even have caused the stampede on purpose:

Saudi rulers were at fault in both cases. This is what all those present, observers and technical analysts agree upon. Some experts maintain that the events were premeditated. The hesitation and failure to rescue the half-dead and injured people, whose enthusiastic souls and enthralled hearts were accompanying their praying tongues on Eid ul-Adha, is also obvious and incontrovertible. The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers- instead of providing medical treatment and helping them or at least quenching their thirst. They murdered them.

Not to be outdone, Saudi Arabia’s top religious leader struck back, accusing the Iranians of being pagan fire worshipers, not Muslims. From Al Jazeera :

In comments to the Makkah newspaper published on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh was quoted as saying that Khamenei's remarks blaming Riyadh for last year's tragedy were "not surprising" because Iranians are descendants of Magi. Magi refers to Zoroastrians and those who worship fire. Predating Christianity and Islam, Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion in Persia before the Arab conquest. "We must understand they are not Muslims, for they are the descendants of Majuws, and their enmity towards Muslims, especially the Sunnis, is very old," Saudi's grand mufti said, according to the AP news agency.

The Iranians also decided to bar their citizens from attending the hajj at all last year, claiming the Saudis failed to adequately guarantee the safety of Iranian pilgrims and accusing them of having “blocked the proud and faithful Iranian pilgrims’ path to the Beloved’s House [the Kaaba].” The Saudis, of course, blamed the Iranians , arguing they had refused to sign the agreement both sides had reached over the 2016 hajj:

“Saudi Arabia does not prevent anyone from performing the religious duty,” the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said at a news conference with his visiting British counterpart, Philip Hammond. “Iran refused to sign the memorandum and was practically demanding the right to hold demonstrations and to have other advantages … that would create chaos during hajj, which is not acceptable,” he added.

Whoever’s fault it was, no Iranian pilgrims were allowed at the hajj in 2016. In 2017, however, Iran lifted the ban, and around 80,000 Iranians performed the hajj that year.

And there are tons of Shia Muslims from other countries, too. For the most part, Sunni and Shia pilgrims on hajj get along just fine — despite the best efforts of the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia to stir up sectarian tension every year for geopolitical gain.

That Sunni and Shia pilgrims come together as brothers and sisters in Islam during the hajj is a powerful reminder of how religion can unite people as well as divide them. Pilgrims planning to go on hajj are advised to avoid conflict and disagreement with other Muslims, to refrain from judging or being harsh toward others whose customs or interpretations of Islam may seem ignorant or incorrect.

Because that’s what the hajj is really supposed to be about: believers from around the world coming together, putting aside linguistic, cultural, class, and sectarian differences, and worshiping God.

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Can non-Muslims go to Mecca or Madina? Can Tourists Enter?

can non muslims enter mecca or medinah

Table of Contents

Mecca and Medina are the two most important cities in the Islamic world, and millions of Muslims from around the world visit these cities each year to perform Hajj or Umrah.

However, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter Mecca, but are allowed to visit Madinah. This raises a lot of questions for people who wish to visit Mecca or Medina, especially for tourists and people of other religions.

Why Are Non-Muslims Not Allowed in Mecca or Madina?

When the question arises, ‘ Can non-Muslims go to Mecca ‘ the answer is No.

Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the holy cities of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The reasons for this restriction are deeply rooted in the Islamic faith and history.

Mecca and Medina are considered the holiest cities in Islam and are revered by Muslims worldwide. Mecca is home to the Kaaba, the first house of worship dedicated to the one true God, Allah. It is also the site of the annual Hajj pilgrimage , which is one of the five pillars of Islam and mandatory for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.

The Quran, the holy book of Islam, states that Mecca is a sanctuary that is reserved exclusively for Muslims and non-Muslims cannot vsit Mecca.

It says in the Quran,

“O you who have believed, indeed the polytheists are unclean, so let them not approach al-Masjid al-Haram after this, their [final] year” (9:28). This Quran verse is interpreted by Islamic scholars as a commandment to keep non-Muslims out of Mecca.

Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) declared that Mecca and Medina are sacred lands that are not to be polluted by non-Muslims.

“No unbeliever may enter Mecca. No one may circumambulate the Kaaba naked or perform the pilgrimage naked” (Sahih Muslim, 1355).

This restriction on non-Muslims entering Mecca has been in place for centuries and is strictly enforced by the Saudi Arabian government. Non-Muslims who attempt to enter Mecca can face severe consequences, including imprisonment and deportation.

The rationale behind this ban is to preserve the sanctity and purity of Mecca as holy site for Muslims . Allowing non-Muslims to enter Makkah could potentially lead to the desecration of these sacred sites and compromise their spiritual significance for Muslims.

In addition to the religious and cultural reasons, there are also security concerns that justify the ban on non-Muslims entering Mecca. The Saudi Arabian government takes the responsibility of protecting the holy cities and their visitors very seriously. It believes restricting access to these cities is necessary to ensure their safety.

How Do They Check if You Are Muslim in Mecca?

muslim man praying to Allah

The passport will be checked at the arrival registration counter at airport when arriving in Saudi Arabia, and if the passport has any visa stamps from Israel, it will be deemed invalid.

Additionally, non-Muslims are not allowed to apply for the special Hajj or Umrah visas, which are required to enter Makkah and Medina.

Furthermore, there are checkpoints and barriers set up on the roads leading to Mecca to ensure that only Muslims enter the city.

At these checkpoints, visitors will be asked to show their Hajj or Umrah visas as well as their ID cards, which will indicate their religion.

Additionally, there are officers who will be observing the visitors’ behavior and dress to ensure that they are adhering to Islamic norms and customs.

What if I’m a Tourist Visiting Saudi Arabia?

If you are a non-Muslim tourist visiting Saudi Arabia, you will not be allowed to enter the holy citiy of Makkah. However, you can still visit other parts of the country, such as Madina, Riyadh or Jeddah, and experience the culture and hospitality of the Saudi people.

The government has also started promoting tourism in the country, and there are many tourist attractions that you can visit.

Can a Revert/Converted Muslim Go to Mecca?

Yes, a revert Muslims can of course go to Mecca.

However, it is important to note that the Saudi Arabian government has implemented strict rules and regulations for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, and you must follow these rules to perform the pilgrimage.

Can a Christian Enter Mecca?

christian cross christians are not allowed to enter makkah

No, Christians are not allowed to enter Mecca. According to Islamic teachings, Christians are considered to be polytheists, and they are not allowed to enter the holy cities.

However, there have been reports of some non-Muslims being allowed to enter the cities for diplomatic or business reasons, but these are rare cases.

Can a Hindu Enter Mecca?

No, Hindus are not allowed to enter Mecca or Medina. Hindus are considered to be idolaters, and according to Islamic teachings, idolaters are not allowed to enter the holy cities.

However, there have been some exceptional cases of Hindus being allowed to enter Mecca for diplomatic or business reasons.

Can a Jew Enter Mecca?

No, Jews are not allowed to enter Mecca. The Saudi Arabian government strictly prohibits non-Muslims from entering the holy city of Mecca, and this includes Jews.

This rule is in place to preserve the sanctity and purity of the holy sites for Muslims and to prevent any potential harm to the religious and cultural identity of the city.

Is There an Age Limit for Hajj?

There is no specific age limit for Hajj, but the pilgrim must be physically and financially capable of performing the journey. However, due to safety concerns, the Saudi government has set the minimum age for performing Hajj at 12 years .

Elderly people and those with underlying health conditions are advised to consult their doctors before embarking on the Hajj journey.

What Happens if a Non-Muslim Enters Mecca?

Saudi Arabia flag

If a Non-Muslim is found entering Mecca, they will be arrested and deported back to their country.

The Saudi government takes the ban on non-Muslims entering Mecca seriously, and violators can face severe punishment, including imprisonment and fines.

Incidents When Non-Muslims Entered Mecca

There have been instances in the past where non-Muslims have entered Mecca. In 1979, a group of armed militants led by Juhayman al-Otaybi took control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

The militants were from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and they believed that the ruling Saudi monarchy had become corrupt and unIslamic.

The Saudi government eventually regained control of the mosque after a two-week siege, during which many people were killed or injured. This incident highlighted the potential security risks that non-Muslims could pose if they were allowed to enter Mecca.

In 2002, an American Jew and TV journalist in Israel named Gil Tamary secretly entered Mecca to record footage for a travelogue.

Despite the strict enforcement of the ban on non-Muslims in Mecca, Tamary managed to gain entry along with only 17 other non-Muslims known to have done so in recent decades.

The incident caused an uproar among Muslims, Israelis, and Westerners alike, as they feared it would increase hostility. The Saudi government pressed criminal charges against Tamary and his Saudi driver.

Tamary later issued an apology and claimed his intention was to highlight the significance of Mecca and the beauty of the religion to promote religious tolerance.

These incidents demonstrate the importance that Muslims place on the sanctity of Mecca and the need for strict measures to prevent non-Muslims from entering the city.

While there may be some curiosity among non-Muslims about what lies inside the holy city, it is important to respect the religious beliefs and practices of others and refrain from attempting to enter Mecca without permission.

Can Non-Muslim Enter Mosques?

Non-Muslims are allowed and welcomed to enter mosques in Saudi Arabia, however the only mosques they are not allowed to enter is Masjid Al Haram and sacred areas around it.

In many Muslim-majority countries, non-Muslims are allowed to enter mosques, although there may be certain restrictions or protocols that they need to follow, such as dress code and behavior. Visitors are often required to remove their shoes and dress modestly, and photography and loud talking may not be allowed.

In some cases, non-Muslims may be allowed to enter mosques but only in certain areas, such as a designated viewing area or the outer courtyard. In other cases, non-Muslims may be allowed to enter the mosque but only during certain times, such as outside of prayer times. But in most cases non Muslims are welcomed to visit mosques.

There are times when some mosques that do not allow non-Muslims to enter at all. This may be because the mosque is considered to be a particularly sensitive or sacred site or because there have been security concerns in the past.

In general, it is recommended that non-Muslims who wish to visit a mosque should be respectful of Islamic customs and traditions. This may include dressing modestly, removing shoes before entering the mosque, and refraining from any behavior that could be seen as disrespectful or disruptive.

Overall, non-Muslims are permitted to enter mosques, unless that mosque is Masjid Al Haram. With proper respect and consideration for Islamic customs and traditions, it is often possible for non-Muslims to visit and appreciate these important cultural and religious sites.

Islam Is Not the Only Religion That Bans/Restricts Access to Holy Sites

It is important to note that Islam is not the only religion that restricts access to certain holy sites. Many religions around the world have similar practices, and it is often done to preserve the sanctity and religious significance of these places.

For example, in Hinduism, non-Hindus are not allowed to enter certain temples.

In addition, there are also many secular restrictions on access to certain areas around the world, such as military zones, national parks, and private property.

Summary – Can Non-Muslims Go to Mecca or Medina?

The bottom line is non-Muslims are generally not allowed to enter Mecca, which are considered the holiest cities in Islam. This is due to the religious significance of these places and the Islamic belief that only Muslims are allowed to enter.

There are strict checkpoints and guidelines in place to ensure that only Muslims are able to enter, and those who attempt to enter without permission may face severe consequences.

However, tourists and visitors to Saudi Arabia are still able to experience the culture and history of the country, and there are many other places to visit and explore.

It is important to be respectful of local customs and traditions and to follow all laws and regulations while visiting the country.

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What is the Hajj pilgrimage and what does it mean for Muslims?

Water mist is sprayed on Muslim pilgrims as they walk towards the rocky hill known as the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, June 27, 2023. Around two million pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca for the largest Hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam's five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Water mist is sprayed on Muslim pilgrims as they walk towards the rocky hill known as the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, June 27, 2023. Around two million pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest Hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Pakistani pilgrim Mubarak Ali Shah leads pilgrims as they pray outside the Grand Mosque, during the annual hajj pilgrimage, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, June 24, 2023. Muslim pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Muslim pilgrims pray around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 25, 2023. Muslim pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest Hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Thousands of Muslim pilgrims hold umbrellas as they circumambulate around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual hajj pilgrimage, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 25, 2023. Muslim pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest Hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Muslim pilgrims pray in front of the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual hajj pilgrimage, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 25, 2023. Muslim pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba, the cubic structure at the Grand Mosque, during the annual hajj pilgrimage, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, June 24, 2023. Muslim pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Pilgrims walk beside pigeons outside the Grand Mosque, during the annual hajj pilgrimage, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, June 24, 2023. Muslim pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

A general view of the Grand Mosque is seen through the fence of the Clock Tower during the Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Thousands of Muslim pilgrims hold umbrellas as they circumambulate around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 25, 2023. Muslim pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest Hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Policemen stand alert at the Mina tent camp a head of the Hajj, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 25, 2023. Muslim pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Tents for Muslim pilgrims fill the Mina tent camp a head of the Hajj, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 25, 2023. Muslim pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Water mist is sprayed on Muslim pilgrims as they pray on the rocky hill known as the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, June 27, 2023. Around two million pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest Hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Muslim pilgrims pray outside Namira Mosque in Arafat, on the second day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, June 27, 2023. Around two million pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest Hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Muslim pilgrims walk to pray outside Namira Mosque in Arafat, on the second day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, June 27, 2023. Around two million pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest Hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

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MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Over 1.8 million Muslims are taking part in this week’s Hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, as one of the world’s largest religious gatherings returns to capacity following years of coronavirus restrictions.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and all Muslims are required to undertake it at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to do so. For the pilgrims , it is a profound spiritual experience that wipes away sins, brings them closer to God and highlights Muslim unity.

Pilgrims this week braved temperatures in excess of 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) to perform their rituals in the open air.

For the Saudi royal family, which captured Mecca in the 1920s, organizing the pilgrimage is a major source of pride and legitimacy. Authorities have invested billions of dollars in modern infrastructure, but the Hajj has occasionally been marred by tragedy, as in 2015, when over 2,400 pilgrims died in a stampede .

Saudi authorities had expected some 2 million pilgrims, but official figures released Tuesday put attendance at around 1.8 million, considerably fewer than the nearly 2.5 million who came in 2019. The cost of the pilgrimage, combined with widespread economic woes, may have been a factor .

Here’s a look at the pilgrimage and its meaning.

WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF THE HAJJ PILGRIMAGE IN ISLAM?

The pilgrimage draws Muslims from around the world to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, where they walk in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad and retrace the journey of Ibrahim and Ismail, or Abraham and Ishmael as they are known in the Christian and Jewish traditions.

As related in the Quran, Ibrahim is called upon to sacrifice his son Ismail as a test of faith, but God stays his hand at the last moment. Ibrahim and Ismail later are said to have built the Kaaba together. In the Christian and Jewish traditions, Abraham nearly sacrifices his other son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah, which is associated with a major holy site in Jerusalem.

The Kaaba was a center for polytheistic worship among pagan Arabs until the arrival of Islam in the 7th century, when the Prophet Muhammad consecrated the site and inaugurated the Hajj.

Muslims do not worship the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure covered in a black, gold-embroidered cloth, but view it as their most sacred place and a powerful symbol of unity and monotheism. No matter where they are in the world, Muslims face toward the Kaaba during their daily prayers.

The Hajj has been held every year since the time of the prophet, even through wars, plagues and other turmoil.

In the Middle Ages, Muslim rulers organized massive caravans with armed escorts that would depart from Cairo, Damascus and other cities. It was an arduous journey through deserts where Bedouin tribes carried out raids and demanded tribute. A notorious Bedouin raid in 1757 wiped out an entire Hajj caravan, killing thousands of pilgrims.

In 2020, amid worldwide coronavirus lockdowns, Saudi Arabia limited the pilgrimage to a few thousand citizens and local residents. This is the first year it is being held without COVID restrictions.

HOW DO MUSLIMS PREPARE FOR THE HAJJ?

Some pilgrims spend their whole lives saving up for the journey or wait years before getting a permit, which Saudi authorities distribute to countries based on a quota system. Travel agents offer packages catering to all income levels, and charities assist needy pilgrims.

Pilgrims begin by entering a state of spiritual purity known as “ihram.” Women forgo makeup and perfume and cover their hair, while men change into seamless terrycloth robes. The garments cannot contain any stitching, a rule intended to promote unity among rich and poor.

Pilgrims are forbidden from cutting their hair, trimming their nails or engaging in sexual intercourse while in the state of ihram. They are not supposed to argue or fight, but the heat, crowds and difficulty of the journey inevitably test people’s patience.

Many Muslims visit Medina, where the Prophet Muhammad is buried and where he built the first mosque, before heading to Mecca.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE HAJJ?

The Hajj begins with Muslims circling the Kaaba in Mecca counter-clockwise seven times while reciting prayers. Then they walk between two hills in a reenactment of Hagar’s search for water for her son, Ismail, a story that occurs in different forms in Muslim, Christian and Jewish traditions.

All of this takes place inside Mecca’s Grand Mosque — the world’s largest — which encompasses the Kaaba and the two hills.

On Tuesday, pilgrims headed to Mount Arafat, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Mecca, where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon. There, they stood in prayer throughout the day asking God for forgiveness of their sins in what many view as the spiritual high point of the pilgrimage .

Around sunset, pilgrims walked or took buses to an area called Muzdalifa, 9 kilometers (5.5 miles) west of Arafat. They picked up pebbles to use in a symbolic stoning of the devil in the valley of Mina, where Muslims believe Ibrahim was tempted to ignore God’s command to sacrifice his son. The pilgrims stay for several nights in Mina in one of the largest tent camps in the world.

The pilgrimage ends with a final circling of the Kaaba and further casting of stones at Mina. Men often shave their heads and women clip a lock of hair, signaling renewal. Many will assume the title of “hajj” or “hajja” — a great honor, particularly in more traditional communities. Some paint murals on their homes with images of airplanes, ships and the Kaaba to commemorate the journey.

The final days of Hajj coincide with Eid al-Adha, or the festival of sacrifice , a joyous occasion celebrated by Muslims around the world to commemorate Ibrahim’s test of faith. During the three-day Eid, Muslims slaughter livestock and distribute the meat to the poor.

Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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Can a Non-Muslim Visit Mecca?

Answered by: Shaykh Ahmed bin Mohamed Umarji

Can a non-Muslim visit Mecca?

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Imam an-Nasafi explains that the view of the Hanafi jurists is that non-Muslims are not allowed to perform hajj and umrah, however, it is allowed for them to enter Makkah Mukarramah and the Masjid al-Haram. 1

Only Allah knows best

Written by Shaykh Ahmed bin Mohamed Umarji

Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah

Darul Ifta Birmingham

  • Tafseer an-Nasafi, Page 432, Darul Marifah Beirut

This answer was collected from DarulIftaBirmingham.co.uk , which is run under the supervision of Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah from the United Kingdom.

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Can you visit Mecca in Saudi Arabia as a tourist?

Mecca, also known as Makkah, located in western Saudi Arabia, is the holiest city in Islam​.

More than three million Muslims visit this city during the month of Dhul-Hijjah every year for the Hajj pilgrimage, and many others also make smaller pilgrimages or perform Umrah during other times of the year.

Fill me in

While Mecca is open to tourists, it's important to know that it's limited to Muslim travelers only , and there are other rules and restrictions you must know about before you go. Let's dive in.

Can I travel to Mecca as a tourist?

The simple answer is no, unless you're Muslim .

Non-Muslims are strictly prohibited from entering the holy city of Mecca and certain parts of Medina. Signs indicating these boundaries are clearly signposted, and it's crucial to respect these restrictions.

Rules and restrictions for visiting Mecca as a Muslim tourist

Embarking on a pilgrimage to Mecca, the heart of the Islamic world, is a profoundly spiritual journey that every Muslim aspires to undertake at least once in their lifetime.

Here are the essential rules and restrictions for visiting Mecca as a Muslim tourist , ensuring your spiritual journey is both fulfilling and in complete harmony with the sacred regulations of this holy city:

Pilgrimage eligibility: The pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Hajj, is obligatory for all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey. Additionally, the Umrah, a smaller pilgrimage, can be performed at any time of the year but is not obligatory.

Visa requirements: Pilgrims must obtain a specific visa for Hajj or Umrah from Saudi Arabian embassies or consulates. These visas are issued by Islamic lunar months, with Hajj visas available only during particular periods. Our platform simplifies this process, offering updated information and assistance with your visa application.

Respect for local customs and dress code: Visitors to Mecca are expected to adhere to Islamic principles of conduct and dress modestly. For men, this includes wearing the Ihram during the Hajj, while women should wear clothes that cover the body appropriately and avoid perfume and makeup during the rituals.

Health requirements: Pilgrims must meet certain health criteria to protect themselves and others during their journey. This includes vaccinations, particularly for meningitis, and the Saudi government may require COVID-19 vaccinations. Check the latest info on the government website .

Environmental awareness: The Saudi authorities encourage pilgrims to maintain cleanliness and environmental awareness throughout their journey. Littering or damaging the natural and urban environment of the sacred sites is strictly prohibited.

Safety and security: Given the large crowds, especially during Hajj, it's essential to follow all safety guidelines provided by the authorities. This includes staying with your group, following the designated ritual routes, and securing personal belongings.

Women: Women can register for Hajj without a male guardian if they go in a group with other women.

Photographs: You are not allowed to take photos (still or video, even with your phone) at the Holy Mosque in Mecca or the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. If you break this rule, your device may be taken away.

There may be other rules that you must adhere to, so make sure to stay updated and informed throughout the process of traveling to Mecca.

How does the Saudi government check if you're Muslim to visit Mecca?

Saudi Arabia's government restricts entry to Mecca to Muslims only . Proof of your religious beliefs will be checked upon entry, and anyone not showing proof of being Muslim will be denied access.

This check can include:

  • You may be asked to present documentation from an imam (Muslim religious leader)
  • You may be asked to submit your documentation from your imam upon booking your trip (especially important if you're a converted Muslim traveler)
  • You may be asked to say the Shahada and be asked about your knowledge of Islam
  • Some countries offer ID cards that include the holder's religion, which is accepted as proof

What happens when non-Muslims try to enter Mecca?

While it's not only incredibly disrespectful, it's also not a good idea as you're trespassing and breaking Saudi Arabian laws.

The penalty for non-Muslims attempting to enter is deportation from the country and a possible fine​​. This rule applies whether you're trying to enter the city by plane, car, bus, or train​​.

Fill me in

Do you need a visa to visit Mecca in Saudi Arabia?

The visa requirements depend on your nationality , even if you can proof you're Muslim. The various visas include:

Saudi Arabia Tourist eVisa : This electronic visa allows Muslim travelers from certain nationalities to visit the country for their Umrah pilgrimage. However, some restrictions apply, such as being unable to take holy water home.

Saudi Arabia Tourist Visa (paper visa): If you're not eligible for the eVisa, you must apply for a traditional Tourist Visa from the nearest Saudi Embassy or Consulate .

Saudi Arabia Umrah Visa : This is a special visa for Umrah pilgrims. While it involves more required documents, you have more freedom within the Umrah privileges.

Saudi Arabia Hajj Visa: This is a special visa for Hajj pilgrims. A trip and accompanying visa must be booked through a government-approved travel agency .

Hajj visas are assigned to countries on a quota basis according to the number of Muslims that live there. In recent years, additional restrictions have been placed on those who have previously been to Mecca to avoid overcrowding.

  • [Saudi Arabia Electronic Visa Waiver]: At the time of writing, this visa waiver was only available to travelers from the United Kingdom, and allows Muslims to perform Umrah.

More questions about traveling to Mecca in Saudi Arabia?

If you want to learn more about the Saudi Arabia visas or have questions about the application process, we’re here to help. Our dedicated online team of customer service agents is available via online chat to assist with any questions, or you can contact us on WhatsApp .

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What to Know Before Visiting Mecca

who can visit mecca

The most important city in Muslim culture, Mecca is a unique place in the world. Here’s what you need to know if you’re going for the Hajj.

The central spot in the world for all Muslims, Mecca is a city that’s always closed for non-believers. In fact, traveling there as a Christian is punishable by law, and transgressors are promptly fined and deported. 

However, there are certain details even Muslim visitors should know before coming to the holiest site of Islam.

1. When to Come

who can visit mecca

For Muslims worldwide, visiting Mecca is obligatory if they are physically and financially able to make the journey. However, not all months of the year are equal when it comes to the Hajj. 

The pilgrimage is most valid if performed during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah, which can be translated as the month of pilgrimage. 

Since the Islamic calendar is lunar, the year is about 12 days shorter than the regular solar year. This means that the months shift around and need to be calculated for each year. For example, the month of pilgrimage in 2021 starts on July 11, but it begins on June 30 the following year.

Luckily, visiting Mecca outside the designated period isn’t forbidden. But it doesn’t score as high and is only considered a minor pilgrimage.

2. How to Get There

who can visit mecca

There are special visas issued by Saudi Arabia for those who want to make the pilgrimage. The paperwork involved is quite daunting, which is why many Muslims resort to hiring travel agencies to take care of all the necessities. 

As expected for Saudi Arabia, women can’t travel alone but must be escorted by a man. The exceptions to this are women over 45 who are traveling as part of a group. But they must have consent signed by a man even then.

Once you get the paperwork in order, you can fly to Jeddah where there’s a dedicated airport terminal for those coming for the Hajj. From the city, you can take a bus, train, or travel by car to Mecca. 

If you’re driving there, non-Muslims can get to the Christian bypass that’s located several miles outside Mecca and they’ll get stopped at the checkpoint. Meanwhile, Muslims can pass the police checkpoint where they’ll likely be allowed to enter the city.

3. The Essential Sites 

who can visit mecca

Moving around Mecca is rather straightforward, as there are buses, taxis, and a metro. The crucial sites to visit in the city mainly revolve around the Hajj, with the priorities being the Kaaba and the Sacred Mosque that surrounds it.

Besides the two main sites, the Hajj often involves going to the plain of Muzdalifah where you can gather the stones to throw at the Devil. Once that’s done, you can then proceed to Mina, or the “tent city,” to spend the night and participate in the symbolic ritual of stoning the Devil.

Arafat hill is where Muhammad had his last sermon, while Jabal Al Thur is the cave where he hid from the Meccans trying to kill him. And visiting the mosque of Masjid e Taneem is an essential step in the pilgrimage.

Although not directly tied to the Hajj, the Mountain of Light or Jabal Al Noor is an essential site in Islam since, according to legend, that’s the place where Archangel Gabriel first revealed the Quran to Muhammad.

Another site that doesn’t directly relate to the pilgrimage is Abraj Al Bait or the Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower. This towering hotel complex looms over the Sacred Mosque and offers various amenities to pilgrims, including an Islamic Museum, a Lunar Observation Center, and more. 

4. What to Do

who can visit mecca

Many activities are available in Mecca and mostly revolve around religious matters. Visitors will have the chance to read the Quran, pray at the Sacred Mosque, stone the Devil at Mina, and visit the sacred sites, among others.

Besides these, you can visit some of the schools in Mecca including the Umm Al-Qura University, which is the only one of its kind in the city. There are also mountains around the city that are ideal for hiking. 

5. Shopping and Dining

who can visit mecca

Shopping in Mecca is widespread and you can check out local shops and malls that house various international brands. You can find an abundance of souvenirs to bring back home, as well as different religious items like prayer mats and Islamic hats.

Among the most precious trading commodities that you definitely shouldn’t miss are the Arabian perfume oils. These perfumes are made of natural ingredients and are less likely to irritate the skin. And their beautiful fragrance will last long even with the smallest quantity applied. 

When it comes to eateries, Mecca has a broad offer of restaurants that serve Middle Eastern, Indian, Southeast Asian, and international dishes. And if you’re in the mood for some classical American fast food, you can find everything from KFC and Pizza Hut to Dunkin Donuts. 

The food produced in the city is compliant with Islamic Law, which means there is no forbidden food like pork or ham.

Similarly, alcoholic beverages are forbidden both in Mecca and the whole country. But you can enjoy different juices, tea, and free Zamzam holy water.

6. Where to Stay

who can visit mecca

The range of hotels in Mecca is excellent. Pilgrims who can afford it can stay at the Hilton or the Inter-Continental, while others might choose accommodation in a lesser-known place. As expected, the prices of accommodations decrease as you move away from the Sacred Mosque.

Since Mecca can get quite crowded throughout the year, your best bet would be to book as early as possible to ensure a nice place to stay in some of the finer hotels in Mecca.

7. Safety Concerns

who can visit mecca

It’s not unusual for dozens of people to die under the stampedes of pilgrims that can be expected. Lately, some precautions have been taken to prevent the unnecessary loss of life. But the risk is still present. 

It would also be best to remain cautious of the pickpockets that lurk among the crowd. The best advice here is to leave your valuable possessions in a safe place before going out. 

Navigating Through the Holy City of Islam

As is the case with Middle Eastern locations, especially those as overcrowded as Mecca, there are many considerations and preparations to take before visiting. But for true believers, the experience is precious and will present a long-lasting memory.

12 Fascinating Mecca Attractions You Must Visit

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who can visit mecca

There’s a surprisingly large number of things to see in Mecca, and it’s not limited to religious sites either. Discover some of the city’s highlights you shouldn’t miss.

The holy city of Mecca is best-known as the site of pilgrimage for Muslims all over the world. And if you’re interested in other things to see in Mecca, there are plenty of attractions worth considering. 

In this article, we’ll tell you the 12 most interesting sights you should consider adding to your itinerary. 

1. The Kaaba and the Sacred Mosque

who can visit mecca

The Kaaba is an ancient Muslim sanctuary and the great mosque was built around it. Around four million people can fit into the world’s largest mosque. With its intricate structure and delicate decorations, it’s a fascinating sight to see. 

Visits to the holy site are quite challenging during the day, as the place is constantly overcrowded. That’s why coming there in the evening will prove much more pleasant.

2. Mount Arafat

who can visit mecca

Located east of the city, the Arafat hill is purportedly the spot where Muhammad delivered his final sermon. And according to Muslim belief, this location is where the faithful will resurrect.

With steep sections and piles of rock, the hill might be somewhat demanding to climb. But it’s entirely manageable if you stay hydrated and rest regularly as you go on that trek. 

3. Al Aziziyah District

who can visit mecca

This renowned shopping district is well-known for the markets, with the central market being the most popular spot. Conveniently close to the Sacred Mosque, Al Aziziyah is the best spot for those looking for clothes, accessories, shoes, cosmetics, and more. 

Both Al Aziziyah central market and the neighboring Al Majaz market house various local and international brands that deal in textiles and jewelry. 

4. Jabal Thawr

who can visit mecca

Jabal Thawr is a mountain over 4,500 feet high, and its significance lies in the cave where Muhammad hid while escaping the Meccans who wanted to kill him. There’s a wide path leading to the top and the mountain is perfect for viewing the surrounding landscape.

5. Muhammad’s Birthplace

who can visit mecca

The place where Muhammad was born now houses a library and museum. It’s an excellent spot for learning about the history of the religion. For devoted Muslims, being at the same spot where the prophet was born might be the most sentimental experience during their visit to Mecca.

who can visit mecca

Muhammad had the first revelations in this cave near the city of Mecca. The journey to the cave involves taking a three-hour hike up the mountain in the desert weather, making it quite challenging for most visitors. 

It’s recommended to bring plenty of water and some snacks to remain energized during the trip. Hikers should keep a reasonable pace so they don’t become exhausted before reaching the destination. Once on top, you’ll appreciate the excellent view of the city below.

7. Al Diyafa Mall

who can visit mecca

Contrasting the historical sites nearby, the Al Diyafa Mall is a modern-looking structure that houses lavish fashion stores and represents the trendy side of Mecca. Its name translates to ‘hospitality’ and the mall is located in the Al Zahir neighborhood 

With plenty of fashion stores, restaurants, and an area for children, Al Diyafa Mall is an ideal place where you can spend several hours browsing and shopping.

8. Abraj Al Bait

who can visit mecca

The giant building towering above the Kaaba, Abraj Al Bait is a complex owned by the government and represents one of the most famous attractions in Mecca. Located in it are a shopping mall, a high-end hotel, and a praying space. 

The outstanding feature of the massive building is the clock tower that can be seen shining like a beacon from miles away. There’s also an observatory at the top that offers a great view of the surrounding area, making the visit to the building a must.

9. Masjid E Taneem

who can visit mecca

Very close to Mecca, Masjid E Taneem is a mosque and one of the crucial points in pilgrimages. It’s outfitted with bath and changing facilities. Faithful Muslims use it as Miqat or a station where they can change into appropriate garments for the pilgrimage. 

who can visit mecca

Mina is a neighborhood designed for pilgrims to have a sleep-over during the Hajj. There are tens of thousands of tents that have air conditioning and Teflon coating for everyone to remain comfortable in the high desert heat. 

11. Makkah Mall

Away from the desert climate, Makkah Mall is a high-end shopping center with a vibrant atmosphere and plenty of amenities for all kinds of customers. This mall is the essential shopping hub for visitors and it houses many different brands, from local to international. 

There are various shops, boutiques, supermarkets, and restaurants, with over 140 brands represented there. You’ll also find various entertainment areas, making the mall very convenient for families with kids.

12. Al Wahba Crater

who can visit mecca

This volcanic crater can be found to the northeast of Mecca, an otherworldly area in the middle of the desert. Measuring almost a mile in diameter and featuring cliffs that reach the height of around 850 feet, the Al Wahba crater is truly massive. 

Among the most interesting things to see in Mecca is this crater when it becomes filled with water during the wet season. And once evaporation happens, a layer of salt is left covering the bottom. 

Created during the period when the area had plenty of volcanic activity, Al Wahba is surrounded by plains that contain large amounts of volcanic ash. You’ll find some refuge from the sun under the shade of palm trees when hiking through and around the crater. These trees cover the cliffs to the north and you can even choose to camp on the site.

Experience Mecca

From the unavoidable religious sites to excellent shopping venues and wonders of nature, there’s much to see in and near Mecca. It doesn’t matter what one’s level of devotion as a Muslim is. Every visitor will find something to enjoy in the holy city.

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who can visit mecca

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How the holy city has changed over the past 100 years

As the sun rises over Mecca on Sunday July 18, up to 60,000 pilgrims dressed in customary white robes called Ihram will begin their five-day long spiritual journey to seek forgiveness for past sins and start anew before God.

The Hajj is is one of the five pillars of Islam and a once-in-a-lifetime duty for all able-bodied Muslims to perform if they can afford it. Before the coronavirus pandemic, some 2.5 million pilgrims would descend on Mecca for the annual Hajj.

However, this year, like 2020, no foreign pilgrims will attend the Hajj after Saudi Arabia restricted the annual pilgrimage to a maximum of 60,000 vaccinated citizens and residents between the ages of 18 and 65.

Mecca from the sky

Central to the Muslim pilgrimage is the Grand Mosque of Mecca which houses the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure elegantly draped in black silk with verses of the Quran woven into it with gold and silver threads.

Muslims believe that the prophet Abraham and his son, Ishmael built the Kaaba as the house of God. The structure has been built and rebuilt several times with the last major renovation taking place in 1996 to strengthen its foundation. Wherever they are in the world, Muslims face the direction of the Kaaba when performing their prayers.

To accommodate the millions of pilgrims who normally attend the annual pilgrimage, the grounds of the Grand Mosque have expanded considerably over the past few decades. In 2019, Saudi Arabia announced that it had received more than 95 million pilgrims over the past 50 years, and that it planned to host 30 million pilgrims for Hajj and Umrah each year.

Google Earth satellite images captured from 2004 through to December 2020 show just how quickly the holy city has expanded.

For Muslims, the Hajj re-enacts the actions of the Prophet Muhammad in his “farewell pilgrimage” in 632 AD which traces the footsteps of the prophets Abraham and Ishmael through the Arabian desert. It is a central pillar of the Islamic faith meant to cleanse followers of sin and bring them closer to God.

Hajj falls on the 8th of Dhul al-Hijjah, the twelfth and final month in the Islamic lunar calendar which shifts 10-12 days earlier each year. The pilgrimage spans five days and involves travelling to key locations around Mecca including Mina, Mount Arafat, Muzdalifah, the Jamarat and the Grand Mosque.

We take a look at the step-by-step process in the infographic below.

For hundreds of years pilgrims from all over the world would travel on camelback or by ship for weeks at a time to reach Mecca. With the convenience of modern air travel this journey can now be completed within hours.

Click through the 8-image gallery below to see some of the iconic moments in history starting in 1889.

Hajj socially distanced

At its peak in 2012, nearly 3.2 million pilgrims from over 190 countries performed the Hajj. Just one year later, an outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS coronavirus, forced roughly a million pilgrims to forgo the trip to Mecca.

In 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19, Saudi officials announced that they would permit only about 10,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom to perform the Hajj with no overseas visitors allowed.

This year, up to 60,000 vaccinated citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia between the ages of 18 and 65 will be permitted to perform the annual pilgrimage.

On March 19, 2020, Saudi authorities suspended all prayers at the two main mosques in Mecca and Medina. Congregational prayers resumed seven months later with protective measures in place. Muslim travellers from outside Saudi Arabia were permitted a limited number of Umrah visas starting on November 1, 2020.

Before and after satellite images taken just two months apart show how the usually crowded Grand Mosque was left empty following the global pandemic.

Hajj in the digital world

For millions unable to make the pilgrimage this year, a digital experience may offer a glimpse of what it is like to worship at Islam’s holiest site. In 2015, Al Jazeera produced a 360-degree VR experience that takes viewers on a tour to see the major landmarks that millions of Muslims visit during the Hajj.

Experience the journey by moving your phone around or drag the video around to see what Mecca looks like from all angles.

Eid al-Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice is celebrated on the third day of Hajj and lasts for three days. This year Muslims worldwide will celebrate Eid on 20-22 July. Eid al-Adha is the second major Muslim festival after Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting.

Here is how people say Eid Mubarak in different languages around the world.

20 ACRES NEAR SALTON SEA

Pictures of Land property located at Line Rd, Mecca, CA 92254 for sales - image #1

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Listing Contacts

JK

Line Rd, Mecca, CA 92254

Marketing description, - great property to hold for future value, - in an opportunity zone which can provide significant tax savings, - adjacent to private airfield, - close to the dos palmas preserve, - only two miles away from the community of north shore, - no multi species, - gorgeous views of the salton sea and santa rosa mountains, investment highlights.

Location : The property is located North of Hwy 111 in Mecca, CA

Parcel Size : 20 acres (871,200 SF)

APN : 733-190-001

Zonin g : W-2 (Controlled Development)

General Plan : OS-RUR (Open Space Rural)

Current Use : Vacant Land

Multi Species : No

Terms : Cash

Comments : Approximately 2 miles Southeast of the community of North Shore. This is a great property to hold for future appreciation. Property does not have legal access.

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IMAGES

  1. Mecca

    who can visit mecca

  2. Visit Mecca: 2021 Travel Guide for Mecca, Makkah Province

    who can visit mecca

  3. Stunning aerial photos as millions of Muslims make the annual

    who can visit mecca

  4. Visit Mecca: 2021 Travel Guide for Mecca, Makkah Province

    who can visit mecca

  5. In pictures: Millions of Muslims gather in Mecca for Hajj Pilgrimage

    who can visit mecca

  6. Top 8 Things To Do In Mecca 2023

    who can visit mecca

VIDEO

  1. NON MUSLIM CHEATS EVERYONE IN MECCA

  2. How crowded it is to visit mecca during Ramadan

  3. Begging in Mecca

  4. Going to visit Mecca/hosam and mama in germany

  5. Dcp South zone visit Mecca masjid Charminar Hyderabad 2024

  6. Visiting Makkah in 2023? Checkout these 4 visa options

COMMENTS

  1. Why Are Only Muslims Allowed to Visit Mecca?

    Mecca is a city of terrific importance in Islamic tradition. It is a center of pilgrimage and prayer -- a sacred place where Muslims are free from the distractions of daily life. Only Muslims are allowed to visit the holy city of Mecca and enter its inner sanctum, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and Islam.

  2. What Are The Strict Rules To Follow When Visiting Mecca, Saudi Arabia?

    To participate in The Hajj, one must be a Muslim. Non-Muslims are strictly prohibited from entering Mecca. Men and women from all walks of life, colors, and nations participate in this annual pilgrimage. It is a powerful demonstration of unity among Muslims, providing an opportunity to connect with diverse cultures and languages.

  3. Makkah

    The Makkah Province. The city of Makkah itself is only accessible to Muslims. Each year, it bears witness to the Hajj pilgrimage, a religious duty that must be performed by every able Muslim at least once in their lifetime, and which draws millions each year. Holy sites in the city include the sacred Ka'aba, located in the heart of the Masjid ...

  4. What are the requirements for travelling to Mecca? meccamedina.net

    The following requirements to travel to the Mecca are quite , such as being healthy and being an adult, means mature, in order to understand the meaning of the pilgrimage to Mecca. In addition, the believer must be free and be able to make the pilgrimage without any problem at all. Another group of the requirements to travel to Mecca is of a ...

  5. A Trip To Mecca: The Best Guide For Muslim Tourists

    It is located in the center of Mecca and is home to the Kaaba, the most sacred object in Islam. • Explore the Old City: The Old City of Mecca is full of history and culture. wander through the narrow streets and alleyways and soak up the atmosphere. Be sure to visit the King Fahd Gate, one of the city's most iconic landmarks.

  6. Mecca Visitors Guide: Makkah, Saudi Arabia

    The Ka'aba. Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The Ka'aba (literally "the cube" in Arabic) is an ancient stone structure that was built and re-built by prophets as a house of monotheistic worship. It is located in the interior courtyard of the Grand Mosque. The Ka'aba is considered the center of the Muslim world, and is a unifying focal point for Islamic ...

  7. Mecca

    For other places with the same name, see Mecca (disambiguation). Mecca, officially known as Makkah al-Mukarramah ( Arabic: مكة المكرمة, Makkah al-Mukarramah ), is a city in Saudi Arabia and the holiest city in Islam. Mecca is the birthplace of Prophet Muhammed, the founder of Islam, and Muslims believe the Qur'an was first revealed to ...

  8. What Muslims Do on Hajj, and Why

    By Diaa Hadid. Sept. 8, 2016. JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — It is incumbent upon every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so to travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Islam's holiest site, at least once ...

  9. Mecca travel

    Mecca. Saudi Arabia, Middle East. Mecca is only accessible by Muslims, who often describe the moment they first lay eyes on the city's sacred Kaaba as an overwhelmingly emotional experience. For those living outside the Kingdom, a visit to Mecca - generally spelt 'Makkah' by Muslims and in Saudi Arabia - is a lifelong dream.

  10. Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca

    Hajj involves a series of rituals that take place in and around Mecca over a period of five to six days, some of these include: Ihram. The pilgrim must travel to one of the designated Miqat, or 'stated places', a boundary where they must don their pilgrimage clothes: Ihram.This consists of two pieces of unstitched white cloth for men, and any modest clothing for women.

  11. Saudi Arabia lifts a ban on foreign pilgrims heading to Mecca

    Aug. 10, 2021. BEIRUT, Lebanon — Saudi Arabia has resumed allowing travelers from abroad to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the kingdom announced this week, a new easing of the restrictions imposed ...

  12. Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, explained for non-Muslims

    At this moment in mid-August, 1.5 million people from dozens of countries around the world are in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to perform the hajj, the Islamic religious pilgrimage. It's a huge event ...

  13. Can non-Muslims go to Mecca or Madina? Can Tourists Enter?

    When the question arises, ' Can non-Muslims go to Mecca ' the answer is No. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the holy cities of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The reasons for this restriction are deeply rooted in the Islamic faith and history. Mecca and Medina are considered the holiest cities in Islam and are revered by Muslims worldwide.

  14. What is the Hajj pilgrimage and what does it mean for Muslims?

    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Published 11:26 PM PDT, June 24, 2023. MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Over 1.8 million Muslims are taking part in this week's Hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, as one of the world's largest religious gatherings returns to capacity following years of coronavirus restrictions.

  15. Can a Non-Muslim Visit Mecca?

    Question: Can a non-Muslim visit Mecca? In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Answer: Imam an-Nasafi explains that the view of the Hanafi jurists is that non-Muslims are not allowed to perform hajj and umrah, however, it is allowed for them to enter Makkah Mukarramah and the Masjid al-Haram. 1. Only Allah knows best.

  16. Mecca

    Mecca (/ ˈ m ɛ k ə /; officially Makkah al-Mukarramah, commonly shortened to Makkah) is the capital of Mecca Province in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia and the holiest city according to Islam. It is 70 km (43 mi) inland from Jeddah on the Red Sea, in a narrow valley 277 m (909 ft) above sea level.Its last recorded population was 2,385,509 in 2022.

  17. Can you visit Mecca as a tourist?

    Mecca, also known as Makkah, located in western Saudi Arabia, is the holiest city in Islam . More than three million Muslims visit this city during the month of Dhul-Hijjah every year for the Hajj pilgrimage, and many others also make smaller pilgrimages or perform Umrah during other times of the year.

  18. BBC

    Many pilgrims fly to Jeddah, and then travel to Mecca by bus. Once you get to Mecca, there are two rituals which you can perform; the lesser pilgrimage or Umra, and the main pilgrimage or Hajj.

  19. Hajj

    Hajj ( / hɑːdʒ /; [1] Arabic: حَجّ, romanized :Ḥajj; also spelled Hadj, Haj or Haji) is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, [2] the holiest city for Muslims. Hajj is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially ...

  20. Mecca

    Best Time to Visit. The weather in Mecca is hot and dry year round, but there is some variation between summer and winter. Most tourists and pilgrims visit Mecca during the somewhat cooler winter months and avoid the city during the hottest period (June-August). Mecca sees almost no precipitation and winds are usually very calm which, coupled ...

  21. What to Know Before Visiting Mecca

    From the city, you can take a bus, train, or travel by car to Mecca. If you're driving there, non-Muslims can get to the Christian bypass that's located several miles outside Mecca and they'll get stopped at the checkpoint. Meanwhile, Muslims can pass the police checkpoint where they'll likely be allowed to enter the city. 3.

  22. Mecca

    Mecca, city, western Saudi Arabia, located in the Ṣirāt Mountains, inland from the Red Sea coast. It is the holiest of Muslim cities. Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was born in Mecca, and it is toward this religious centre that Muslims turn five times daily in prayer (see qiblah).

  23. See how Mecca has changed over the past 100 years

    How the holy city has changed over the past 100 years. As the sun rises over Mecca on Sunday July 18, up to 60,000 pilgrims dressed in customary white robes called Ihram will begin their five-day long spiritual journey to seek forgiveness for past sins and start anew before God. The Hajj is is one of the five pillars of Islam and a once-in-a ...

  24. Line Rd, Mecca, CA 92254

    Justin Kallmann. CA 02128106. Desert Pacific Properties Inc. 77-933 Las Montanas Road, Palm Desert, United States 92211. Land property for sale at Line Rd, Mecca, CA 92254. Visit Crexi.com to read property details & contact the listing broker.

  25. Kendrick Lamar

    City is back up, it's a must, we outside, ayy. [Chorus] They not like us, they not like us, they not like us. They not like us, they not like us, they not like us. [Verse 3] Once upon a time, all ...