For the 1.8 billion Muslims living in the world today, visiting Mecca in Saudi Arabia isn’t just a vacation. It’s a pilgrimage to the most sacred place in Islam. For most Muslims, a once in a lifetime event.
Mecca is both a traditional, holy place and a modern city that caters to around 3 million tourists per year. There are mosques and sacred mountains as well as shopping malls, restaurants, and luxury hotels.
If you want to know how to visit Mecca as a non-Muslim, unfortunately, that’s forbidden.
But if you’re a Muslim who wants to know exactly where to go in Mecca or someone who isn’t part of the Islamic faith who is curious, read on! This is a list of all the top things to do in Mecca.
1. Masjid Al-Haram
The Masjid Al-Haram mosque is the largest mosque in the world and has a capacity of 4 million people. Considering 2 million people visit Mecca for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, it needs the space!
Masjid Al-Haram is also home to the Kaaba, or Black Stone. Kissing the Kaaba is definitely the top thing to do when visiting Mecca. Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad built the stone in 605AD and they encircle it during the tawaf ritual which is part of Hajj.
Also within the mosque are the sacred hills, Safa and Marwa. Walking or running between these hills is a way to honor the wife of Ibrahim who ran between them in search of water.
2. Mecca Museum
Housed in a former palace, the Mecca Museum holds many archeological and artifacts and items of historical interest. Essentially, it’s a museum documenting the entire history of Islam.
Inside the huge, two-story museum are several early editions of the Quran (Islam’s holy text) and exhibitions on the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. The museum also showcases Islamic art including Arabic fonts and calligraphy.
3. Abraj Al-Bait Towers
What to know when visiting Mecca as a first-time visitor is that it isn’t a city stuck in the past. There are so many modern Mecca hotels and restaurants that are stunning examples of 21st-century Muslim architecture.
The Abraj Al-Bait Towers (including the Fairmont Makkah Clock Royal Tower) is a 5-star hotel right in the center of Mecca. It boasts a shopping mall, nine restaurants, and space for over 10,000 guests. It’s also one of the closest hotels to the Masjid Al-Haram mosque.
Even if spending a night here isn’t an option, you can still enjoy the amenities as a visitor.
4. Jabal Al-Nour
Mecca is the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad so it’s already an incredibly holy place. But inside the city, there are particular holy sites you can explore while visiting Mecca.
Jabal Al-Nour is called the “Hill of Illumination” or “Mountain of Light”. Muhammad spent many hours meditating at this hill. It’s also said to be where the archangel Gabriel gave Mohammad his first revelation from God whilst meditating in a cave here.
5. Exhibition of the Two Holy Mosques
The main mosque in Mecca is Masjid Al-Haram, but the Prophet’s Mosque in the Saudi city of Medina is also an incredibly sacred temple. The Exhibition of the Two Holy Mosques is small compared to the Mecca Museum. But it displays several important, holy relics from both mosques.
Some of the exhibits include old photographs of the mosques, 13th-century wooden staircases on wheels, gilded doors to the Kaaba and so much more.
Visiting Mecca Is Not a Regular Vacation
There really is no experience like visiting Mecca for any of the other world religions. Hopefully, this visitor guide to Mecca has opened your eyes to just how holy yet cosmopolitan the city is today. And just how much there is to do there!
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