The holy city of Mecca Saudi Arabia is considered the center of the Islamic world, and it is the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad. While a journey to Mecca is popular for Muslims all over the world, Mecca travel is forbidden for non-Muslims. Each day, one billion Muslims from all over the world—from New York City to the United Arab Emirates—face Mecca Saudi Arabia to pray. It is also required in the Islamic faith that each able-bodied person make a pilgrimage of Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime. This journey to Mecca is called the Hajj and is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world. Each year, more than two million people make the pilgrimage to Mecca during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah. Mecca tourism is popular during other times of the year, but the Hajj can only be completed during the designated month.
The city is located in the Makkah Province of Saudia Arabia and is itself increasingly called Makkah, which more closely resembles the pronunciation of the Arabic word than does Mecca, the original English translation of the name. Since both general Mecca travel and the annual pilgrimage to Mecca is only intended for Muslims, non-Muslims are not permitted to enter Mecca Saudi Arabia any time of the year. Although several non-Muslims have entered in the past, the penalties for non-Muslims entering Mecca Saudi Arabia are quite harsh and can include deportation and jail time.
Mecca tourism requires some advance planning. If you are a Muslim and wish to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, you must obtain a special visa unless you are a citizen of Saudi Arabia. You should also bring a letter from your local mosque stating that you are in fact a Muslim. Women under 45 are required to travel with a mahram, or a male who is considered the head of her family. They must provide proof of their relationship, such as a marriage certificate. Women over 45 must prove that they are part of an organized Mecca tourism group and have a letter of permission from her husband or her father. You should also bring proof that you’ve been vaccinated for meningitis. The visa for Mecca travel is not good for travel outside of Mecca. If you wish to visit other cities, such as Riyadh, you must apply for an additional visa.
Mecca travel most often starts at the airport at Jeddah, a large city in Saudi Arabia. Since Mecca tourism is so popular during the Hajj, there are two special terminals devoted to handling the two million people who arrive for the journey to Mecca. There are busses that travel directly from the airport to Mecca Saudi Arabia.
Once you arrive in the city of Mecca Saudi Arabia, there are traditional rituals, called Umrah, that Muslims must follow if they are in good enough health. The rituals, most of which act out incidents of the Quran, are quite complex and last over a week. First, Muslims must change into traditional pilgrimage clothing. Then, they walk around the Kabaa, a significant religious building, in a counterclockwise direction several times. The next ritual is called Sa’ey (which literally means to run) and it involves walking back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah, the spot where the prophet Abraham’s wife ran frantically in search of water for her son. According to the Quran, a fountain appeared between the hills.
Other rituals that take place during the Hajj include going to Arafat, the place where Muhammed gave his final sermon, and drinking water from the Zamzam well inside of the Great Mosque. Muslims believe that this well is where God once provided water to Hajar and Ismail, two central figures of Islam, when they were wandering out in the desert. For devoted Muslims all over the world, Mecca travel is a meaningful once-in-a-lifetime experience, and with some proper planning and knowledge, making the pilgrimage to Mecca will be rewarding and unforgettable.