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12 Fascinating Mecca Attractions You Must Visit

12 Fascinating Mecca Attractions You Must Visit

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

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

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

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

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

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.

6. Hira

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

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

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

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. 

10. Mina

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

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.


What to Know Before Visiting Mecca

What to Know Before Visiting 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

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

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 

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

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

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

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

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.

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