Saudi Arabia is home to the holy cities of Makkah and Medina, but a pilgrimage route around the country doesn’t have to stop there. Travelers can venture to other holy — and less crowded — spots to enjoy the mosques’ calm atmosphere or pray in peace and to check out other sites of historical significance. Makkah and parts of Medina are accessible only to Muslims; however, other architecturally noteworthy mosques and historic sites across the country are accessible and can provide a firsthand glimpse into the intriguing religious roots of Saudi Arabia.
Jawatha Mosque in Al Ahsa
Constructed in the early days of Islam, the ancient Jawatha Mosque was built nearly 1,400 years ago, and it is thought to be the oldest mosque in the eastern Arabian Peninsula. The Bani Abd Al Qays tribe founded the mosque, and the first Friday prayers outside of Medina were held here. With plain, sand-colored mudbrick walls, Jawatha Mosque is surrounded by squat towers topped with rounded crenellations and appears at first glance more like a fortress, perhaps a smaller-scale model of the Masmak Fort in Riyadh. The mosque was recently restored, with great care taken to match the materials used in the original construction. Inside the thick wooden plank doors, visitors will find a hall divided by walls punctuated by a series of narrow, whitewashed arches under a thatch and timber roof. Jawatha Mosque is located on the northeastern outskirts of Hofuf in the village of Al Kilabiyah.
● Visitor information: The mosque is open to non-Muslims outside of prayer times.
Al Rajhi Grand Mosque in Riyadh
Riyadh’s largest mosque, the monumental Al Rajhi Grand Mosque, is one of the capital city’s most important Islamic institutions. The Grand Mosque is used as a place of worship, with an 18,000-person capacity in the men’s hall and a 2,500-person capacity in the women’s area, as well as a spot for community events. It houses two libraries and an educational center, and Friday prayers are translated into seven languages and shown on digital screens for people with hearing loss.
● Visitor information: Non-Muslims are not permitted inside, but it’s worth stopping to admire the impressive exterior architecture, which glows a radiant orange when lit up at night.
Al Rahma Mosque in Jeddah (The Floating Mosque)
Nicknamed the Floating Mosque, Al Rahma is uniquely perched atop a stack of white concrete stilts on the Red Sea, the first mosque in the world to be built over water. As the gateway to Makkah and Medina, Jeddah is often where Muslims begin their pilgrimage journeys, making the Floating Mosque a common stop before undertaking Hajj or Umrah. The mosque is constructed from gleaming white marble, and inside, a giant turquoise dome is ringed with 56 colorful windows and encircled with Quranic verses written in swirling Arabic script. The mihrab, decorated with intricate tiles and arabesque styling, is flanked by two tall stained-glass windows. Even though the architecture is traditional, the Floating Mosque is not stuck in the past: The light and sound system is state-of-the-art. “It’s a combination of Islamic and modern architecture,” says Samir Komosani, a Saudi tour guide who was born in Jeddah and still lives in the city. “I love to be there because I feel peaceful, secure and safe, and I feel the love of God. It’s a place where people come together from different cultures and nations. It’s a place where I can clear my mind.” Al Rahma Mosque can accommodate 2,100 worshippers, with a separate raised wooden musalla (prayer hall) for women.
● Visitor information: Open daily, 24 hours. The mosque is open to non-Muslims outside of prayer times. Prime times to visit are sunrise and sunset.
Medina is one of Islam’s two holiest cities, making it a key destination for millions of pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia for Hajj or Umrah. The city is centered around Al Masjid an Nabawi, also known as the Prophet’s Mosque, which was constructed by the Prophet himself and is. Medina is where the Prophet Muhammad lived and taught after the migration from Makkah in 622 A.D., called Hijrah. This year is so important in the history of Islam that it marks the start of the Islamic calendar. Although the city’s name is usually written as Medina in English, its full name is Al Medina Al Munawwarah, meaning “the Enlightened City.” Because of the city’s pivotal role in the Prophet Muhammad’s life, making a trip to Medina is a lifelong dream for many Muslims.
Al Masjid an Nabawi (The Prophet’s Mosque)
The final resting place of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is in this stunning 10-minaret mosque, which can accommodate 1 million visitors and is open 24 hours. The Prophet’s tomb is located under the mosque’s only green dome, in its southeastern corner. After his arrival in Medina, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) helped construct the mosque, originally an open-air building, which has since been expanded numerous times by subsequent city rulers. It became the first building in the Arabian Peninsula with electric lights, which were installed in 1909. The area between the minbar and the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) tomb is known as Rawdah ash Sharifah, or the Noble Garden, which is one of the Gardens of Paradise. Tradition says that prayers uttered here are never rejected.
On the migration from Makkah to Medina in 622, the Prophet Muhammad and his followers stopped in the village of Quba and put down the foundation stone of the world’s first mosque. Worshippers have gathered here ever since, though the current building is a more recent construction. Once outside the boundaries of Medina, the mosque and the surrounding area have been fully absorbed by the city, and Quba Mosque sees a steady stream of visitors. Nearby Quba City Market sells dates, perfumes and other local specialties.
A major pilgrimage site, Mount Uhud is the place where Muslim forces led by the Prophet Muhammad battled troops from Makkah. The mountain rises about 3,500 feet (1,077 meters), and it can be climbed to better observe the battlefield. Nearby is the Uhud Martyrs Cemetery, where 85 of the fallen Muslim soldiers are buried. Mount Uhud is northeast of Medina’s city center.
Where to stay
Because of the large number of visiting pilgrims, Medina has a huge selection of accommodation options. Luxury hotels, including well-known international brands such as Hilton, InterContinental and Mövenpick, cluster near Al Masjid an Nabawi.
Where to eat
Medina has a diverse palate thanks to pilgrims who come from around the world and are hungry for a taste of home. Many eating options in the center of Medina cater to those who are after a quick meal before heading back to the mosque, including an outpost of Albaik, the beloved Saudi fried chicken restaurant. Higher-end sit-down restaurants can be found at the luxury hotels. Arabesque at the Shaza Al Madina hotel is a consistent visitor favorite.
Where to Spent Time
Medina has a handful of fascinating museums, such as the Dar Al Medina Museum, a private collection that documents the city’s history and heritage, and the terminus station of the Hijaz Railway, which once brought pilgrims all the way from Damascus, Syria. If you’re short on time, a hop-on-hop-off bus loops around Medina’s main sites.
Eatmarna App is part of Saudi authorities’ responsibilities to provide a safer, more spiritual atmosphere for Umrah performers and as part of the preventative measures to ensure more organized, crowds-free Mosques, The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah launched Eatmarna Mobile Application.
What is Eatmarna App all about and why should you use it?
The Application enables those who wish to visit the Holy lands to issue the permits needed to enter the Two Holy Mosques for visits or prayers thus controlling the number of people present in the Mosques at the same time and to conform to the capacity approved by the concerned authorities that achieves the health precautionary measures and controls. Eatmarna Application is integrated with Tawakolna Application to confirm the health condition of the permit applicant.
Besides providing the best available times for Umrah performers to visit the Holy Mosques, it also allows them to choose the most convenient means of transportation for them, to know the assembly points and services centers.
Will I be able to download Eatmarna Application on my phone?
The mobile application is available on both Play and App stores for free download, Eatmarna works on smartphones (Android and iOS). The size of the application is 45.8 MB and is owned by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
The app requires iOS 12.0 and above for IOS users. It also supports family sharing, as up to six family members will be able to use this app, which means that not all family members need to download it, only one member is enough.
Remember to keep your distance, wear your mask, and wash your hands to avoid any health risks while performing Umrah.
As you embark on your Umrah journey, make sure you follow these Do’s and Don’ts list to have a fruitful and enlightening experience and a smooth journey. Always keep calm and follow the system that has been implemented for your convenience and security. This is a simple Umrah Guide with bulleted steps.
Let’s start this voyage that you have been blessed to take with…
The Do’s before going
Prepare yourself physically by doing some mild exercises like walking or jogging 3 -5 days a week, eat well and sleep well. Prepare yourself mentally by doing some extra spiritual activities like Zekr, Duaa, Nawafel, Salat Jama’a ..etc.
Write a Travelling List with all the things you will need to take with you like medicines, mobile charger, your towels, socks, appropriate clothes, and shoes..etc
Read about Umrah, its status, rewards, rules and restrictions, Sunnah, Dua’a, places to visit, stories of Sahabah, to be confident while performing your Umrah.
Complete your vaccinations, Make a copy of all the important documents and Take some snacks, and Dua’a books in your carry on.
The Do’s during Umrah
Follow the Prophet Muhammed’s Sunnah and make sure you perform every obligation as he did.
Keep your Distance. Always keep a safe distance between you and others, wear your mask and face shield, and wash your hands regularly or use sanitizer.
Stay Hydrated. Don’t forget to drink water while performing your Umrah. It will be good to keep a small bottle of water in your handbag.
Keep a Journal. It will be good to pen down your thoughts and reflections during this spiritual journey. It will also help you to give some pointers to family and friends who haven’t been to the holy lands when you go back.
The Do’s after you come back
Have some rest at home before having people over or visiting anyone.
The Don’ts before, during, and after
The main reason for your Umrah is to have some time with Allah. Worship Him, praise Him, visit the places Prophet Muhammed has been to and pray in his mosque. So keep remembering those reasons, and follow this simple Umrah Guide to ensure your safety, security, and wellbeing.
Don’t tire yourself before traveling, to have the effort needed there.
Don’t over shop. It is always nice to get some souvenirs for family and friends when you go back, but don’t waste your time on shopping as this time is specified for other stuff.
Don’t shovel, jostle, or push others to reach Al Kaaba or The Black Stone. It is more important to keep yourself together and avoid any hassle.
Don’t leave your group at any point. Always keep a card with the leader’s contacts, your information, and the hotel information in case you got lost.
Don’t get distracted. A lot of people have found themselves disappointed by the conditions, from cleanliness to the long stretches of waiting. Focus on Allah, and not your situation, and you’ll instantly have a better mood.
Finally, keep this Umrah Guide with you. Always have your heart and mind present and remember that the primary reason for your journey is to get closer to Allah. It doesn’t involve any personal gain. So have patience, help others, and you will have a memorable time Insha’allah.
What Are The Benefits Of Performing Umrah In Ramadan?
During the month of Ramadan, thousands of people love to fly to the Holy Lands to perform Umrah. As Ramadan’s Umrah holds a very special place and a religious significance. It is truly an enriching experience to see people from all over the world join together in fasting and performing Umrah in Ramadan. All hoping to reach Allah’s highest acceptance.
Blessings of performing Umrah during the month of Ramadan
Al Bukhaari and Muslim narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to a woman from among the Ansaar – Ibn ‘Abbaas mentioned her name but I forgot it – “What kept you from performing Hajj with us?” She said: We only have two camels and the father of her son and her son had gone for Hajj on one camel, and he left us the other camel so that we could carry water on it. He said: “When Ramadan comes, go for ‘Umrah, for ‘Umrah in (that month) is equivalent to Hajj.”
As per this narration “Hadith” Umrah is best performed in Ramadan. As the rewards are equal to that of Hajj. When the pilgrim returns from Hajj, all his sins are omitted and he starts again with a clean slate. However, performing Umrah in Ramadan doesn’t discharge one of Hajj obligations. Both become equivalent in rewards but not in fulfilling the duty. Umrah is not obligatory whereas Hajj is compulsory for every Muslim if the person is capable of performing it.
It is truly a breathtaking sight, thousands of people gathering from all over the world in the Grand Mosque to worship Allah while fasting. Their only intention is to get Allah’s acceptance and mercy.
Such an enlightening experience for every believer. Whoever gets the chance to perform Umrah in Ramadan is truly blessed. Umrah is a blessing throughout the year. However, Ramadan has a special more rewarding feeling that every Muslim should try at least once in a lifetime.
Did you know that the World Health Organization (WHO) praised Saudi Arabia’s efforts in combatting the spread of COVID-19 by ensuring a safe Hajj 2021 & Umrah 2021 pilgrimage for its residents this year? The heightened precautionary measures, limited number or pilgrims and social distancing norms helped make sure that Hajj pilgrims were able to perform all rituals in the safest way possible. The result – None of the 10,000 pilgrims tested positive for COVID-19!
As Saudi authorities start preparations for the next Umrah 2021 season, we have drafted a short guide for pilgrims hoping to visit the Holy city of Mecca and Medina in the future.
How to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
By now, it is widely understood that the number of COVID-19 positive cases can be controlled by following the right set of precautions. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health recommends the following precautionary measures to prevent COVID-19 from spreading:
Avoid crowded indoor places and large gatherings
Wash your hands frequently, with soap and water
Avoid touching your face – Infection can spread easily from your hands to your nose or mouth
Cover your mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing, using a tissue or bent elbow
When using disposable surgical masks, make sure they are replaced and discarded frequently
Avoid unsafe handling of animals
Maintain a distance of at least 1 to 2 meter(s) from suspected/confirmed COVID-19 patients
What to do if you suspect you have COVID-19?
If you, your family members or fellow pilgrims are experiencing typical COVID-19 symptoms (respiratory symptoms such as cough and difficulty breathing, or fever and tiredness), you must follow the below-listed steps:
Make sure you wear a surgical mask to contain the spread of the potentially dangerous Coronavirus
Call 937 promptly – This is the Saudi Ministry of Health’s toll-free call center for health services
Go to the nearest hospital for testing and treatment
Awareness about COVID-19 is important – Here’s what you need to know…
Awareness about the COVID-19 infection, its symptoms, how it spreads and how it can be prevented – Is the first step towards ensuring your safety while you are on the pilgrimage. While the virus made its first entry into various countries including Saudi Arabia through travelers who had either been to China or come into contact with infected individuals, it is now spreading internally across the domestic population as well.
The Saudi authorities have employed various measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 such as inbound travel restrictions, implementation of social distancing norms, and equipping healthcare facilities with the equipment needed to safely combat the disease. However, each resident or pilgrim must also take personal precautions to minimize the spread of the virus.
It is known that COVID-19 can spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You can contract the virus not only through being in direct contact with an infected individual, but also when you come in contact with a contaminated surface. From observing a high level of personal hygiene and avoiding crowds, to seeking medical help when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, timely and prompt action can go a long way in the fight against this pandemic.
Some Additional Information…
Time slots for performing Umrah will be free of charge. The Kingdom will not impose any fees.
There will be three phases for complete resumption.
There is an easier way for pilgrims to book their time slot for Umrah through the App (so they are cleared by the authorities at the time of visit).
Users must ensure that they are registered with the Ministry of Health’s Tawakkalna App (Click here to Download) to check their health status and eligibility to perform Umrah. This step must be done before downloading Umrah App to book a slot.
First Phase will allow only 6000 pilgrims on daily basis which will be divided into 12 groups (500 pilgrims per group) in a span of 24 hours.
Wheelchairs will be made available for pilgrims who cannot perform Tawaaf and Saee without the need of a support. However, the flow of Tawaaf will be consistent with the same speed and flow.
All pilgrims will have specified time in which they have to perform the rituals.
Pilgrims from outside of Makkah who have booked hotels and/or residences, will be asked to assemble/meet at the check points 15 minutes before their scheduled departures to the Masjid Al Haram.
They will be met by health specialists/guides to perform rituals in a very specific time period within the booked time slots.
Children will be allowed to accompany their parents as long as they are added to the Tawakkalna App under the user’s dependents.
Parking of cars will not be allowed inside the central zone around Masjid Al Haram except for those who live in the area.
Pilgrims arriving by their private car but without a hotel booking will be able to accompany the designated group assigned to the time slot.
Pilgrims arriving from outside of KSA will be allowed to enter the Kingdom in the third phase (3rd Phase) of the plan with the Ministry of Health designating which nationalities will be allowed in the Kingdom.
Uncertainty over Ramadan Umrah 2021 refuses to budge
About 7 to 8 million Muslims perform Umrah during the 30 days of Ramadan every year
Makkah/Hyderabad: With the number of positive coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia on the rising streak once again, pilgrims planning to perform Umarh during the month of Ramadan are worried because of the uncertainty looming over the once in a year opportunity.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims from all across the world were left disappointed last year when they could not perform Umrah during the holy month of Ramadan because of the travel restrictions imposed following the Covid-19 outbreak last February.
Their hopes got revived only after it was told that the pandemic in Saudi Arabia is under control, the mosques in the Kingdom have been thrown open for worshippers, and the Saudi Hajj and Umrah Ministry has allowed local as well as international pilgrims to perform Umrah.
As per the last update, Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on Umrah for local pilgrims on October 4, 2020. A further easing of the restrictions was announced when the ban on international flights was lifted and pilgrims from abroad were allowed in phased manner from November 5, 2020.
Nonetheless pilgrims from India, Pakistan, US and some other countries were still not allowed because of the grave pandemic situation in these countries. These pilgrims therefore were waiting for the situation to improve further. They were very much hopeful that before Ramadan – less than two months from now, visa restrictions will be eased further and Muslims from India, Pakistan, US and other countries too will perform Umrah along with Muslims from other parts of the world.
About 7-8 million Muslims perform Umrah during the 30 days of Ramadan every year. They prepare travel plans for Ramadan Umrah months in advance. Some book their seats with Tours and Travels, some travel in their personal capacities using international visa facility whereas some others prefer Umrah Package.
Amidst these worries came the news that Saudi Arabia has suspended all lectures and public gatherings in mosques, and has also ordered to cut the duration of Friday sermon. Some media outlets are also reporting that the Kingdom is also considering re-imposing restrictions on prayers in congregation.
The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah meanwhile is maintaining a guarded silence and has so far not said anything about when actually the international flights will resume and what is its plan and directives for the Umrah in Ramadan expected to coincide with April/May 2021 of the Georgian Calendar.
The holy month of Ramadan is considered the holiest and most sacred month of the Islamic Hijri (lunar) calendar. Muslims firmly believe that it was during this exalted month that the archangel Gabriel descended from the heavens and revealed the Message to the Prophet Muhammad.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are required to elevate their level of spiritual and physical submission to God by way of fasting; that is to say, Muslims must abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and also husband-wife intimacy from the breaking of dawn until the setting of the sun.
As we prepare to welcome the holiest of months, here are the dates, calendar and guide to spending Ramadan 2021 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Ramadan dates and calendar 2021
The arrival of Ramadan has always been associated with a certain amount of mystique and contemplation. The exact date of the month’s beginning is traditionally determined by religious scholars/authorities under the cover of night as they seek to observe certain sightings related to the appearance and cycle of the moon.
This year, Ramadan is expected to be upon us starting from 12 April and will last until 12 May 2021, followed by the Islamic festivities of Eid al Fitr.
Ramadan in Saudi Arabia
The common thread that runs through all predominantly Muslim countries in Ramadan is that life generally slows down as the hours for working and schooling are reduced by two to three hours. Many opt to embrace a nocturnal lifestyle in the sense that they shift their schedule to allow them to sleep through the day and work through the night.
Unlike in places like Dubai, most supermarkets, malls, shops, restaurants, cafes and nearly all other eateries close down during the daylight hours. Hotels remain open and may still offer food to their non-fasting guests, albeit in screened and partitioned areas.
Close to sunset, numerous mosques are filled with lines of people sitting in lines facing spreads of food. As the call to prayer is heard signifying the arrival of Iftar (breaking of the fast), numerous people can be heard chanting their prayers before helping themselves to the available sustenance.
It’s also common to observe people, both local residents and visitors, handing out dates and bottles of water to passersby while shouting ‘halal‘ at busy intersections close to Iftar time. The month of Ramadan indeed encourages Muslims to further practice benevolence and charity.
Most businesses resume operations after Iftar and continue to do so until 1 or 2 in the morning. This naturally makes the Ramadan nights alive and wonderful as opposed to its slow and somber days. Friends and family gather at midnight at malls, restaurants and cafes to shop and indulge in Ramadan snacks, before retiring to their homes and prepare the pre-dawn meal.
Some rules to observe
The month of Ramadan is strictly observed in Saudi Arabia. Although non-Muslims are not expected to fast during the month, they are strictly forbidden to eat, drink and smoke publicly during the day, as it’s punishable by law. The word ‘public’ extends to not just open-air places like streets or parks, but also to offices, factories and other types of workplaces.
Lanes around the Kaaba have been created for use by the elderly and people with disabilities
RIYADH: Almost 7.5 million people performed Umrah and prayed at the Grand Mosque in Makkah Saudi Arabia ,during the past four months. The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques said 1.9 million people performed Umrah and 5.5 million people prayed at the mosque between Oct. 4, when services that had been suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic resumed, and Jan. 30. Osama Al-Hujaili, director of the General Department for Crowds and Promotions at the presidency, said that the authority has “devoted all its energies to serving the pilgrims and providing them with a safe and healthy environment.” He added that when Umrah pilgrimages returned, in phases, health precautions were in place and lanes were added so that pilgrims and worshipers could maintain the recommended safe social distancing. When the third phase began, on Nov. 1, Al-Hujaili said additional lanes were created near the Kaaba for use by the elderly and people with disabilities. The first of these lanes is 155 meters long, can accommodate 45 wheelchairs and takes between 10 and 15 minutes to circumambulate. The second lane, the closest to the Kaaba, is 145 meters long, can accommodate 50 people, and is for use by elderly people who do not require a wheelchair.
Saudi Arabia suspends entry from 20 countries from Wednesday
Saudi health authorities recommended the measures to stop spread of COVID-19
The ban does not apply to citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families.
Charter Flights Will be Available to travel to Saudi Arabia From India.
JEDDAH: banned expatriates from traveling to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 20 countries to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Exceptions to the ban, which begins at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, are diplomats, and medical staff and their families. Travel will be banned from the UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey, as well as the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Japan. The ban also applies to travelers who transited through any of the 20 countries in last 14 days before a planned visit to the Kingdom. Many passengers had been using Dubai as a transit hub from countries where there are no direct flights to Saudi Arabia, an option that is now no longer available. The new action comes amid a global surge in cases of COVID-19 linked to variations in the original coronavirus, first detected in England, South Africa and Brazil, and fears that vaccines being rolled out worldwide may be less effective against them. Britain began door-to-door testing of 80,000 people on Tuesday in an effort to stem the spread of the highly infectious South African variant, and there has been an increased spread of the English variant in Sweden. Health officials in the Kingdom warned this week that stricter measures would be necessary to curb the spread of the virus if the public continued to flout regulations on social distancing and a ban on large gatherings. Saudi Arabia reported 310 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, almost four times the number a month ago.