Perform Hajj or Umrah
The big and the little pilgrimages respectively, the Hajj and the Umrah are the two vital journeys and main reason for which Muslims worldwide travel to Mecca. The Masjid Al-Haram is the heart of Mecca and spans an area of 356,800 square metres – this is the site for both the Hajj and the Umrah.
The largest mosque in the world, the Masjid Al-Haram (also known as the Grand Mosque) is considered the holiest site in the Muslim world, and houses the Ka’aba – a cubed structure covered with black silk embroidered with golden thread, towards which Muslims worldwide turn to offer their daily prayers. One stage of the Hajj and Umrah also involves the circumambulation of the Ka’aba, known as the Tawaf – an act which has become a symbol of Islam worldwide.
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Given its nature as the religious capital of the Muslim world, the top priority on the minds of most visitors to Mecca is the desire to fit in as much worship as possible. In addition to the Grand Mosque, Muslims tend to pray at a string of historical sites dotted all over the city. Various other mosques, such as the Masjid Taneem, and the Al Jaáranah Mosque, are also available for those seeking to worship. In addition, pilgrims can also listen to religious lectures in the basement of the Grand Mosque, where a wide variety of scholars speak on topics related to religion, in languages varying from Arabic and English, to French, Urdu , Farsi, and even Hindi.
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Get your head shaved
Part of the rituals of pilgrimage, Muslim males are required to get their heads shaved after completing the Hajj. The ritual, in addition to inspiring humility, is meant to symbolise the cleansing nature of the pilgrimage, which leaves a person feeling reborn, and hundreds of barbers are available in and around the Grand Mosque for this purpose. Females, for obvious reasons, do not go through the entire head-shaving ritual, but merely clip a lock of hair to complete the formality.
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Seek spiritual inspiration in history
Located within the Masjid Al-Haram, the Safa and Marwa hills are believed to be the site where Ibrahim's wife Hagar ran desperately in search of water for her infant son Ishmael, before God granted her the holy spring of Zamzam. A reminder of hardship and subsequent ease, Muslims run between both hills during Hajj and Umrah, in remembrance of her distress and perseverance, as well as the reward that followed.
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Drink from the sacred well of Zamzam
Take a sip of spirituality by drinking from the Holy well of Zamzam. Holy water is venerated as a cure for all evils physical and spiritual, and the Zamzam well, 30-meters-deep and located 20 m (66 ft) east of the Ka’aba, is believed to have divine origins, having sprung, as per Islamic traditions, to quench the thirst of Abraham’s infant son Ishmael in 2150 BCE. In addition to drinking from it yourself, you can also fill bottles of holy water to take back home for family and friends.
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Touch the Black Stone
Dubbed al-Ḥajar al-Aswad, the sacred Black Stone is located at the eastern cornerstone of the Ka’aba, and Islamic tradition reports that it was fixed into the wall by the Holy Prophet himself, in the year 605. Since then, the stone has broken into a number of fragments, and is contained in a silver frame fixed onto the wall of the Ka’aba. In order to show their reverence and love for the Prophet, pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque touch, and if possible, kiss, the stone.
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Trace the origins of the Islamic faith
Go back to where Islam began, by exploring the city where the religion was born. You can get in touch with the roots of the religion by visiting sites such as the Prophet Muhammad’s birthplace, or seeking enlightenment at the Mountain of Light – Jabal-al-Noor – which houses the cave Hira’a, where the Prophet received his first revelations from God, via the angel Jibraeel, or Gabriel.
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Seek the mercy of the Divine
No trip to a holy city could be complete without requesting Divine mercy and forgiveness, and a prime spot for such pursuits is the Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal ar-Rahmah, or Mount of Mercy. Known as the spot where the Prophet delivered his Farewell Sermon – his last before his death – Muslims gather at this granite hill to pray, and several pilgrims spend all night at the hill in vigil.
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Stone the Devil
A visit to Mecca is all about steeping yourself in spirituality, and cleansing the mind and soul, and what better way to do that than reject sin? As part of their Hajj, Muslims stone three walls that represent three devils that attempted to tempt the prophet Abraham, and the ritual is a symbolic rejection of evil.
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Scope out the Abraj Al Bait Towers
During a break from worship, it is worth visiting the Abraj Al Bait Towers, a complex which houses the second tallest building in the world (second only to Dubai's Burj Khalifa) and the tallest clock tower in the world, in addition to holding a string of other records. The towers contain, among other facilities, a five-star hotel and a 20 story shopping mall, and are a prime option for sightseeing and other worldly pursuits.
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