Hajj 2018 and 2019

Hajj is a five-day series of rituals done while on pilgrimage to Mecca and nearby areas.

201820 Aug to 23 AugMon to ThuHajj
201910 Aug to 13 AugSat to TueHajj

Saudi Arabia is a land 90 percent Arab, almost entirely Muslim, and that contains the historic birthplace of Islam. Most Islamic holidays and rituals have their origins and “highest” expression in the region of Saudi Arabia around Mecca, and Hajj especially so. As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, every Muslim is supposed to do Hajj at least once in his or her life if financially and physically able to do so. In fact, over two million Muslims from over 180 countries visit Mecca for Hajj every year.

Hajj begins on the 8th day of Dhu al Hija, the final month of the Islamic calendar, and continues until the 12th day of the month. On the first day of Hajj, religious pilgrims arrive in Jeddah, the Red Sea coastal city that acts as “the Gateway to Mecca.” From there, they either walk or take a bus the five miles to the town of Mina, where they sleep the night. In the morning, they rise early and trek more than eight miles on foot to the Plain of Arafat. At the Plain of Arafat, where Muhammad gave his last sermon before he died, the travellers spend a full day in prayer and reading the Quran. When the sun goes down, they turn and backtrack five miles to the town of Muzdalifah to sleep.

On the morning of the 10th day of Hijja, it is time to gather small rocks and pebbles to take to Mina, where they will walk out on a large, spacious pedestrian-only bridge to “stone the Devil.” This consists in casting the little stones gathered earlier at several pillars erected not far from the bridge’s edge. After this ceremony, the pilgrims offer an animal sacrifice like Abraham did in place of his son on Mount Moriah so long ago. Professionals are on-site to sell the animals and perform the sacrifices.

At this point, those on Hajj enter Mecca and proceed without delay to Islam’s holiest site and the biggest mosque on the planet, Masjid al Haram, also called simply “the Grand Mosque.” The mosque wraps around the Kaaba, a large cube in which is a black meteorite and some other holy relics, and all pilgrims must circle the Kaaba seven times going counterclockwise. This is referred to as “tawaf”.

After doing tawaf, pilgrims are free to return home from Mecca. However, many stop by at Medina first to visit the Mosque of the Prophet, where Mohammad’s remains are interred.

Should you be in Saudi Arabia during Hajj, some activities to consider putting on your itinerary include:

  • Visit the Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel, a gigantic conglomeration of skyscrapers not far from the Grand Mosque. It is the world’s third-highest building and bears the world’s largest clock. Inside, there is a five-star hotel, a prayer room for Hajj pilgrims, and the Abraj al Bait Mall, which covers five full stories.
  • Visit the Cave of Hira, two miles from Mecca. You can reach the cave, which is 890 feet off the ground on a mountain, by walking up 1,200 steps. In the five by 12 cave on top, you will see the very place Muhammad is said to have received his revelations from Allah through the angel Jebril.
  • Tour Jeddah on the Red Sea coast. It has abundant shopping opportunities, including the largest mall in Arabia, called “Mall of Arabia.” There are numerous sandy beaches, especially in the Corniche district, where you can swim, take in the sun and go scuba diving. You may also want to visit the Al Shalal or Atallah Happy Land Theme Park, and everyone touring Jeddah should see the amazing coral houses in its historic Al Balad district.