Mecca

Mecca, also spelled Makkah, is a city in the Hejazi region of Saudi Arabia. The city is located 70 km (43 mi) inland from Jeddah, in a narrow valley 277 m (909 ft) above sea level and 340 kilometers (210 mi) south of Medina.

Mecca is the holiest city of the Islam religion and is located in the west of Saudi Arabia. With a population of 1.7 million people it is also one of the biggest cities in the country. Every year around 3 million Muslims perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, and more than 13 million people visit Mecca annually.

It is the birthplace of Muhammad. A cave 3 km (2 mi) from Mecca was the site of Muhammad's first revelation of the Quran, and a pilgrimage to it, known as the Hajj, is obligatory for all able Muslims. Mecca is home to the Kaaba, one of Islam's holiest sites and the direction of Muslim prayer, and thus Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in Islam. Mecca was long ruled by Muhammad's descendants, the sharifs, acting either as independent rulers or as vassals to larger polities. It was conquered by Ibn Saud in 1925; since then Mecca has seen a tremendous expansion in size and infrastructure, such as the Abraj Al Bait, also known as the Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel, the world's fourth tallest building and the building with the third largest amount of floor area, and lost some historical structures and archaeological sites, such as the Ajyad Fortress. Non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the city.

Makkah can ideally be described as the capital of Islam. It has many beautiful and historic places which everyone regardless of his/her religion would like to visit. Owing to the huge influx of Muslim pilgrims and to maintain the sanctity of this Holy place, the Saudi government has forbidden non-Muslims to enter Grand Mosque but they are allowed to visit every other mosque in the city. For Muslims, Makkah is at the center of their religion and it is compulsory for every Muslim to perform Hajj once in a life time if they can afford such a journey. Mecca is famous not only for its priceless religious landmarks. It’s an incredibly beautiful and dynamic place with numerous interesting architectural decorations.

Climate
Abraj Al Bait Towers & Hajj
Mecca features a hot desert climate. Like most Saudi Arabian cities, Mecca retains warm to hot temperatures even in winter, which can range from 18 °C at night to 30 °C in the afternoon. Summer temperatures are extremely hot and break the 40 °C mark in the afternoon dropping to 30 °C in the evening. Rain usually falls in Mecca in small amounts scattered between November and January. Take enough clothes for the length of your journey, bearing in mind that you may need to change several times in one day. It is one of the hottest cities in the world. In summer, the temperature is often above 45C. The weather in Makkah is extremely hot and the rituals often require great physical exertion. Loose clothes are recommended. Be sure to pack your ihram clothing in your hand luggage, along with pins to fasten it. Again, you may need to change your ihram clothes if they become dirty or torn. A small bag to hang around your neck will be useful for storing your money, phone and documents.

Language

Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia, but English is widely spoken. It is used in business and is a compulsory second language in schools. Among the non-Saudi population, many people speak Urdu, the official language of Pakistan and other Asian languages such as Farsi and Turkish. Arabic is spoken by almost 200 million people in more than 22 countries. It is the language of the Qur'an, the Holy Book of Islam, and of Arab poetry and literature. While spoken Arabic varies from country to country, classical Arabic has remained unchanged for centuries.

Accommodation

Mecca is full of hotels, from the Hilton to unknown hotels with various facilities. The price varies according to the hotel's distance from the Holy Mosque. Some of the world's greatest hotels are situated in Mecca, and are full year-round. Make sure to book early on our website (web.restscene.com), as soon as you know your dates of travel.

Currency

The official currency of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the riyal. There are 100 halalas in 1 riyal, though halala coins are not commonly used. Riyal bills come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500. The riyal is currently pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of US$1 = SR3.75.

Even if you are traveling with a pre-paid package tour, you will need money for food, gifts, taxis, tips and alms. Cash is commonly used, and automatic teller machines (ATMs) are found throughout Makkah. Foreign credit and debit cards are accepted at all but the smallest hotels, shops and restaurants. Generally, taxis only accept cash. Banks are open from 9:30am to 4:30pm, Sunday through Thursday. ATMs are found in most bank buildings and are available 24/7.

10 Most Visited Places of Makkah

    The Sacred Mosque
  • The Al-Masjid al-Ḥarām ("The Sacred Mosque") is the biggest mosque in the world, and is built around the Kabaa. This is the place where muslims turn to for their daily prayers. During the Hajj the combined indoor and outdoor area of the mosque can hold up to 4 million people. Next to Kaaba is a crystal dome called Maqaam-e-Ibrahim, which contains a rock that is believed to have an imprint of Abraham's foot. Traditions held that Abraham while constructing the high walls of Kaaba stood on the rock which miraculously rose up and let Abraham continue building. Kabba is at the center of the mosque and it also has the Black Stone, Muqam Ibrahim, Al safa and Al Marwa and the famous ZamZam Well.

  • Jannat al-Mu'alla This is the cemetery in which companions and relatives of Prophet Muhammed are buried, including his first wife, uncle, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great great-grandfather.

  • Jabal-al-noor (Mountain of Light) is located near Makkah and is a very popular tourist attraction. It has huge significance in Islamic history as the famous Ghar e Hira (Hira Cave) is located in this mountain. Jabal-al-Noor is a rocky mountain and it takes about 2 hours of hiking to get to the Ghar e Hira. The cave itself is quite small and faces the direction of Kabba. One can see the buildings below hundreds of meters and few kilometers away from the Jabal-al-noor.

  • Al Kiswa Factory: is the cloth that covers the Kabba and Kiswa Factory is the place where this cloth is made each year. The factory is located on the Old Makkah Jeddah Road. During the Haj the new Kiswa is delivered to the Chief Gatekeeper of the Holy Mosque. The Kiswa factory takes care of all the steps in the preparation of Kiswa, these include: dyeing, weaving, designing, printing, embroidering, laboratory, and assembly of the Kisswa. . The factory is open for visitors on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday from 9 am – 12 pm.

  • Makkah Mall: The city of Makkah has several malls but if there is one mall that you should visit then it is Makkah Mall. Because of its location the pilgrims find it easy to visit this mall as it is conveniently situated close to Masjid al Haram. You can find most of the reputed brand stores in this mall. The good thing is that the mall has something for everyone, from really expensive brands to great stuff on cheap prices. The food court is top class and the mall also has a nice prayer area and a kid’s playing area. This mall can be described as a perfect family shopping mall.

  • Makka Auction in Hilton Tower: As the name suggests, Makka auction is an auction house. It is a permanent auction center situated in Hilton Tower which is very close to Grand Mosque. You can find some amazing jewelry, ancient rings, old currency notes and old Islamic coins from different countries and many other interesting stuffs. To say the least it is a really different way of shopping. The things are shown and then people bid on them. Sometimes it feels like a competition of richness but sometimes you might end up with a pretty good deal.

  • Hira’ Cave: It is this very cave where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) spent a lot of time and he had received his first revelation from the Angel Jibrail (Angel Gabriel), inside this cave from Allah. The cave holds great importance in the Islamic History. The cave is located on Jabal-al-Noor a mountain about 3 kilometers from Makkah. It takes about 600 steps to reach the cave; the cave itself is about 12 feet in length, 5 feet 3 inches in width. 270 meter in height.

  • Masjid Taneem: Masjid Taneem is located at a distance of about 5 miles from Kabba. It is also known as Masjid-e-Ayesha. It is the Miqa’t for Makkah people and those coming to Makkah whether for Hajj, Umra or residency. It means that people of Makkah who want to perform Umra first go to Masjid Taneem and who than enter in the state of Ihram and then travel back to Makkah so that the condition of travelling for the pilgrims is completed. It is a very big mosque and has excellent facilities of baths, ablutions and for changing.

  • Abraj Al Bait Towers
  • Thour Mountain: Thour Mountain lies to the south of Makkah. It is a rocky and barren hill in the southern direction of Makkah and its height is about 761 meters above sea level. This mountain contains Thour cave, in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companion Abu Bakar hid from the Kuraish tribe for three days. A tree grew up in front of the cave, dove made a nest on it and laid eggs. A spider spread its web over cave’s opening to protect Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from his enemies. The Cave of Thor is considered to be a sign of faith and hope.

  • Ji’ranah Mosque: Masjid Al-Ji’ranah is situated between Taif and Makkah, closer to Makkah. It is about 20 kilometers away from Makkah. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stopped at that location on his way back from the campaign of Hunaian and entered Ihram from there. It is a place for Miqa’t. The mosque has excellent facilities and the interior of the mosque is very beautiful.

  • Mount Arafat: Mount Arafat is a small hill located east of Makkah in the plain of Arafat. The height of the hill is about 230 ft. This hill has great historic significance as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) delivered the farewell sermon of Last Hajj standing on this hill. Each year on the occasion of Hajj Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims spend a whole day on Aarfah praying to God and asking for forgiveness and blessings.

  • Mina: Mina is a neighborhood of Mecca. It has the nick name of Tent City, as there are hundreds of thousands of air-conditioned tents in the area, which act as temporary accommodations for pilgrims during Hajj time. The pedestrian-only Jamaraat Bridge, where the symbolic ritual of Stoning of the Devil is done, is located here.

  • Abraj Al-Bait Towers: The complex of Abraj Al-Bait Towers deserves the closest attention of travelers. One of the towers of Abraj Al-Bait is present in the list of the highest skyscrapers in the world. The ultra-modern architectural complex is the location of high-class hotels and restaurants, so numerous guests of the city enjoy visiting it not only because of its gorgeous look. Modern Mecca is full of unique peculiarities that are related to not only its historical and architectural look. However, this fact doesn’t affect thousands of pilgrims who arrive in the city every year in order to bow to the sacred place.
Hajj
Events and Festivals

  • Hajj: The Hajj is the anual pilgrimage to Mecca, that every muslim is supposed to make at least one time in his or her lifetime. It is one of the largest anual gathering in the world, and takes place from the 7th until the 12th day of the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.

  • Milad al-Nabi: All Saudi Muslims celebrate the birthday of their Prophet, Mohammad, by elaborately decorating their homes and mosques. Children recite poems about the Prophet, while older Saudis tell stories about Mohammad’s life and accomplishments. Large feasts and street processions are among Milad al-Nabi’s other traditional activities. The date of Milad al-Nabi varies from year to year according to the Islamic calendar.

  • Unification of the Kingdom Day: The country’s only secular public holiday takes place each September 23 on the anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s 1932 founding. Although many Saudis still choose to quietly celebrate this formerly low-key holiday at home, growing numbers of young Saudis have chosen to express their national pride more overtly by singing, dancing, honking car horns, and waving Saudi flags.

  • Eid ul-Fitr: Like their Muslim counterparts in other nations, Saudis mark the final day of the fasting month of Ramadan with this three-day religious festival. Eid ul-Fitr begins with a small morning meal and quiet prayers, and continues with larger feasts and livelier celebrations among family and friends. Saudi children receive money and elaborately decorated gift bags from adults, several shopkeepers add free gifts to all purchases, and Saudi men secretly leave large bags of food on strangers’ doorsteps during this festive time of year.

  • Eid al-Adha: This important Muslim festival lasts four days and marks the moment when Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice Ismael, his son, for Allah. Today, most Saudi families celebrate Eid al-Adha by dressing up in their finest clothing, saying special prayers, and slaughtering lambs to share their meat with everyone.





Getting There

The diplomatic missions of Saudi Arabia issue special visas for those making the pilgrimage to Mecca, either Hajj or Umrah. Most pilgrims opt to use a specialist travel agency, which will handle the considerable paperwork for them. As usual in Saudi Arabia, women must travel together with a male guardian (Mahram), unless they are over 45, travelling with a group and have their guardian's signed consent.

Hajj visas are allocated on a quota system, based on the number of Muslims in a country. In some cases, those who have previously done Hajj have had additional restrictions placed on their next Hajj, in an effort to discourage overcrowding while still accommodating those who have not yet made the pilgrimage. Umrah visas can be obtained at any time of the year except during the Hajj season. If the applicant is not a national of a Muslim-majority country or was not born a Muslim, s/he must present a certificate notarized by an Islamic center testifying that s/he is a Muslim. Usually, your mosque will be able to arrange this or at least point the way.


Hajj metro train
Getting Around

Local buses, taxis, and micro-buses are widely available in Mecca and are inexpensive. The 18-kilometre Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro opened in November 2010. A total of 5 metro lines are planned to carry pilgrims to the religious sites. Public transport is continually improving thanks to government initiatives. This makes it easier and quicker for visitors to access the Grand Mosque and other central areas and holy sites in Makkah, even during busy times like Ramadan and the Hajj season.

  • Buses: Clean, regular public buses operated by the Saudi Public Transport Company, Saptco, run on specific routes within Makkah. Intercity buses also run between all cities in Saudi Arabia. A more extensive network of bus routes into and around the city is planned as part of the Makkah Public Transportation Program.

  • Metro for Hajj: Opened in 2010, Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro line only runs during Hajj, transporting thousands of pilgrims quickly and easily between Makkah and Mount Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina. The metro system is set to be expanded with new lines to serve residents and pilgrims all year round.

  • Al Haramain Train: Also known as the Makkah-Medina high-speed railway, the brand-new Al Haramain train starts operating in early 2018. It will shorten the journey from Makkah to Medina from 6 hours to 2.5 hours. The train runs via the cities of Jeddah and Rabigh. Tickets are divided into three categories: business class, first class and tourist class.

  • Taxi: You can hail taxis anywhere in Makkah. Drivers usually don’t use the meter, so the fare is negotiable. During the last ten days of Ramadan and the Hajj season, the fare may be three times higher due to the high demand and traffic congestion.

  • Private Buses for Pilgrims
  • Private Buses for Pilgrims: High-quality, air-conditioned buses run by private companies (such as Dallah and Rawahel) operate specific routes during the Umrah and Hajj seasons.

  • Chauffeur and Car Booking Services: Uber and Careem provide private chauffeur services inside Makkah. You can order a car by calling the company or using a mobile app linked to a credit card. The price is higher than a regular taxi.

  • Renting a Car in Makkah: GCC nationals and visitors with international driving licenses, as well as expatriates residing in the Kingdom, can rent cars from various rental offices in Makkah.

  • Walking: Despite great improvements in Makkah transport options, walking is still the best way to get around the city during Ramadan and the Hajj season. This helps you avoid traffic congestion and overcrowding, as well as higher prices for taxi fares.

Don’t forget your Documents

When your mind is focused on the spiritual side of the pilgrimage, it’s easy to forget important documents: passport, flight tickets, flight schedule, hotel address in Makkah or Madinah, etc. Last-minute items that are often forgotten include your phone and charger, glasses and contact lenses, sunglasses and a small notebook. Of course, remember to pack a Koran and a booklet of the adhkaar (invocations), plus a guide to Hajj or a guide to Umrah.

If you forget something

If you are staying at a 5-star hotel in Makkah and realize you have forgotten something, please ask at reception. With their local knowledge and experience, the staff will help you find a replacement.

Things to do
  • While in Mecca, many pilgrims purchase trinkets to remember their time and souvenirs to bring back to family and friends. It is also possible to purchase unique souvenirs, such as small flasks with holy water from the sacred Zamzam Well. It is important to mention that everyone can fill small bottles with water from the well on their own absolutely free of charge. Other items to buy in and around Mecca are: prayer mats and hats, prayer beads and perfume. For example, the majority of shops offer white colored national clothes.

  • There are also many picturesque markets and workshops that sell interesting items and handmade souvenirs. Tourists who love jewelry will be absolutely charmed by Mecca. Both men and women will find a wide range of accessories made of precious metals. A great choice of jewelry pieces with semiprecious stones is one of the main peculiarities of local jewelry salons. Female visitors simply cannot resist jewelry in the traditional Arabian style that often comes with precious and semiprecious stones. Beads, headwear in the national style, and special carpets for prayers handmade by local craftsmen are also popular categories of souvenirs. Local craftsmen know virtually anything about stones and their properties, and they will gladly help visitors find not only the most beautiful but also the most useful jewelry for any client.

  • Traditional souvenir shops offer various fragrant oils and perfumes created on their basis. Visit local markets in order to shop for amazing oriental sweets. For example, travelers are simply in love with local figs.

  • Hike the Mountains of Mecca

  • Visit Ghar Hira, where the first verse of the Quran was revealed to the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

  • Pray and read the Quran in the Masjid al Haram, of course if you're Muslim.

  • Shopping in the city is widely available. Bargaining is always an option when shopping locally.
Note:

Despite strict crowd control measures, overcrowding and stampedes are major hazards during the month of the Hajj, killing dozens of people. Mina, Jamrat and the bridges leading to them are known to be particularly dangerous, although steps have been taken to alleviate this: there are now four parallel bridges and the route is now unidirectional. And also, during the Hajj, pickpockets are not uncommon. Avoid having any valuables on your person when traversing through the crowds. In other words, be on the safe side and don't take chances.

Food
Basboosa

There are many types of food from all over the world available in Mecca, from the Middle Eastern Arab food to Southeast Asian food. There are also American fast food chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Dunkin Donuts. No type of pork, ham or any part of the pig is served in Saudi Arabia as forbidden by Islamic Law. Below are some of the foods to try while in Mecca.


  • Fool Tamees: Is an Afghani bread that is served with a spicy curry that will leaving you craving for more.

  • Shawarma: Shawarma which is a universally known dish, is also found here with authentic sauces and breads.

  • Mutabbaq: For those craving some Indonesian food, the Mutabaq is a great option. It is available at plenty of street stalls as well as multi-cuisine restaurants, so it is never very far from you. It is sort of like a pancake, which can be savory as well as sweet. So, choose wisely, when choosing between banana mutabaq or chicken mutabaq. Or you can have them both, since these are not spicy, and neither are they deep fried.

  • Basboosa: You can also try Basboosa, a soft and delicious sweet dish that is made with eggs, sugar and semolina. Additional sugar syrup is added before serving it, so that it is moist and fresh when people have it.

  • Baklava: Another amazing desert for people to indulge in is the very famous baklava, which are layers and layers of flaky pastry that is interspersed with nuts, honey, raisins and jaggery in some cases. It is melt-in-mouth good and can simply be eaten as a snack when walking around or towards the evening after you are done with your prayers.

Drink

Zamzam Water is holy water from the Zamzam spring in Masjid al Haram and believed to be divinely blessed is preferred among pilgrims to Mecca. There are many tea shops that serve tea and cookies. There are also many juice vendors right outside the Mosque, who sell apple, mango and strawberry juices for 1 SAR. As this is Saudi Arabia, the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages is strictly forbidden; the local Saudis of Mecca (somewhat ironically) do have a reputation for being big drinkers in private, but don't expect to be invited to the private parties where they drink.

Keeping in mind that the food offered here is for pilgrims, the Makkah food prices are kept quite reasonably fixed. It is said that Mecca welcomes neither the rich nor the poor, instead it welcomes pious minds and prayers of the pilgrims. Meccan food thus offers solace to the pilgrims, far away from home in a distant land. When they eat the food of their culture or of their ancestors, they feel right at home and comfortable with the prayer hours.

Modern Mecca is not only the largest pilgrimage center of the country but also one of the most frequently visited religious centers in the world. Despite the fact that foreign guests arrive in the city exclusively to visit the holy shrines, Mecca is ready to provide them with everything needed for a luxurious stay.