Mecca, located in the western part of Saudi Arabia, is the holiest city in Islam and a destination of pilgrimage for millions of Muslims from around the world. For those considering things to do in Mecca, performing the Umrah pilgrimage at the Masjid al-Haram, the largest mosque in the world that houses the Kaaba, and visiting the Jabal al-Nour, the Mountain of Light, where Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation, are top activities.
The city’s Abraj Al Bait Towers, a complex of seven skyscrapers, is home to the Clock Tower Museum, which offers insights into the universe and time, and provides stunning views of the city. Nearby, the Well of Zamzam, located within the Masjid al-Haram, is believed to be a miraculously generated source of water from God, which has been quenching the thirst of pilgrims for thousands of years.
Beyond its religious significance, Mecca is undergoing rapid development, with new infrastructure, hotels, and services to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims. For those seeking the best places to visit in Saudi Arabia, Mecca’s profound spiritual significance, historical sites, and ongoing transformation make it a unique and compelling destination.
Table of Contents
Attractions & Things to Do in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
1. Masjid al-Haram
Masjid al-Haram is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds Islam’s holiest place, the Kaaba. Millions of Muslims from around the globe gather here for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter Mecca, making the mosque inaccessible to them.
Travel Tip: If you are a Muslim planning to visit for Hajj or Umrah, ensure all your travel documents are in order, as regulations can be strict.
2. Abraj Al Bait
The Abraj Al Bait is a towering hotel complex overlooking the Masjid al-Haram, with the famous clock tower that is among the tallest buildings in the world. It contains a shopping mall, hotel, and prayer areas that can accommodate thousands.
Travel Tip: The viewing deck in the clock tower offers spectacular views of the city and is particularly poignant during the prayer times when the Masjid al-Haram is filled with worshippers.
3. Jabal al-Nour
Jabal al-Nour, or ‘The Mountain of Light,’ is renowned for housing the Hira cave where Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation. The hike to the cave provides reflective pilgrims with a moderate physical challenge and spiritual experience.
Travel Tip: Visit during the cooler parts of the day and wear appropriate footwear, as the climb can be steep and challenging.
4. Jabal Thawr
Jabal Thawr is another significant mountain in Islamic history, home to the cave where Prophet Muhammad and Abu Bakr sought refuge from their persecutors during the migration to Medina. The mountain offers a strenuous hike for pilgrims and visitors.
Travel Tip: Only attempt the climb if you are in good physical condition, and always carry water with you, as the climb is arduous, especially during hot weather.
5. Makkah Museum
The Makkah Museum offers rich insights into the Islamic heritage, the history of the Kaaba, and the city of Mecca. The museum’s collections provide context and understanding for both pilgrims and non-pilgrim visitors.
Travel Tip: It’s a great way to spend time outside of the prayer times when the Masjid al-Haram is less crowded, and a chance to absorb Mecca’s history in a quiet setting.
6. Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah
These three areas are significant for the rituals of the Hajj pilgrimage. Mina is known for the Jamarat Bridge, Arafat is the site of the Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon, and Muzdalifah is an open area between Mina and Arafat where pilgrims spend a night under the stars.
Travel Tip: These sites are usually accessible during the Hajj pilgrimage, and if you’re participating, be prepared for large crowds and follow the guidelines provided by your Hajj tour operator for safety and regulations.
7. Zamzam Well
Located within the Masjid al-Haram, the Zamzam Well is believed to be a miraculously generated source of water from God, which has quenched the thirst of countless pilgrims.
Travel Tip: Pilgrims often collect Zamzam water to bring back home, but make sure you’re aware of the quantity allowed by airlines and customs regulations of your destination country.
FAQ About Things to Do in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
What are the must-visit sites in Mecca for pilgrims?
The Grand Mosque (Masjid al-Haram) is the focal point for pilgrims, housing the Kaaba. Other key sites include Mount Arafat, Mina, and the Jamarat Bridge where the Stoning of the Devil ritual is performed during Hajj.
Can non-Muslims visit Mecca and its sacred sites?
No, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the holy city of Mecca. Entry is strictly limited to Muslims as it is considered the holiest city in Islam.
What can I do in Mecca outside of the Hajj season?
Outside of Hajj, visitors can perform Umrah, a pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time of the year. The Grand Mosque and the Zamzam Well are open year-round for prayer and reflection.
Are there any historical landmarks to visit in Mecca?
Yes, Mecca has several historical landmarks such as the Cave of Hira, where Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation, and the Al Fateh Mosque displaying Islamic architecture.
Is there any shopping I can do in Mecca?
Absolutely, you can shop at the Abraj Al Bait complex which hosts a large shopping mall filled with a wide variety of shops including international brands, perfumeries, and souvenir stores.
What cultural experiences can I have in Mecca?
Visitors can experience the rich Islamic culture through visiting various museums and exhibitions around Mecca that display artifacts, manuscripts, and Islamic art.
Can I visit the surrounding areas of Mecca for nature experiences?
While Mecca itself is a desert city, the nearby Al Wahbah volcanic crater and the Asir National Park offer great opportunities for nature exploration and hiking.
Are there any modern attractions or entertainment in Mecca?
Mecca is home to the Makkah Royal Clock Tower which offers an observation deck with views of the city. There are also numerous luxury hotels and modern developments that offer various forms of entertainment.